Scottish independence: EC chief clarifies remark on new states’ membership

Scottish independence: EC chief clarifies remark on new states’ membership
Scottish independence: EC chief clarifies remark on new states’ membership
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The Scottish government’s view that an independent Scotland will be
an automatic member of the EU will both comfort and anger many Scots

Scottish independence: EC chief clarifies remark on new states’ membership

A spokesman for the European commission has clarified comments he made in which he appeared to indicate an independent Scotland would not automatically be a member of the European Union (EU).

Olivier Bailly had stated that a newly independent state would have to apply to join the EU but has now said his answer had to be understood in the specific context of Catalonia where yesterday up to a million people marched in favour of independence.

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Mr Bailly’s remarks had been reported as critically undermining the Scottish government’s belief that an independent Scotland would automatically be an EU member state.

The senior EC spokesman went further saying that his answer in relation to Catalonia should not be interpreted as the commission’s view on the possible new Scottish state or a general view at all.

With Holyrood and Westminster refusing to publish legal advice they both claim to have received on the issue, the key constitutional matter is unclear and unlikely to be clarified before Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.

It is likely that an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union will continue temporarily during a period of negotiation leading to agreed terms for permanent membership.

What is very unclear is if Scots want their new state to remain part of the EU. Observers note that the key issue of whether or not an independent Scotland should be a full member of the EU and other international bodies or not should be a matter for the Scottish electorate to decide in a referendum. Critics argue that the neither the SNP nor the Scottish government nor any other organisation should decide on EU membership over the heads of the population.

A report by the House of Commons Library titled ‘Scotland, independence and the EU’ said that “nothing in the EU Treaties sets out what would happen in the event of part of a Member State becoming independent.”

Analysis

Many within the SNP do not favour EU membership and as such the SNP leadership has been accused of presenting EU membership as a matter of fact rather than one of choice.

Ahead of the indepenence referendum both sides of the constitutional divide have a moral obligation to justify their claims relating to membership of internation bodies post-independence and prove to the public how and why they have reached conclusions which are of such vital matters of public interest.

What is vital is that the public are confident that the entire referendum debate is being held in as honest and transparent a way as possible in order for any future settlement to be founded on clear democratic principles.

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