By a Newsnet reporter
David Cameron has pledged to support a newly independent Scotland’s bid for EU membership following a Yes vote.
In a major surprise, the UK Prime Minister was asked by STV’s Bernard Ponsonby if the Westminster Government would back the government of Scotland on the issue of EU membership “consistent with the will of the people in a referendum”, the PM replied “absolutely”.
Although spelling out what he felt would be difficulties in any post Yes negotiations, confirmation from the PM that the rest of the UK will support a Scots EU bid puts Mr Cameron at odds with head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso who recently claimed that such an application would be all but impossible.
Mr Barroso had also compared Scotland to Kosovo, although his EC office later backtracked on his comments days later saying the EC President acknowledged the two situations had differences.
A spokesperson said that Barroso, “did not want to imply” that the former Serbian province “was a perfect analogy”. Kosovo, the spokesman said, was merely “illustrative of the possible difficulties and uncertainties” of Scotland or Catalonia.
The spokesperson added: “We can not know in advance the result [of EU membership negotiations] and that’s what the president meant,”
Mr Cameron’s backing for the Scottish Government’s stance on EU membership is a significant development and challenges claims from some Unionists that Scotland would be denied “the clout” of the rest of the UK as it sought to negotiate its own membership following a Yes vote.
The Conservative leader’s reply also puts him at odds with his party’s sole MP in Scotland David Mundel who recently claimed the rest of the UK might not support a Scottish EU bid.
Earlier this month Scotland Office minister Mr Mundell told MPs on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that the Scottish Government’s stance on no tuition fees for students in Scotland could result in the rest of the UK failing to support an EU application
Mr Mundel said the behaviour of an independent Scotland “is very likely to influence how other parties, whether it is the continuing UK or other countries in the EU, respond to Scotland’s requests and claims to be a partner and good neighbour”.
Mr Mundel’s coalition colleague Alistair Carmichael has also signalled a reluctance to back Scottish Government plans for EU membership in the event of a Yes vote, calling them a “dead end”.
Speaking in January, the Lib Dem MP said: “The process they propose is flawed in legal terms and destined to fail in the cold hard light of political reality.”
He added: “Leaving the UK means leaving the EU, then trying to fight your way back in seeking the same terms from a weaker position. This runs against Scotland’s interests.”
The Scottish Government insists that continuation of the EU membership Scotland has enjoyed for forty years would be possible after a Yes vote. They say negotiations could take place during the 18 month period between the referendum result and formal independence being ratified.
Unionists have claimed that a Yes vote would result in Scotland automatically leaving the EU and having to join a queue in order to get back in.