SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Small states are more likely to end up on the winning side of votes in the European Union, according to a constitutional expert.
But an independent Scotland also risks diluting its influence by aligning itself with Westminster in a currency union and sharing its EU opt-outs.
An independent Scotland’s potential influence in the EU will face further scrutiny at Holyrood’s European and External Relations Committee today.
Professor Michael Keating, director at the Economic and Social Research Council’s Scottish centre on constitutional change, said large states have more influence in the EU, but smaller states can exercise real influence by coalition-building and a constructive pro-European approach.
Scotland would have the added advantage of more than 40 years’ experience in European decision-making, he said.
But the Scottish Government’s insistence on keeping the pound and the UK’s current opt-outs risk aligning it with the UK’s “Euro-sceptic” reputation, which could “weaken its capacity for influence”, he added.
Speaking ahead of the committee, Mr Keating said: “In general, larger states have more influence in the EU than smaller ones.
“They have greater economic weight. They have more voting power in the Council of the European Union under the majority-voting provisions, which now apply to most areas of policy-making.
“They can more credibly exercise a veto in those cases where unanimity is required.
“Big states sometimes make side deals outside the formal decision-making process. Small states cannot do this as easily as they have less to offer in return.”
He added: “Small states can exercise real influence within the EU, but not in the same way as large states.”
Coalition-building, niche expertise in areas like wind energy and climate change and learning are key advantages for smaller states, he said.
“Older small states tend to be more effective than newer ones,” he said.
“Scotland might have some of the advantages of older member states, given that it has been part of the EC/EU for over 40 years,” he said.
“Small states are more effective if they have a reputation for being constructive and pro-European. The UK has been rather effective in day-to-day policy negotiations but its reputation for Euro-scepticism has deprived it of much of the credit for this.
“There is little in the independence white paper to suggest that an independent Scotland would have a substantially different relationship to the EU than does the UK at present.
“It is proposed, for example, to keep all the present opt-outs and to retain the pound sterling.
“This carries the risk of being pulled along behind whatever position the UK adopted in future.
“An independent Scotland would have to consider carefully its role in Europe and whether it wanted to join the core or remain on the fringes. The latter could weaken its capacity for influence.”