The position of an independent Scotland in relation to the EU was examined in a speech today by Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire. Speaking to parliamentarians as part of a Westminster Hall adjournment debate ‘Constituent parts of the UK and membership of the European Union’, Hugo Swire said:
“Those who argue for an independent Scotland suggest that only independence will give their nation a voice in Europe. Their argument is underpinned by the assertion - and it is only an assertion - that an independent Scotland would simply continue in membership of the EU, automatically inheriting the same arrangements that pertain to the UK now.
“I do not need to remind honourable members that the UK has managed to negotiate, over the years, exemptions from membership of the euro and from the Schengen common visa area, ensuring that the UK can maintain control over its own monetary and border policies.
“But the fact is that if Scotland became independent, everything would change. Independence is not simply an extension of the devolution arrangements that have worked so well. It is not merely a further point on the constitutional continuum. It is a fundamental change - a definitive split from the rest of the UK, an irreversible step. Independence would bring devolution to an end.
“England, Northern Ireland and Wales would continue the international legal personality of the UK; Scotland, having decided to leave the UK, would start afresh. The overwhelming weight of international legal precedent underscores this point.
“The most likely scenario by far is that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU as a new state, involving negotiation with the rest of the UK and other Member States, the outcome of which cannot be predicted.
“In simple terms, an independent Scotland could not just assert that it would be a member of the club - the other members would need to agree as well. The Scottish Government must be prepared to respond and be upfront about the uncertainties surrounding their position.
“The UK Government has made clear that we will provide detailed evidence and analysis so that people in Scotland can make an informed decision about whether to stay in the UK and the implications in leaving it. We will publish this analysis over the course of 2013.
“It is the clear position of the UK Government that Scotland is better off in the UK, and the UK is better off with Scotland in it. We are backing up that position with a robust programme of analysis and evidence. Those advocating independence for Scotland are making assertions that suit their argument, with no solid foundation in fact.”