Independent Scotland will gain automatic entry to Europe, says top EC expert

Graham Avery

An independent Scotland will continue to be a member of the European Union (EU) and will not have to re-apply according to Graham Avery, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission and Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

Mr Avery, one of the UK’s most experienced academic authorities on European affairs, has provided written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee at Westminster. In it he states: “Scotland’s five million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years, have acquired rights as European citizens.

“For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission.”

The report goes on to cite other EU states as parallels saying: “The point can be illustrated by considering another example: if a break-up of Belgium were agreed between Wallonia and Flanders, it is inconceivable that other EU members would require 11 million people to leave the EU and then reapply for membership.”

Avery’s submission claims that precedents have been set regarding changing entry criteria in special circumstances saying: “As in the case of German reunification, the EU would adopt a simplified procedure under which the Commission would be asked to conduct exploratory talks with Edinburgh, London and other capitals, and submit proposals. Although an intergovernmental conference would be needed, it would not be of the kind that handles accession negotiations with non-member countries.”

The findings were welcomed by Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland who said: “This is an extremely significant and important contribution from an eminent and vastly-experienced European policy adviser.

‘People in Scotland should be reassured that an independent Scotland will remain a member of the European Union.”

Political Wrangle

The report follows calls from Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie for first minister Alex Salmond to clarify an independent Scotland’s EU membership. He said “The SNP have been guessing that Scotland would continue in the European Union on the same terms. But Scotland deserves facts, not more guesswork.

“If the SNP is wrong the consequences could be severe – including being forced to join the Euro, accept Schengen and lose the rebate.”

Rennie went on to highlight the possibility that Spain may seek to block Scotland’s membership. He added: “If the Spanish veto an independent Scotland’s smooth transition to the EU in 2015 it will be too late for Scotland to turn back. We simply can’t wait until 2015 for a Spanish veto; we need to know before the referendum.”

The Liberal Democrat leader’s statement had been preceded by a stormy First Minister’s Questions where Rennie backed Labour leader Johann Lamont’s proposal for an independent judicial review into whether Salmond had lied over taking legal advice on an independent Scotland joining the European Union.

However, former Labour first minister Henry Mcleish poured scorn on such a review claiming that the Labour leader had her priorities wrong. He said: “I think our energy, our focus could be used in better ways because at the end of the day this is unlikely to happen. There are far more important areas where Labour could win many converts and score political goals.”

Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme Mcleish also claimed that while Salmond had mishandled the affair he did not think that the first minister had lied. He said: “I don’t think he’s misled. But he hasn’t handled the situation well.”

Original here

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Nicola Sturgeon leaves health in reshuffle

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has left her post as health secretary in a cabinet reshuffle announced today by Alex Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon, Scotland’s longest serving health secretary, will now become cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities. Her role as cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing will be assumed by Alex Neil.

She will combine her new post with responsibility for government strategy and the constitution, previously a full cabinet position held by Bruce Crawford. This role will see her driving the SNP government’s independence campaign. Ms Sturgeon commented on her move on Twitter. She said: “It has been a privilege to have been Health Sec – my thanks to all the wonderful people I have worked with. We are so very lucky in our NHS.

I am now really looking forward to [my] new job – working for economic recovery & making the case for Scotland’s future as an independent nation.”

The reshuffle was caused by the retirement of Mr Crawford along with two ministers, Brian Adams who was minister for parliamentary business and the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson.

Mr Adams will be replaced by Joe Fitzpatrick, MSP for Dundee City West while Paul Wheelhouse, MSP for South Scotland, will take over from Mr Stevenson.

Original article here – http://www.scottishtimes.com/nicola_sturgeon_leaves_health_reshuffle

Scottish independence: Unionist opponents attack Salmond’s referendum focus

Opposition politicians have accused First Minister Alex Salmond of giving the Scottish independence campaign priority over Scotland’s well-being.

The comments follow Mr Salmond’s decision to move his deputy Nicola Sturgeon from her post as health secretary to spearhead the government’s referendum campaign.

Critics have hit out at the move dubbing Ms Sturgeon the “minister for independence”. The Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, said: “This reshuffle shows that the SNP government only has eyes for independence. They are more interested in running the referendum than running the country. We have repeatedly warned that the SNP would use the power of Government to split Scotland from the rest of the UK.

Increasing numbers of civil servants are devoted to breaking up Britain draining desperately needed resources to the achieving the SNP’s ambition. With the appointment of the Deputy First Minister to the post of Minister for Independence our fears have been confirmed.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson echoed these sentiments claiming that the government should be concentrating on issues such as increasing NHS waiting lists. She went on to say:

“That the health of the nation now plays second fiddle to the break-up of Britain says it all about this SNP administration.

“The First Minister has moved his most trusted lieutenant from one of Scotland’s most critical briefs to pursue his narrow nationalist agenda.

“The sooner the distraction of the referendum is behind us the better, and Alex Salmond can do what he was elected to do which is to serve the best interests of all Scots, and not simply champion those of the separatist minority.”

Veteran Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm also criticised Ms Sturgeon’s new role saying: “Alex Neil knows a thing or two about infrastructure little about health, Nicola Sturgeon vice versa. Appalling [that] only [the] referendum matters now.”

