Paul Scott: Tories have a question about EU membership for Scotland, but it’s been answered before
RUTH Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, keeps on asking the same question (most recently in The Scotsman, 6 February, p11).
“What is the evidence that an independent Scotland would automatically be accepted as an EU member?”
As long ago as 1992 I investigated this question for a book I was writing, Scotland in Europe: A Dialogue With A Sceptical Friend, published by Canongate. The friend was imaginary. His role, like Ruth Davidson’s, was to raise difficult questions about the consequences of Scotland becoming independent. At the beginning of chapter four the sceptical friend says: Many of the points you are making are based on the assumption that an independent Scotland would be a member of the European Community (as it was called at the time). Can we be sure of that?A whole succession of Conservative ministers have argued that Scotland (but not England) would have to re-apply for membership and that would be a long and difficult process. Ian Lang, for instance, said in a speech in July 1991: “If Scotland were to leave the UK, as the SNP proposes, it would find itself at the back of an ever-lengthening queue to get back in.”
In my reply to this I said: “There is no provision in the Treaty of Rome for the withdrawal or expulsion of a member state or part of one from the Community. This applies to both Scotland and England in precisely the same way. It is arrogant nonsense to pretend that England has some special privilege in the matter.”
I then quoted opinions of several senior members of European authorities well-qualified to judge in such matters. Emile Noel, former secretary general of the European Commission: “There is no precedent and no provision for the expulsion of a member state, therefore Scottish independence would create two new member states out of one. They would have equal status with each other and with the other member states.”
Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, a former judge and President of the European Court of Justice: “Independence would leave Scotland and ‘something called the rest’ in the same legal boat. If Scotland had to re-apply, so would the rest. I am puzzled at the suggestion that there would be a difference in the status of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of Community law if the Act of Union was dissolved.”
Eamonn Gallacher, a former director general of the European Commission: “In my view there could be no sustainable legal or political objection to separate Scottish membership of the European Community.”
These opinions were all expressed 20 years ago, but there is no reason to suppose that they no longer apply. It is, after all, obvious that if Scotland and England (or Rest of UK) become again two independent countries both of us must have our own membership of international organisations.
Scots have made an important contribution to many other countries and an independent Scotland is likely to find a wide international welcome.
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