Scottish independence: MEPs warn on EU talks

EUROPEAN leaders in Brussels say an independent Scotland won’t have a “easy or quick negotiation” to secure EU membership, MSPs were told today.

Richard Lochhead claims Scotland will be a "unique" position to negotiate with the EU. Picture: TSPL
Richard Lochhead claims Scotland will be a "unique" position to negotiate with the EU. Picture: TSPL

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said if there was a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, Scotland would negotiate to become an independent member of the EU from within Europe.

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Holyrood’s European and External Affairs committee heard from Scotland’s MEPs that every EU state would have a veto over Scotland’s membership.

It follows a warning by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that Scotland would have to exit the EU after a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, then re-apply to join. The SNP Government’s white paper on independence this week says Scotland would negotiate membership from

inside the EU.

Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon, a former finance minister at Holyrood, said the white paper’s proposals on Europe met with a frosty reaction in Brussels.

“Most of the comments I’ve had here from colleagues across other member states say it’s a very challenging set of demands the SNP Government have - opt-outs on all the main issues that the UK already has, plus another £2 billion in spending on CAP and rural development.

“I don’t think any member state thinks that’s going to be an easy or quick negotiation, given how high the demands are and how challenging the demands are.”

He warned the negotiations would be a “long, difficult process” if there is a Yes vote and that many member states will have a right to veto Scotland’s membership.

“Every member state has a veto, every member state will have to pass it through their own parliament,” he added.

But SNP MEP Iain Hudghton insisted that the Spanish Prime Minister is running his own “Project Fear” as he contends with a rising nationalist movement in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

Scotland would embark on a process of “negotiation from within” because Scotland would still be part of the UK for the 18-month period following a Yes vote and hence still part of the EU.

“It’s a treaty change, but it doesn’t seem to me to be momentous or difficult,” he said.

“We will have to have a specified number of MEPs, but there’s a formula for that, it doesn’t seem to me to be momentous or difficult.

“So negotiation from within and with the Edinburgh agreement fully implemented and the outcome respected by both governments in the UK - that makes this situation unique. That means that Governments and the EU will accept the outcome too, I’m quite certain about that.”

Labour’s Catherine Stihler said that an independent Scotland’s entry into Europe will need a treaty change - and scoffed at the idea of an 18 month negotiation.

She said the example used in the white paper of German unification was a “non-starter.”

“It’s a negotiation and you cannot predict what that negotiation will bring,” she said.

“Yes you can have a wish list, but at the end of the day my preference is to remain part of the United Kingdom.”