Tuesday

16th Oct 2018

Scottish leaders under pressure on EU status

  • There is confusion over whether an independent Scotland would remain in the EU. (Photo: The Laird of Oldham)

The Scottish government is facing renewed pressure to reveal legal advice on whether it would remain in the EU if the country votes to leave the United Kingdom.

An urgent hearing of the Court of Session in Edinburgh will take place on Thursday (20 September), with Scotland's information commissioner Rosemary Agnew demanding the urgent two-day meeting to confirm that the ruling nationalist administration should release any legal advice on EU membership prospects.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The question of Scotland's EU membership is vital to the nationalists who are keen to retain unfettered access to the single market as well as an opt-out from joining the euro.

The government has consistently argued that Scotland's EU status would not be affected by independence.

However, that assumption was thrown into doubt last week by the head of the European Commission.

In his State of the Union speech in the European Parliament, Jose Barroso told MEPs that break-away countries would have to make new applications to join the EU. "A new state, if it wants to join the EU, has to apply to become a member of the EU, like any state," he said.

Under EU accession rules, the approval of all member states is required for a country to join the 27-country bloc.

The question of whether legal advice exists on Scotland's EU status was triggered by a freedom of information request made by Scottish opposition MEP Catherine Stihler in 2011 demanding its publication.

Commenting on Barroso's speech, she warned that "Scotland will not automatically assume the many rights of the UK" and said the country's EU membership would take "long, detailed negotiations with a great many bodies and institutions."

In July, Scotland's information commissioner Rosemary Agnew ruled that the government should publish any legal advice on the issue, stating that the advice would improve public understanding in the debate on independence.]

She noted that disclosure would "inform the public in making their choice in a referendum, and in participating in the referendum debate."

However, the government has continued to stand firm, appealing the case and citing provisions in freedom of information law which allow public authorities to withhold information if it deems it to be against the public interest.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who has also claimed that revealing legal advice would breach a ministerial code, insists that the legal implications will be covered in a white paper on Scottish independence expected to be published in November 2013, ahead of a planned referendum on independence in 2014.

The case has potential implications for Catalonia in Spain and for other regions in Europe calling for independence.

Last week, Catalonian regional leader, Artur Mas, warned the European Commission to prepare for a series of breakaway EU states, claiming that the region, which already has semi-autonomous status, would fare better if it had control over its tax and spending policy.

Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive

Voters in Germany's largest state hived off to the left and right of the ruling conservatives in Sunday's elections - posing questions for Merkel's authority.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  2. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch
  3. Brexit standoff continues before EU summit
  4. ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges
  5. How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less
  6. Cyprus and Russia: Association of Cyprus Banks responds
  7. Orthodox church split just tip of Putin's crumbling 'soft power' in Ukraine
  8. Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us