Doubts over automatic EU entry for an independent Scotland
THE SNP's case for independence was dealt a damaging blow last night when the European Commission and senior academics challenged the Nationalists' core assumption - that an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.
The EC stressed that Scotland's entry as a member state would have to be "negotiated" and would not be the "seamless" transition the SNP has claimed.
The Commission's representative in Scotland, Neil Mitchison, confirmed that Scotland would not be granted automatic entry into the EU, as the Nationalists insist.
"The situation is unprecedented and therefore negotiations would be needed. Things would have to be discussed and negotiated," he said.
An expert in constitutional law from Edinburgh University backed this up by stressing that Scotland would have to negotiate its accession to the EU and warning that Europe might insist upon the adoption of the euro as a precondition of entry.
The basis for this more cautious approach to Scotland's future in Europe is a major piece of academic research, written in 1999, but not publicised since.
It warned that the SNP's flagship policy of "independence in Europe" was badly flawed and based on a series of simplistic assumptions.
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, has long argued that Scotland would easily be able to swap its Union with England for a union with Europe.
Writing in The Scotsman last month, Mr Salmond stated: "Scotland is already a member of the EU and that would continue. It is not easy to leave the EU as we saw with the attempts by Greenland when they won autonomy from Denmark."
Jim Mather, the party's economics spokesman, repeated this when he said the transition would be "seamless".
Mr Mather said: "Of course it will be seamless. It's not in the EU's interests to do otherwise. We are an incumbent member state, what about England having to reapply?"
However, Matthew Happold, a reader in international law at Hull University, examined the issue thoroughly in 1999 when he was a research officer for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.
Mr Happold dissected each one of the SNP's arguments and concluded that an independent Scotland would not only fail to get automatic membership of the EU, but would probably be much worse off than it is now, with less influence and less money.
Mr Happold said the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would remain the nation state, a member of the EU, a member of the United Nations, NATO and other international organisations and Scotland would be seen as seceding from it. Scotland would then have to apply for membership of each international organisation it wanted to join.
Mr Happold warned that Scotland would almost certainly lose its share of the shrinking UK budget rebate, that it would lose anything that remains of the EU's structural fund money, that it would lose power and influence and would have to compete with other emerging European states from Eastern Europe for attention and resources.
He stated: "Scotland's subsequent route to EU membership could well be a tortuous one. The SNP's use of the phrase 'Independence in Europe' seeks to persuade the Scottish electorate that it can have its cake and eat it, that Scotland can have both the benefits of independence and the security of membership of the European Union.
"However, the real situation is that an independent Scotland might end up with all the insecurities of independence and none of the benefits of EU membership."
Lorand Bartels, a lecturer in international economic law at Edinburgh University, said he shared Mr Happold's view.
He said: "Both as a matter of international law and as a matter of EU law, Scotland would have to negotiate its accession to the EU as a new member state.
"This process may be relatively unproblematic, given that Scotland already applies EU law, but it is unlikely to be entirely 'seamless'. At the very least there would be likely to be an obligation to adopt the euro."
France also recently passed a law which would prevent the expansion of the EU until such a change had been agreed by the French in a referendum, a process which would inevitably take time.
Go-it-alone nation is perfectly feasible, says Queen's historian
THE Queen's official historian in Scotland fuelled the debate over independence yesterday, when he claimed the country could flourish if it left the Union.
Professor Christopher Smout, the Historiographer Royal, said it was "perfectly feasible" for Scotland to go it alone as eastern European countries had done since the end of the Soviet regime.
Prof Smout, the emeritus professor of history at St Andrews University, believes the current constitutional settlement is "unstable". He also hit out at claims by John Reid, the Home Secretary, that Scotland's national security would be compromised by independence.
Prof Smout said: "There are no border patrols between Belgium and Holland and security there is no worse or better than it is here. There is no reason to think security would be slacker in an independent Scotland. Dr Reid's observations are a complete non-starter.
"The English would probably not be awfully upset if the Scots decided to go it alone. I think the Queen would be sorry, but I can't see many other people south of the Border being too regretful."
His comments were condemned by Allan Wilson, Scotland's deputy enterprise minister, and Tom Harris, Labour's MP for Glasgow South, who said he should remain neutral.
But Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, welcomed Prof Smout's comments and described the attacks from Labour as "small-minded nonsense".
Mr Salmond said: "In the world of New Labour, people do not have the right to speak their mind unless they happen to agree with them. Prof Smout is as entitled as any other Scot to participate in the great debate about Scotland's constitutional future.
"His academic freedom to speak out is not compromised by his position as Historiographer Royal. No self-respecting academic would ever have accepted such a restriction."
Prof Smout has advised the Queen on Scottish history since 1993.
So what have we got to lose outside Europe?
TENS of thousands of European workers, mostly from former Communist countries, have come to Scotland to work, taking advantage of the freedom to live and work provisions of the EU.
There is no reason why Scotland could not continue to welcome them outside the EU, but there would be considerable problems for Scots working across the continent.
At the moment, Scots can travel and work with complete freedom anywhere within the EU. That would disappear if Scotland was outside the Union, along with the healthcare agreements and other protections.
SCOTLAND'S prosperity is closely tied to membership of the European Union.
In 2004, 53 per cent of goods exported from Scotland went to the EU, bringing in 8.8 billion into the Scottish economy.
That trade would not collapse overnight if Scotland was not a member of the EU but there could be serious problems.
The EU was conceived as a free market and this remains at its core.
If Scotland was left outside the EU it would be outside the biggest and most economically advantageous free market in the world.
SCOTLAND has received billions of pounds from Europe over the last 30 years, for deprived areas in the former industrial west and to the rural north.
Between 1994 and 1999 the Highlands and Islands received about 100 million from the European Regional Development Fund alone.
However, the size of European grants has declined as the EU has expanded and Scotland's share is due to drop by anything up to 60 per cent over the next seven years.
But there is still money coming in - if Scotland was outside the EU, all these extra aid payments would cease.
AS PART of a member state, Scotland is signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights. Scots can also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if they feel unfairly treated by their domestic legal system. Member- state governments can also be held to account by the European Court of Justice, the supreme court in the EU which deliberates on alleged breaches of EU law.
If Scotland was outside the EU, individuals would lose the ability to take their cases to Europe's highest court and would lose the human-rights protections given by EU membership.
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