THE Scottish Government has only opened talks over an independent Scotland’s status with the European Union because it has been “flushed out” on the issue, a member of the House of Lords claimed yesterday.
• EC President Barroso said an independent Scotland would be forced to re-apply for membership
• Nicola Sturgeon is seeking urgent talks with Brussels
• Leading think tank says the problem is with the process and not whether Scotland will become a member
The allegation from Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market came as SNP finance secretary John Swinney told members of the Lords economic affairs committee that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was “wrong” to say an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU.
The hearing took place as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would make a statement in Holyrood on the issue on Thursday.
But there was further bad news for the Scottish Government when a leading think-tank, Business for New Europe, said that an independent Scotland would face complications applying to join the EU. In his evidence Mr Swinney claimed that president Barroso’s statement in a letter to the Lords committee was “not based in treaty.”
This was challenged by Labour peer Lord Lipsey who pointed out that the letter specifically said treaties only applied to member states.
He added that Mr Swinney’s defence was “the last refuge of a scoundrel”.
Mr Swinney said: “There are a variety of expressions of legal opinion, there was one just the other day there which was expressed by the professor of law for the University Glasgow who made the point in a broadcast interview. Professor Tom Mullin says there is no specific provision in the treaty that expressly deals with the situation of a member state breaking up and both parts wanting to stay in and that confirms the view that I am taking.”
But Tory peer Lord MacGregor said that Mr Swinney’s vision for an independent Scotland’s economy was “dependent” on EU membership and was a “critical issue for the business community.”
He added: “I have to say I am slightly surprised after all the discussion about the EU membership issue over recent months it is only now that our correspondence with Mr Barroso has effectively flushed out a letter from the Scottish Government asking for talks.”
Meanwhile, Dr Daniel Furby of Business for New Europe said yesterday Scotland’s membership will “come down to politics” as independence movements also begin to flourish in other EU states Poland, Italy and Spain.
He told BBC Radio Scotland: “The incentive for countries like Spain, possibly even Italy and possibly Poland is to make the process quite rigorous, quite formal and to take a period of time.
“So Scotland, they would like to see, have to jump through a certain number of hoops in which to define its future relationship with the European Union. What they don’t want there to be is for a precedent for an easy ride, a fast-track for secessionist movements within existing member states.”
This would then act as a “dis-incentive” for separatist movements inside their own countries, Dr Furby added.