Anyone, on either side of the debate, claiming to know as a matter of certainty what would happen to an independent Scotland’s EU membership status is a liar. Nobody knows for sure whether an independent Scotland would be admitted directly, because although the EU has offered to answer that question, it will only do so if asked by the UK government, and the UK government refuses to ask.
“The UK government has said it would not ask the European Commission’s view on whether an independent Scotland would remain a member of the EU.
The statement follows confirmation from the commission that it would offer its opinion if asked to by a member state.”
It’s very difficult to imagine why the UK government would refuse to ask that question if it was confident that its position (namely that Scotland’s membership would be delayed for years) was correct.
What is certain is that no serious politician, commentator or EU bureaucrat has ever suggested that the EU - an expansionist organisation - wouldn’t want resource-rich Scotland as a member state. So the only real debate is on how Scotland would go from being part of a member state to being a member state in its own right, and if you accept the premise that the EU wants Scotland in, then it’s clearly in everyone’s interests to sort that out as quickly and smoothly as possible.
For that reason, most impartial experts, and even honest Unionists, expect the process to be made very quick and easy - not as a special favour to Scotland but because it’s the common-sense plan, and also because the alternative would be to cast the entire continent into unimaginable, unprecedented and completely needless chaos from which absolutely no-one would benefit.
Scotland is currently in the EU (as part of the UK), which means that hundreds of thousands of Scots live abroad, and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens live in Scotland. Were Scotland to be ejected even temporarily, millions of people - including Scots living in England and vice versa - could lose their rights of residence overnight and have to be thrown out of their respective countries.
No mechanism exists within the EU for ejecting existing citizens against their will. The administrative mayhem would last for decades, which is why the pro-Union MP Eric Joyce dismissed the idea in February this year as:
“Manifest nonsense. I want Scotland to remain part of the UK, but not on the basis of an argument deploying blatant threats and lies.”
Graham Avery, the Honorary Director-General of the European Commission and senior policy adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels with four decades of experience in negotiating EU enlargement (including the UK’s own entry), told the UK Parliament in 2012 that:
“From the political point of view, Scotland has been in the EU for 40 years; and its people have acquired rights as European citizens. If they wish to remain in the EU, they could hardly be asked to leave and then reapply for membership in the same way as the people of a non-member country such as Turkey.
The point can be illustrated by considering another example: if a break-up of Belgium were agreed between Wallonia and Flanders, it is inconceivable that other EU members would require 11 million people to leave the EU and then reapply for membership.”
In 2014 he also told Holyrood’s European committee:
“A situation where Scotland was outside the European Union and not applying European rules would be a legal nightmare for the people in the rest of the United Kingdom and the British Government has to take account of that.
I think it would be very, very unfortunate for the rest of the United Kingdom if Scotland was not a member from day one of independence.”
In February 2013 Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and a Foreign Office minister in the last UK Labour government, told the BBC that:
“Whatever the legal formalities, in terms of the political will if Scotland were to vote for independence, I think Europe would try to smooth its way into taking its place as a European member.”
In July 2014, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, professor of European law and human rights at Oxford University and author of a book on EU constitutional law, agreed:
“Despite assertions to the contrary from UK lawyers, EU lawyers and EU officials, any future independent Scotland’s EU membership should be assured, and its transition from EU membership as a part of the UK to EU membership as an independent Scotland relatively smooth and straightforward.”
And the same month, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was reported as saying Scotland would be treated as a “special and separate case”, rather than a new applicant.
Scotland currently has no seat at the table in the European Union or the United Nations. Its interests are represented by the UK, and the UK’s duty is always to look after the greatest number of its own people.
With just 8.4% of the UK population, any time that Scotland’s interests conflict with the rest of the UK’s, the UK government must always put Scotland’s interests second to those of the majority of the UK.
“Secret papers, released today, have revealed how the Scottish fishing fleet was betrayed by the government 30 years ago to enable Britain to sign up to the controversial Common Fisheries Policy.
Prime Minister Edward Heath’s officials estimated that up to half the fishermen in Scottish waters - then 4,000 men - could lose their jobs, but the decision was taken to go ahead with plans to sign up because it was believed that the benefits to English and Welsh fishermen would outweigh the disadvantages in Scotland.”
The UK government continues to behave in the same way today. In November 2013 it decided, against the views of ALL parties in Holyrood, to distribute £182 million in extra EU funding to farmers across the whole UK, although it arose solely and specifically from the low level of Scottish subsidies and should have all gone to Scottish farmers.
Only a Yes can get Scotland its own voice in Europe.
Q: “What if I don’t want Scotland in the EU or NATO?”
A: See Chapter 1. Independence doesn’t make policy decisions, it just gives Scotland the right to choose for itself. If you want out of the EU or NATO, vote for a party that has that as its policy in 2016. Scotland’s proportionally-elected parliament is far more democratic than Westminster, so you have far more freedom to vote constructively for a party that shares your views and have them win seats.
Q: “But haven’t the Spanish said they would veto Scottish membership in order to avoid stirring up the independence movement in Catalonia?”
A: No, they haven’t.
“Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo insisted his country would not raise any objection to European Union recognition - if Scottish independence was accepted by Westminster.”
And the Edinburgh Agreement commits Westminster to accepting the referendum result.
Q: “But won’t we lose our EU rebate?”
A: The rebate is a sum of money paid by the EU to the entire UK, including Scotland. It’s therefore a moveable UK asset, and as such will be part of the independence negotiations like any other asset. Scotland is entitled to its share.
Q: “But won’t we have to join the Euro?”
A: No. EU member states CANNOT be forced to join the Euro. In order to do so, states must first join the ERM2 (“Exchange Rate Mechanism”) programme for a minimum of two years, and membership of ERM2 is entirely voluntary. All an EU member has to do to stay out of the Euro is not sign up for ERM2 .
The European Commission’s website notes that:
“Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden do not currently have a target date for adoption of the euro”.
In fact, Scotland couldn’t join the Euro even if it wanted to, as it doesn’t meet the qualifying criteria .
Q: “But why do people like Jose-Manuel Barroso keep saying it would be very difficult for Scotland to become an EU member?”
A: For their own personal reasons. Snr Barroso wanted the UK government to support his ultimately unsuccessful bid to become Secretary-General of NATO. Snr Barroso will leave office this September, so his view is of no relevance anyway.
Q: “But don’t the SNP want to flood Scotland with immigrants?”
A: The SNP won’t necessarily be the government of an independent Scotland - see Chapter 2. But Scotland won’t be “flooded” with immigrants either way.
Like most countries in the developed world, Scotland has an ageing population, and needs new people to come in, work and pay taxes to maintain public services. (Immigrants are economically beneficial because they’re more likely to be in work than native citizens and less likely to claim benefits.)
The UK government estimated in June 2014 that an independent Scotland would need net migration (including people from the rest of the UK) of 24,000 a year. The No campaign has attempted to misrepresent this figure as an INCREASE of 24,000 over the current figure, but the average net immigration to Scotland over the last decade has been 22,330.
That means that even at the UK government’s most extreme estimate, Scotland would need just 1,670 extra immigrants a year - fewer than five people a day, including those from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (At that rate it would take 190 years for Scotland’s immigrant population simply to reach the current proportion for the UK as a whole.)
Scotland has one of the lowest immigrant populations in the world. At just 7%, according to the most recent census, an independent Scotland would rank 107th in the list of countries with the highest percentage of immigrants. Even without considering the vital contribution those born abroad make to our culture as well as our economy, we can easily absorb another five people a day.