The question of EU membership has clearly become a key issue in the independence debate, partly fuelled by the poll of voters which suggests that the Yes vote would be boosted if Scottish voters thought that we would be pulled out of the EU by a eurosceptic England.
This kind of hypothetical question adds to uncertainty rather than illuminating the debate but it will obviously be milked for all it’s worth by the Yes campaign.
Rather than be swept along by the rhetoric from either side, we would do well to look coolly at the situation. What can we say with some certainty?
The timing and conditions of EU membership for a newly independent Scotland are very unclear because it would be the first occasion on which part of an EU member state had seceded from the parent country.
Endorsement of membership would entail a supporting vote by each of the existing 28 EU members, several of which would be likely to have a national interest in not making the transition overly simple and straightforward.
There is resentment at some of the terms enjoyed by the UK including opt-outs and budget rebates and Scotland’s new constitutional position would offer the opportunity to revisit those.
However, there is another issue which rarely gets discussed. For Scots, like me, who are committed to EU membership, surely by far the best outcome is for the UK as a whole to remain within the EU with its huge single market and that pertains to whether or not Scotland has become a separate nation state.
It would be a seriously bad outcome for Scotland to find itself in a position where it was a member of the EU, and the rest of the UK, by far its biggest market, had voted to leave.
In that situation it’s hard to see how disruption to the UK single market and the likelihood of border controls could be avoided. Dumfries and Galloway in particular would find itself in the peculiar position of being sandwiched between two parts of the UK, England and Northern Ireland, with a border on either side.
If Scotland is less eurosceptic than England, then it is far better to stay within the UK and argue that position vigorously than find ourselves in the position of standing as onlookers with no chance to influence the outcome of an EU referendum debate which would have a profound effect on our economic welfare.