AN independent Scotland could not be asked to leave the European Union for “practical and political” reasons, a senior European Commission figure has said.
Graham Avery, an honorary director-general of the EC, says Scottish citizens already have rights as EC citizens and could not be asked to leave and apply for readmission.
“Scotland’s five million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years, have acquired rights as European citizens,” Mr Avery says in a submission to Westminster’s foreign affairs committee.
“For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission.”
The intervention will come as a boost for First Minister Alex Salmond who has always claimed that Scotland would remain in the EU after independence.
Mr Avery, pictured below, added: “Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence. The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries.”
Europe has been at the centre of the constitutional debate in recent weeks over concerns that if Scotland is forced to re-apply for EU membership, it could be forced to join the euro and sign up to the Schengen “open border” agreement which the UK is currently exempt from.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said it underlined the need for the SNP to clarify the position on Europe post-independence.
“The Scottish Government have a duty to remove the doubt and secure the agreement of all the EU nations before the referendum,” he said.
But Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign, said: “People in Scotland should be reassured that an independent Scotland will remain a member of the European Union.”