A NEWLY independent Scotland could be kept out of the European Union for up to two years, with Scots stripped of their legal rights to travel within the union, a leading academic has warned.
Professor Thomas Giegerich, an international law expert at the University of Edinburgh, said it would be “diplomatically difficult” for Scotland to join the EU after a “yes” vote, with other member states “reluctant” to anger the UK government.
He said that it would “take some time” for an independent Scotland to “go through the process” of joining the EU and gain the approval of other states, such as the remainder of the UK, which would have the power to veto a Scottish application.
The warning that Scotland would have to negotiate its way back into the European single market came as Alex Salmond faced a call from Tory leader Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions to publish evidence to support his claim that an independent Scotland would continue as a member of the union.
Prof Giegerich said that the European Commission would need to be involved in independence talks from the start to determine the terms of Scotland’s temporary exit, but warned that it would be a “risky and politically sensitive move” that would lead to further rifts with the UK government. But he said that one of the main implications of Scotland being temporarily excluded from membership would be the end of the status of Scots as EU citizens that would affect the “automatic right of residency” in other member nations, including England.
He said that “Scottish people would no longer be EU citizens and they wouldn’t be able to move freely”.
Instead, they would hold the same residence rights as residents in non-EU countries such as Norway, as well as North American nations.
However, SNP Euro MP Alyn Smyth insisted Scotland would be an EU member from day one of independence, saying suggestions of exclusion were “ridiculous.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “These claims are completely wrong. The reality is that Scotland is part of the territory of the European Union and the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU.
“There is no provision for either of these circumstances to change upon independence, and the rest of the UK would be in exactly the same position.”
Mr Salmond said: “The only conceivable threat to Scotland’s current membership of the EU comes from members of Ruth Davidson’s own party in the House of Commons who are openly advocating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.”