Scotland already qualifies for EU membership says Law Society


  By a Newsnet reporter
A newly independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union would encounter no legal barriers a new report has concluded.
According to a paper published by the Law Society of Scotland, the country already complies with EU treaties and acquis and therefore qualifies “in legal terms for EU membership in its own right.”

The report also says that “Scotland would have the capacity to be recognised as an independent state”.

The paper, which asks the UK Government whether it would support Scotland’s position in Europe as an independent member state, also raises other significant questions for those opposed to independence – asking whether they plan to transfer any further powers to Scotland.

The report also questions those in the No camp asking how they will approach negotiations with Scotland following a vote for independence.

Welcoming the report Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it makes clear that Scotland already conforms to membership conditions set out for many international institutions.

The Deputy First Minister, whose party argues that key decisions about Scotland should be taken by the people who live here rather than by politicians at Westminster, said independence would ensure Scotland’s EU membership:

“This means, for example, that any future Scottish Government will have the power to shape economic and tax policies to meet Scotland’s needs, scrap the unjust bedroom tax and protect Scottish interests in the EU.” she said.

“This paper makes clear that whichever interpretation is taken of the EU treaties, Scotland already conforms to the EU’s requirements and qualifies for EU membership as well as membership of other international institutions in its own right.

“That is the common sense position that we have set out and which is supported by a number of eminent experts in EU affairs.  It would be counter to the entire ethos of the EU to seek to remove a country from the EU which wishes to remain within it and which already complies with EU laws.

“This is in stark contrast with the real and current threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU that exists as a result of the UK Government’s plans for an in/out EU referendum.

“As the Law Society will be aware we have already published a series of detailed papers and statements on key questions which show both how and why an independent Scotland would keep the pound; set out our proposals for a written constitution; and demonstrate the economic and financial strength of Scotland.

“We have also made clear that our White Paper will be entirely consistent with our legal advice on the issue of European membership.”

The report follows news that David Cameron’s plans for wholesale reform of the UK’s membership of the EU were thrown into doubt following a refusal from French President Francois Hollande to back the Prime Minister.

In private meetings with his UK counterpart, the French President made it clear that France would not agree to try to force concessions from the EU in order to help the Conservative leader pursue his own “domestic agenda”.

Without the support of France, any hopes of significant EU reform look unlikely.  Mr Cameron is under increasing pressure from many within his own party to pull out of the EU and has pledged an in/out referendum should his party win the next UK General Election.

Commenting on the growing anti-European sentiment south of the border, Ms Sturgeon added:

“In contrast those opposed to independence cannot guarantee Scotland’s future in the European Union and have not set out what, if any, additional powers might come to a Scotland that remains within the United Kingdom.

“The success of Scotland’s independent legal system and profession, which have operated effectively for centuries and made a significant contribution to Scotland’s identity, demonstrate the distinct benefits that other sectors and professions would gain with independence.

“Over the next year we will continue to set out further the gains for people and families that independence offers.”

Membership of the EU has become a central part of the referendum debate.  The Westminster Government has claimed that a newly independent Scotland would find itself outside the EU having to negotiate its way back in.

However the Scottish Government has insisted that the period following a Yes vote would allow those negotiations to take place with Scotland remaining inside the EU.  The eighteen month timetable laid out by the Scottish government has been accepted as “realistic” by the UK Government’s own legal adviser, James Crawford.

The Scottish Government wrote to the UK Government in January 2013 inviting them to make a joint submission to the European Commission on the issue of EU membership.  The UK Government refused.