Scottish independence: Salmond faces questions over EU membership

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Alex Salmond is questioned on Scotland’s post-independence EU  
status at First Minister’s Questions today

Scottish independence: Salmond faces questions over EU membership
by Andy Mackie

First Minister Alex Salmond clashed with Labour leader Johann Lamont and her Lib Dem counterpart Willie Rennie over the issue of whether an independent Scotland will automatically be a member of EU should Scots vote for independence in 2014.

Ms Lamont went on the attack citing comments from the president of the European commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, which had been reported as suggesting that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership.

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The Labour leader at Holyrood asked whether Mr Barroso was wrong to say this. Mr Salmond responded by accusing the Labour leader of misquoting EU officials.

Mr Salmond went on to defend his government’s stance on EU membership stating that a post-independence Scotland would still be part of the EU and would not have to apply for membership in the same way as a country outside the EU such as Turkey would.

He said: "Scotland is not an accession state; we've been members of the European Union for 40 years.

"We are not in the position of a country which is not part of the European Union, and that means of course there have to be negotiations, but the crucial point is that these negotiations take place from within the context of the European Union."

When his opportunity to question the first minister arrived, LibDem leader Willie Rennie asked if Mr Salmond had considered the consequences if his view on the subject was wrong. He said: “Could we be forced to join the Eurozone and the Schengen agreement? Could we lose the European rebate? These are serious questions which voters deserve legitimate and expert answers to. It is unacceptable to ask people to vote for independence on the basis of an assessment cobbled together by the SNP.”

Mr Salmond countered by claiming that, contrary to claims made by Unionist politicians, no one in Europe wants to force Scotland out of the EU.

The argument flared up as it emerged that Scotland could find itself outside the EU if it remains part of the United Kingdom. A survey called Transatlantic Trends, conducted by the Washington-based GMF think-tank has shown that the majority of UK citizens believe that membership of the EU is not good for the domestic economy.

The figures show that only 40 percent of Britons now believe the EU is good for the British economy. With Prime Minister David Cameron seemingly committed to holding a referendum on EU membership when the opportunity arises there appears to be doubt over Scotland’s on-going EU membership regardless of the independence referendum result.

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