By a Newsnet reporter
A statement from the European Commission on the EU membership status of a newly independent Scotland could follow conclusions of the referendum talks currently taking place between Edinburgh and London.
In a surprise admission, EU spokesman Mark Stephen Gray has confirmed that the Commission has declined to comment at this stage because of the negotiations that are currently taking place between the Scottish and Westminster Governments on the details of the referendum.
Responding to questions posed by Newsnet Scotland, Mr Gray, a press spokesman for Commission President, José Manuel Barroso said:
“In the Scottish case, the discussions are taking place on the modalities of a referendum; Timing, wording etc not yet known. That is why the Commission is not commenting at this stage.”
Although when pressed, Mr Gray refused to confirm it, the admission that the talks are preventing such clarification will be taken as a signal that the Commission will make clear its stance on EU membership before the 2014 referendum.
Newsnet Scotland had contacted the Commission seeking clarification on the membership status of an independent Scotland should Scots vote Yes in the 2014 referendum. Our questions were prompted by several claims from leading Unionist figures that a Yes vote would mean Scotland having to re-apply for membership.
Our communications coincided with comments attributed to Commission Vice President Viviane Reding.
In an interview given to a Spanish newspaper, Diario de Sevilla, Ms Reding was asked about Catalonia and whether the Vienna Convention meant that only the parent state, in this case Spain, would remain a member.
Responding, Mr Reding said the matter was one to be resolved between the Spanish and Catalan governments and added that there was no law saying that Catalonia has to leave the EU if it becomes independent.
Asked if an independent Catalonia would be expelled from the EU, she said: “Oh come on man, international law doesn’t say anything like that.”
Commenting last week on Ms Reding’s remarks and the implications for Scotland, Mr Gray said: “In Catalonia any change would need to involve an amendment of the Spanish Constitution, while in Scotland, a referendum has been announced.”
Mr Gray also said: “As you are fully aware the terms and result of any future referendum in Scotland are unknown, as is the nature of the possible future relationships between the parties concerned and between those parties and European Union partners. Until such issues are clear, the Commission does not intend to take a position.”
The situation regarding continued EU membership of an independent Scotland is an area of considerable debate, with experts unable to agree on what exactly the situation will be.
Some experts believe that Scotland’s status will remain unchanged with membership continuing and treaty obligations and benefits being inherited as they are now. Others though insist that Scotland may have to re-apply, although there is a growing consensus that even this would see Scotland fast tracked back into the EU fold.
Unionist commentators have claimed that Scotland would be forced to join the Euro if new membership status was required. However opponents of this scenario point to countries such as Bulgaria who joined in 2007, and who have yet to adopt the single currency.
The Bulgarian Finance Minister recently insisted that they will not be joining the Euro due to the problems currently being experienced within the Eurozone.
The SNP has repeatedly insisted that an independent Scotland would remain within the EU. Commenting last week, SNP MSP Roderick Campbell – who sits on the European and External Relations Committee – said:
“Scotland is part of the territory of the European Union and the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU – there is no procedure for either of these circumstances to change upon independence, and the rest of the UK will be exactly the same position.
“We will both be successor states, with exactly the same status within the EU, and we will both continue to use the pound.”