EU migrants urged to back Scots independence bid
By Benjamin Fox
Scottish independence campaigners are bidding to swing the country's 160,000 migrants from other EU countries to the independence cause by arguing that staying rather than leaving the UK poses a greater threat to Scotland's EU membership.
The pro-independence groups Polish For Yes, Italians For Yes, French For Yes and EU Citizens For An Independent Scotland fear that David Cameron's referendum on EU membership in 2017 would put their Scottish residency at risk.
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At a rally organized by the Polish for Yes campaign on Saturday, Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “with the Westminster parties dancing to UKIP”s anti-European tune, Scotland faces the very real prospect of being ripped out of the EU against our will in the event of a No vote.”
“With independence we will finally be able to take our place around the European top table,” she added.
The Nationalist government in Edinburgh has promised that it would re-negotiate an independent Scotland’s EU status in the sixteen months between the referendum on 18 September and March 2016 – the proposed independence date.
UK prime minister David Cameron has promised an in-out referendum on EU membership if his Conservative party wins next year’s general election, and several prominent members of his increasingly eurosceptic government have indicated that they would vote to leave the EU.
In stark contrast to political debate across the rest of the UK, pro and anti-independence campaigners have competed over who can sound the most pro-European during the referendum campaign.
The pro-Union Better Together campaign, headed by Labour politician Alistair Darling, has warned that an independent Scotland would have to navigate a difficult and potentially lengthy path of formally re-applying to join the EU. Scotland would lose its share of the UK’s EU budget rebate and receive lower amounts of farming subsidy and structural funds if it were outside the UK, they add.
On Saturday (23 August), Ed Balls, finance spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said that joining the euro was the most viable ‘plan B’ for an independent Scotland. The major UK parties in Westminster say that Scotland would not be allowed to continue using the pound if it became independent.
Meanwhile, several EU politicians have stated that several countries with their own would-be secessionist regions would be reluctant to back Scottish membership.
On Sunday (24 August), Irish politician Ruairi Quinn, a former finance minister, claimed that it was “highly probable” that Belgium and Spain would not back Scottish membership because of the precedent it would set for Flanders and Catalonia.
For his part, European Commission president Jose Barroso has described a Scottish EU bid as "difficult if not impossible".
A poll published last week by ICM indicated that 50 percent of Scots want to remain part of the EU, compared to 31 percent who wish to leave the bloc, a far higher margin in favour of continued EU membership than exists across the rest of the UK.
Scotland’s 4 million voters will vote on independence on 18 September. Recent opinion polls suggest that the ‘No’ campaign is about ten points ahead with a 55-45 margin in favour of staying in the UK.