By Sean Martin
Scotland is likely to stay in the European Union if it votes for independence, a renowned Brussels think tank has concluded.
The European Policy Centre document – which considered the question: “Could an independent Scotland join the European Union?” – said that current members would face a ‘legal nightmare’ should the country stay outside the EU for even a short period of time.
Professor Graham Avery of Oxford University compiled the policy brief – which also determined that no member state has a material interest in Scotland not being in the EU.
“This would deprive the EU of the benefits of Scotland’s membership (budgetary contribution, fisheries resources, etc.)” the report went on to state.
“No member state, particularly not the rest of the UK, would have an interest in creating such an anomaly.”
Professor Avery’s report acknowledges that some EU states have political reasons to be concerned by the prospect of Scottish independence.
It mentions the example of Spain and its opposition to the growing demand for a Catalonian state, while highlighting that the Spanish and four other members (Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus) have so far refused to recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.
However, the report distinguishes between the Catalonian, Kosovo and Scottish cases in that the latter is part of a constitutional process already agreed by London.
In the same vein, Professor Avery says the question of Scottish membership could not be opposed from a purely practical standpoint, as its involvement neither weakens the EU nor is it ‘contrary to its basic principles or interests’.
The report states: “It is difficult to see how the Union could reject five million Scots, who are already EU citizens and have applied European policies for 40 years.
“In this respect, the situation of Scotland is not the same as that of non-EU countries.”
The conclusions drawn from the report suggests member states would accept an independent Scotland’s fast-track membership.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith called Professor Avery’s report ‘a breath of fresh air’ in the independence debate.
He said: “The European Policy Centre is as serious as it gets in Brussels.
“This paper poses, quite rightly, a few questions over the mechanics of the process whereby Scotland will transition from a region of a member state to a member state in our own right, but the conclusions are sound.
“This serious and objective analysis shoots a number of anti-independence foxes and it should be read by anyone with an interest in Scotland and the EU.”