Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out an independent Scotland’s place in the European Union.
In a speech to an invited audience of European Policy Centre members Ms Sturgeon reaffirmed that – regardless of the direction of UK policy – Scotland is strongly committed to continuing within the European Union as an independent nation.
She also again called on the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government to prepare a precise scenario for the European Commission on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“In an independent Scotland we intend to remain part of the European family. And it is why Scottish membership of the European Union will be good for us, good for individual nations, and good for Europe as a whole.
“There has been much discussion of law and process in this debate. But ultimately, the most powerful case for Scotland’s continued membership is not based on law or process – but on common sense, reality and mutual self-interest.
“Scotland gains a lot from EU membership through areas such as trade and research opportunities and we also offer much through our vast energy reserves, including oil and renewables, and our fishing stocks.
“Scotland faces many of the same challenges as the rest of Europe – promoting economic growth, tackling global warming, improving energy security and promoting a healthier and fairer society. We are already working with partners across Europe to tackle these challenges.
“Despite all these mutual advantages that derive from Scotland being an integral part of Europe, our current situation offers no certainty that those advantages would remain – not because of Scotland’s referendum in 2014 but as result of the UK’s proposed referendum on EU membership in 2017.
“The perspective of the Scottish Government on our future inside the EU is very different from that of the current UK Government. Public opinion in Scotland is also quite different from opinion in England.
“I have deep concerns about the direction of policy of the UK Government. Instead of leading the EU, the UK is in danger of sleepwalking towards the exit. Such an outcome, for Scotland, would be contrary to public opinion and against the public interest.
“My hope and expectation is that before the UK government holds its planned referendum in 2017, Scotland will have become an independent nation.
“We have corresponded with the European Commission about Scotland’s continuing EU membership in the event of a yes vote next year. However, the Commission has made clear that it will only give a detailed opinion if presented with a “precise scenario” by an EU member state.
“We consider that it is possible to prepare and publish a ‘precise scenario’ that will provide the European Commission with the information it needs to consider Scotland’s intention to remain in the EU after independence, and we continue to call on the UK government – as existing member state – to join with us in making such a submission.
“Scotland is a nation which has made a big contribution to the world in the past, and we have a huge amount to offer the world in the future. We are already demonstrating that in our interactions with European partners – in our work on energy, on life sciences, on reform of the common fisheries policy and many other areas.
“But I believe that we can – and will – make our biggest contribution as an independent nation, taking our own place on the world stage, and acting as equal partners with our friends across the UK, and with fellow nations in Europe and around the world.”