By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore’s claim that negotiations between Edinburgh and London on the referendum had nothing to do with seeking legal advice have been called into question by an official statement from the European Commission.
The Lib Dem MP, who was part of the UK government negotiation team, claimed that it was “pretty implausible” that the agreement cleared the path for seeking advice.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the contents of which were broadcast by Radio Scotland, Mr Moore said: “The referendum agreement provides the framework to allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum that is legal, fair and decisive.”
He added: “It has no bearing on whether an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union. To suggest that an agreed referendum process finally cleared the path to asking for EU legal advice is pretty implausible.”
However, in an official reply to Newsnet Scotland, a spokesman for EC President José Manuel Barroso confirmed that the then on-going negotiations on the details of the referendum were indeed the reason the Commission was not commenting on the Scottish situation.
Responding to questions posed by Newsnet Scotland over two weeks ago, EU spokesman Mark Stephen Gray, a press spokesman for Mr 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.”
The statement backs the explanation given by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said in a statement to the Holyrood chamber that the recently signed Edinburgh Agreement “provides the exact context of the process of obtaining independence” and meant they could only now seek specific legal advice.
MEANWHILE, Newsnet understands that BBC Scotland has received complaints from viewers following Tuesday night’s episode of Newsnight Scotland.
The programme featured an interview between host Gordon Brewer and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the subject of Labour’s claims that Alex Salmond was a “bare faced liar” over comments the First Minister made relating to EU membership advice.
A recording of the programme reveals that whilst answering questions posed by Mr Brewer, Ms Sturgeon’s microphone was frequently turned down, thus rendering much of her response inaudible.
The sound editing masked frequent interruptions on the part of the BBC Scotland front man who adopted a contemptuous tone throughout, and ridiculed any suggestion that Mr Salmond’s explanation was believable.
The role played by the BBC in this latest ‘row’ is coming under increasing scrutiny with suggestions that the interruptions during an interview last March, between BBC presenter Andrew Neil and First Minister Alex Salmond, had rendered it difficult to interpret and allowed SNP opponents to impose their own interpretation.
In the interview, Mr Salmond is prevented from continuing his first answer before Mr Neil presses him on a related matter. The Labour party selectively quoted from the interview in a press release in which they called Mr Salmond a “bare faced liar”.
The seven month old interview re-surfaced on Tuesday shortly after Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish government was only now seeking legal advice on the specific matter of a newly independent Scotland’s status within the EU.