Leader: Answers needed on EU membership bid

The Scottish Government will today release the third in its “Building a New Scotland” series of papers that aims to set out a fresh prospectus for independence.

In 2018, the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission recommended retaining the pound while not being part of a formal currency union with the remainder of the UK.

This period of “sterlingisation” would exist until economic conditions allowed for the creation of a new Scottish currency and central bank. We may learn today whether this is still the course Nicola Sturgeon wishes to steer.

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On one thing, however, the First Minister has already been very clear: she sees EU membership as central to her vision for an independent Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has put EU membership at the heart of her vision for an independent Scotland

Ahead of today’s publication, she said: “By rejoining the EU, we will not only be able to travel freely across both the UK and the 27 member states, but it will be easier to attract EU workers to support sectors so badly damaged by Brexit.”

She also rightly states she can “never pretend that everything about independence is easy”, and EU membership presents perhaps one of the biggest difficulties of all.

Scots voted in 2016 in favour of the UK remaining a member of the EU, rather than endorsing an independent Scotland’s membership of the bloc.

Many supporters of independence oppose EU membership and would no doubt protest against moves for Scotland to “rejoin”.

An independent Scotland might struggle to meet entry requirements for admission, in terms of debt and deficit.

In any case, existing members could prove unwilling to grant admission to an independent Scotland for fear of encouraging secessionist movements within their own countries.

Would an independent Scotland have to join the eurozone if it became an EU member? If so, and if Scotland had its own currency as proposed by the Growth Commission, the country would have to change again, this time to the euro.

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The fallout of the UK leaving the EU clearly demonstrates the risks involved in breaking away from an established union. Scottish voters will need to be convinced the answer to turmoil and economic upheaval is not more of the same.