Sturgeon insists independent Scotland could remain in EU
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 18 February 2013
Scotland’s deputy first minister today dismissed UK government claims that an independent Scotland would be treated as a new applicant by the European Union and could face difficult negotiations to remain an EU member.
In an interview with the Times newspaper, Nicola Sturgeon insisted that Scotland would benefit from a ‘fast-track’ membership process. She also announced that a top law professor, Drew Scott from Edinburgh University, was being seconded to the Scottish Government to oversee its ‘European engagement strategy’.
First Minister Alex Salmond was recently forced to backtrack on claims that legal advice to ministers had suggested automatic EU membership for an independent Scotland. Opponents of independence, at Westminster and elsewhere, have made heavy play of what they claim could be Scotland’s difficulties in gaining EU accession, despite its attractions as an oil economy.
But Sturgeon, who now has day-to-day charge of the Scottish Government’s referendum planning, insisted that a Scotland that voted for independence in the autumn 2014 poll would not be required to sign a new accession treaty. She suggested that it would continue to enjoy the same membership terms as the rest of the UK, including a share of the budget rebate.
‘There is nothing in any of the European treaties that would provide for a scenario where part of a member state was cast adrift from it [the EU] simply because it exercised its democratic right to self-determination.
‘We are simply arguing for a continuation of the status quo. So it would require renegotiation, other countries would of course have a say on this, but we’re not talking about an accession.’
Sturgeon described Scott as a highly respected academic in the field of European law and said: ‘His help will be invaluable as we prepare to negotiate the terms of Scotland’s continuing engagement with the EU from within following a “yes” vote in the autumn of 2014.’
Scott said the purpose of his two-year secondment was ‘to help deliver a European engagement strategy and to provide expertise on European Union institutions, treaties and policies that will underpin the Scottish Government’s approach to defining options for the future’.
Sturgeon’s intervention stirred further attacks from her opponents. Labour’s Patricia Ferguson accused her of making up policy on Europe as she went along, while Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: ‘This won’t repair the damage already done by the Scottish Government’s complacent attitude on Europe.’