Scotland and the EU

First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of lying in a TV interview, when he said that yes, the government had sought the advice of legal officers about Scotland’s position in the EU in relation to debates and documents. In the Parliament, Salmond defended himself with chapter and verse about which documents he meant. I have just checked them out for myself, and I think Salmond has the right of it. Two of the three papers he cites, Choosing Scotland’s Future (2007, p 24) and Your Scotland your referendum (2012, p4) do make statements about Scotland’s position in Europe and will have passed the law officers, even if they are somewhat thinner than a proper legal consideration might offer. The main problem the Scottish government might have in giving a fuller account would not, I suspect, be the question of the confidentiality of advice; it would be that obtaining such advice would be a breach of the Scotland Act, which deliberately and explicitly prevents the government from contemplating the breakup of the United Kingdom. Following that line of enquiry has only been made legally possible following the Edinburgh agreement.

The more important question is where an independent Scotland would stand in relation to the EU. A helpful article last month by Alan Trench in the Guardian explains that while Scotland’s position is uncertain, it is debatable whether the EU could deny a Scottish application without breaking its own rules. Europe has a federal structure, in which every citizen is a citizen of Europe as well as of the member state; denying access to Scotland would deny citizenship to EU citizens.

Further note, 1st November: The press have caught up with this argument this morning, with an honorary member of the Commission confirming that EU citizenship cannot be withdrawn and that terms of entry would be negoatiated on that basis between a referendum result and independence.

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