EU should have been referendum question - academic

Nicola Sturgeon with homeowners on the day figures for the new Help to Buy initiative were revealed. Picture: Contributed

Nicola Sturgeon with homeowners on the day figures for the new Help to Buy initiative were revealed. Picture: Contributed

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Scots should have been asked whether they wanted to be in the EU as part of the independence referendum, a leading European expert has suggested.

Professor Kenneth Armstrong, director of the Centre for European Legal Studies at Cambridge University, says this would have strengthened the Scottish Government’s hand in negotiating EU membership after a Yes vote. The SNP government has insisted Scotland will remain in the EU, but may have to renegotiate its terms of membership. EU leaders have indicated Scotland would have to re-apply to join.

Prof Armstrong insists in a submission to Holyrood’s European committee that it “ought not to be assumed” that Scots would favour EU membership, after this was rejected by other small countries such as Norway and Denmark.

“Had the question of Scottish membership of the EU been put in parallel with the question on independence, and if both were answered in the affirmative, then the argument for EU institutions and member states to engage constructively in dialogue with the Scottish Government to prepare the way for Scotland’s EU membership would be that much stronger,” Prof Armstrong states.

Even if independence was rejected, Scots may still have backed EU membership, which could “not simply be ignored” by the rest of the UK in the “political discourse” about Europe, he adds. Now Scots will only have a “direct and specific” say on EU membership if the Conservatives win the next election and hold a referendum on the issue, a situation branded “paradoxical” by the academic.

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