OTHER countries would try to smooth the way for an independent Scotland to become a member of the European Union, a former UK government minister has said.
Lord Malloch-Brown, who served in the Foreign Office under Gordon Brown for two years, said Scotland had an “historically better relationship with Europe than many other parts of the UK”.
For that reason, he said he believed the country would be “welcomed to the table in Brussels” if it does vote to leave the UK in next year’s referendum.
He also claimed Europe could have “bigger problems” with the rest of the UK, with Prime Minister David Cameron proposing a referendum on EU membership if the Tories are returned to power in the 2015 general election.
Lord Malloch-Brown, who was previously deputy secretary general of the United Nations, said: “Continental Europe does not view its problem as being with Edinburgh, but with London.”
He also appeared to suggest an independent Scotland would be able to become a member of the UN, but warned if the country left the UK it could lose some of its influence in such international organisations.
The former senior diplomat said: “Frankly, the underlying issue that Scotland has to reflect on is that probably it can get into all these organisations with relative ease, but it may in many of them have a diminished voice versus when it was part of the broader United Kingdom, and it is going to have to make that choice.
“The real question for Scots is: ‘Do we have a bigger voice in the world as part of the United Kingdom or speaking with a more authentic Scottish voice on international affairs.’ And I think that is the real choice that matters.”
After recent controversies over SNP claims about an independent Scotland’s place in Europe, his comments were welcomed by Blair Jenkins,
chief executive of the
pro-independence campaign group Yes Scotland.
Mr Jenkins said: “Here we have yet another very senior and experienced diplomatic authority expressing the
very clear view that an independent Scotland will
be made very welcome in
the EU as well as other international organisations.
“Mr Malloch-Brown is also underlining what we have always said – that an independent Scotland will take up its rightful place in the international community and play a key role within it.”
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Britain last night confirmed that his country would not take sides in the independence referendum debate.
Louis Susman said the Washington government
was watching the debate
unfold and would be staying “neutral”.
Mr Susman added: “This is
up to the Scottish people to decide and where their best future is for their children
and their grandchildren.
“We will watch it and
we won’t take sides. We are neutral and we will just have to see what will happen. But obviously there are ramifications either way.”