THE dust has settled on a year of frantic debate over this issue and a few things have become clearer. The original SNP claim that membership would be “automatic” is no longer heard too much. So too are pro-UK claims that Scotland would be booted out. In the real world, Scotland would become a member of the EU; the question is over the timing and the terms.
On timing, the president of the EC, Jose Manuel Barrosso declared last year that Scotland would have to apply for membership, like any other new member state wishing to join. However, the SNP argues that the deal to join would be wrapped up before the country actually becomes independent in 2016, ensuring a seamless transition. Former Irish PM John Bruton declared recently that this was probably likely. However, he also pointed out that there would still need to be a treaty of accession signed by all 28 member states for that to happen.
This point is crucial, as it points to the fact that Scotland’s terms of membership would be decided not in the law courts, but after a political negotiation. The outcome of those talks is obviously unclear. Would Scotland would inherit the UK’s opt-out - including over membership of the Euro? One possibility is that Scotland would be asked to make a commitment to eventual membership, once economic circumstances have improved. Other issues, such as how independence would affect the UK’s none-too-popular rebate, would also be likely to figure prominently.
But the elephant in the room is not Scotland’s membership of the EU, but the UK’s, given the pledge by David Cameron to offer his own in-out referendum. If the remainder of the UK left the EU, Scotland would then be faced with a choice of what to do itself.