By Martin Kelly
A newspaper has been accused of publishing a misleading story on an independent Scotland’s EU status.
The SNP has branded the story in the Observer newspaper today, quoting comments from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy from June 2011, as “completely out of date”, and says the only way to secure Scotland’s future in the European Union is with a Yes vote in 2014.
The Observer, which is the Sunday sister of the Guardian newspaper, features an article claiming that the President of the European Council has “intervened” in the debate over the EU membership of an independent Scotland.
The article, headlined ‘EU tells Alex Salmond to think again in Scottish independence row’ states that: “The president of the European council has intervened in the Scottish independence debate, claiming that nothing will be gained from breaking up the UK.”
The article added: “Van Rompuy, who will still be president of the council in 2014, when the independence referendum is due to take place, was asked his views on Scottish independence during a recent Q&A session broadcast on YouTube. ‘Nobody has anything to gain from separatism in the world of today which, whether one likes it or not, is globalised,’ he said. ‘We have so many important challenges to take and we will only succeed if we can pool forces, join action, take common directions. The global financial crisis is hitting us hard. Climate change is threatening the planet. How can separatism help? The word of the future is union.’”
However, despite the article claiming the interview was recent and that Mr Van Rompuy was intervening in the EU debate, it has emerged that the comments used from Mr Van Rompuy are in a Question and Answer session from June 30, 2011 – nearly 18 months before the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement.
Commenting, SNP MEP Alyn Smith said:
“This story is completely out of date and it is utterly misleading to brand them a ‘dramatic intervention’ when they were made nearly 18 months ago, before the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement, in a YouTube Q&A session. This story makes the newspaper look ridiculous.
“With the Edinburgh Agreement we have, for the first time, an agreed and consented process between the UK and Scottish governments, which will have legal status, for Scotland to become an independent country.
“It is the Tories who are threatening Scotland’s place in Europe. We want to remain part of the EU but increasingly clearly London doesn’t – why should Scotland leave such an important issue to Tories obsessed with isolating the UK from the rest of Europe?
“An independent Scotland will continue in European Union membership, as honorary director general of the European Commission Graham Avery said this week and I look forward to the day Scotland can play a full part in meeting the many challenges facing our interconnected world.”
EU officials have repeatedly said that no statement would be issued by the Commission until agreement is reached between London and Edinburgh on the process and outcome of the independence referendum. The Edinburgh Agreement has now removed that obstacle and EU officials have invited the member state to seek clarification, however the Westminster government has insisted it has no intentions of doing do.
The attempt by the Observer to pass off out of date comments as though recent, follows an article published by the Herald newspaper last week in which its political editor, Magnus Gardham, claimed that comments from EC Vice President Viviane Reding suggested that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership.
However, Newsnet Scotland revealed that Ms Reding’s statement was specifically in response to a question from Madrid on a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia, and not to the Scottish referendum which the Edinburgh Agreement has ensured will see a legally binding ballot accepted by both Holyrood and Westminster.