Independent Scotland would act as a 'bridge' between EU and UK, says former SNP MP

An independent Scotland would act as a bridge between the United Kingdom and the European Union and could replicate Ireland’s success in exploiting its soft power, a former SNP MP and international relations academic has said.

Stephen Gethins, who represented North East Fife in Westminster and now works as a professor of practice in international relations at the University of St Andrews, said much of the work around Scotland’s foreign policy as an independent nation would begin on the first day after a successful victory for Yes in a referendum.

However, speaking to The Scotsman’s political podcast The Steamie, he said much more work needed to be done to ensure an independent Scotland could start out on the best possible terms with a fractured UK and Europe.

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What would an independent Scotland's foreign policy look like?

He said: “The day after a successful independence referendum you need to tell the world who you are and what your values are and that is something we need to be discussing right now.

"In terms of the economic relationships, yes this is hard and actually I think an awful lot of the work needs to go in to this now.

"A lot of this can’t be solved incidentally because there is stuff that everybody says you must solve it before a referendum, you can’t.

"I think a lot more can be done, I think there is work to develop an awful lot more … but I never think you can do enough on this."

Mr Gethins, who recently wrote a book chronicling Scotland’s foreign policy, said despite parts of Scotland which are strongly pro-Brexit, the main driver of independence was Brexit and this would likely be reflected in an independent Scotland’s approach to foreign policy.

He said: "The European Union is a union for independent states that work together. The UK isn’t, it just isn’t any more.

"I think that that idea of multilateralism, membership of the EU is driving the independence movement and therefore a newly independent Scotland would necessarily reflect those values and I think it would want to.

"I think there’s a lot we could learn from Ireland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and elsewhere, but fundamentally Scotland isn’t Ireland, Denmark, Norway, just as it isn’t just a mini UK, so you have to determine your own foreign policy and that’s a debate and discussion we need to have right now.”

The former MP who lost his seat in 2019 said Scotland could benefit from its significant soft power in a similar way that Ireland has in recent years.

Mr Gethins said Ireland’s diplomatic clout was now stronger than the UK’s given its relationship with Europe, adding that Scotland could replicate that success.

He said: “If Scotland plays it well, could Scotland be a voice for what remains in the UK within the European institutions just as Ireland has been?

"I think we need to act as a bridge. I don't think that will always be easy, but I think if you enter with a spirit of generosity and a recognition of the continued importance of that relationship with London, it is a pretty good place to start and it will put you in good stead for when you are looking to offer something to your new international partners as well.”

Readers can listen to the full interview with Mr Gethins on The Steamie.

The Steamie is available from all of your favourite podcast providers, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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