By Owen O’Donnell
The Scottish Government has welcomed comments from a number of leading experts who yesterday gave evidence in support of the argument that an independent Scotland would experience straightforward transition into the European Union as a full member.
The Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee hosted a panel of European experts who gave evidence on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU.
One of the key issues surrounding the referendum is Scotland’s current membership of the EU as a member of the United Kingdom, which some have said will be forfeited in the event of a Yes vote. However, it has been argued by the SNP that Scotland’s membership can be re-negotiated from within the EU during the transition period that would not see Scotland officially declared as an independent country until 2016.
Dr Paolo Dardenelli, a lecturer in comparative politics at Kent University, suggested that the latter argument would not be an “unreasonable scenario.”
He told the committee: “It seems to me that we need to think the process will be one of accession or a reframing of membership as has already been said. I personally find the reframing of membership not unreasonable as a scenario because it would be also very problematic to expel, in a sense, Scotland upon independence.
“The course that the (Scottish) Government has charted, I don’t find it an unreasonable one.”
He also gave an endorsement of the Scottish Governments preferred route of negotiation for continued EU membership citing Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union as highlighted in the White Paper that was published last year.
He said: “I think article 48 seems to me on balance, probably the more realistic [route of negotiation]”
Under Article 48, Scotland could legally remain a member of the European Union through standard revision procedure before 2016 which would enable Scotland to keep its membership on the first day of independence.
Laura Cram, a Professor of European Politics at Edinburgh University also lent her support to the idea that other member countries would not stand in the way of Scotland re-negotiating its place in the European Union.
She told the committee: “The notion that somehow Scotland would be out in the cold and floating in that interim period [between a Yes vote in 2014 and independence in 2016], even if it were to come entirely as an applicant state, I think would be considered fairly unusual in the EU context.”
David Crawley, a former Senior Civil Servant bolstered the claims by telling the committee: “I do think that in very broad terms, the institutions of the EU […] would want to see Scotland be a full member of the European Union.”
Mr Crawley added: “I don’t think anyone will be surprised or in the slightest bit concerned if Scotland wants to retain the Schengen opt-out, which is fairly consistent with the position that Ireland currently has.”
The comments were welcomed by Clare Adamson MSP, also a member of the European and External Relations Committee.
Ms Adamson said: “Today’s committee was extremely positive – we now have overwhelming evidence in favour of the Scottish Government’s position of how an independent Scotland would become an EU member from within.
“These welcome comments and contributions about Scotland’s place in Europe are a blow to Project Fear’s scaremongering.
“The truth is that the only threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU comes from a No vote and Westminster’s efforts to drag Scotland out of Europe in 2017 against our will.
“As the debate continues, the more people are recognising the value of a Yes vote and the gains of independence.”
The comments from the experts coincide with a visit to Glasgow by UK Foreign Minister William Hague, who is expected to launch yet another attack on Scottish independence. Conservative MP Mr Hague, who will be accompanied by Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander, is expected to focus on the EU membership of an independent Scotland.