However, the Scottish Green Party were more conciliatory in their response with co-convener Patrick Harvie urging ministers to make the most of their new posts. Mr Harvie said: “We welcome the focus on building the case for independence and promoting economic recovery, and urge the Scottish Government to be bold. Nicola Sturgeon needs to build a positive, compelling vision of a more equal and forward-thinking Scotland rather than trying not to scare the horses.

 

Original article here – http://www.scottishtimes.com/unionist_opponents_attack_salmond_referendum_focus

Scottish independence: Salmond faces questions over EU membership

First Minister Alex Salmond clashed with Labour leader Johann Lamont and her Lib Dem counterpart Willie Rennie over the issue of whether an independent Scotland will automatically be a member of EU should Scots vote for independence in 2014.

Ms Lamont went on the attack citing comments from the president of the European commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, which had been reported as suggesting that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership.

The Labour leader at Holyrood asked whether Mr Barroso was wrong to say this. Mr Salmond responded by accusing the Labour leader of misquoting EU officials.

Mr Salmond went on to defend his government’s stance on EU membership stating that a post-independence Scotland would still be part of the EU and would not have to apply for membership in the same way as a country outside the EU such as Turkey would.

He said: “Scotland is not an accession state; we’ve been members of the European Union for 40 years.
“We are not in the position of a country which is not part of the European Union, and that means of course there have to be negotiations, but the crucial point is that these negotiations take place from within the context of the European Union.”

When his opportunity to question the first minister arrived, LibDem leader Willie Rennie asked if Mr Salmond had considered the consequences if his view on the subject was wrong. He said: “Could we be forced to join the Eurozone and the Schengen agreement? Could we lose the European rebate? These are serious questions which voters deserve legitimate and expert answers to. It is unacceptable to ask people to vote for independence on the basis of an assessment cobbled together by the SNP.”

Mr Salmond countered by claiming that, contrary to claims made by Unionist politicians, no one in Europe wants to force Scotland out of the EU.

The argument flared up as it emerged that Scotland could find itself outside the EU if it remains part of the United Kingdom. A survey called Transatlantic Trends, conducted by the Washington-based GMF think-tank has shown that the majority of UK citizens believe that membership of the EU is not good for the domestic economy.

The figures show that only 40 percent of Britons now believe the EU is good for the British economy. With Prime Minister David Cameron seemingly committed to holding a referendum on EU membership when the opportunity arises there appears to be doubt over Scotland’s on-going EU membership regardless of the independence referendum result.

 

Original article here – http://www.scottishtimes.com/salmond_faces_questions_over_eu_membership

Sketch – The leaders

04/04/2011

 

The first televised leaders’ debate took place last week to a blaze of apathy. Judging from the number of people claiming to have watched the broadcast it is not going to be threatening Eastenders for viewing figures – in fact it wouldn’t have threatened Eldorado in that respect. Nevertheless it was a fascinating first opportunity to see the four main protagonists away from Holyrood in some verbal jousting.

And what did it tell us? Nothing particularly new or surprising is the somewhat disappointing answer. As we know Iain Gray has been developing a tough new image in recent weeks and his hard man act was to the fore early on here. Constantly interrupting and hectoring Alex Salmond may have seemed like a good idea but not only does it make Gray appear rude and childish it has very little chance of putting as accomplished a media performer as Slick Eck off his stride.

As for Slick Eck himself he gave a typically forceful performance. He seemed under pressure only occasionally, noticeably over the release of al-Megrahi when the majority of the audience and the rest of the panel appeared at odds with him.  However, he was helped by being given a relatively easy ride from his adversaries. As mentioned Gray started aggressively but floundered throughout and often found himself under attack from the others. Many of his arguments appeared unconvincing and moments that stick in the memory include his claim that the Labour party didn’t vote for the Scottish budget and it’s 25,000 apprenticeships because “it was not enough” which seemed weak. Annabel Goldie was the second best performer on the night. Sure she occasionally overdid the scolding school mistress act but she used the freedom of not being a serious contender for First Minister to put across her arguments. Tavish Scott was also there. His main achievement on the night was to make Gray, who must have welcomed Scott’s presence, seem a little less innocuous. As with Gray his choice of arguments against the SNP seemed flawed. While inward business investment is desirable and vital most would see his attack on the government backing Amazon and their 900 new jobs in Fife as a little odd.

So at the end of part one Salmond and Goldie put in solid performances while Gray and Scott must do better. In particular the opposition parties must pick their fight more wisely in future. There are areas where the SNP can be got at such as class sizes and al-Megrahi – the others must formulate a plan to best utilise these matters. So all aboard for round two of Slick Eck, Headmistress Goldie and the two invisible men.

Sketch – The strange case of the Gray hard man

By Andy Mackie

14/03/2011

Celebrity dancer Anne Widdecombe once said that there was ‘something of the night’ about Michael Howard. That being the case then many would say there is something of wet afternoon in Saltcoats about Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray.  With a Scottish election coming up that could be a serious problem for the Labour party’s hopes of forming the next administration.

As recently as last month a poll in the Scotsman found that fewer than 20% of the public could identify Gray’s picture. Set against the high profile of the SNP’s slick Eck – first minister Alex Salmond – Grays facelessness must be a major worry to party strategists. History tells us that, other than John Major, boring leaders do not win elections.

Gray is obviously trying to improve his image in the run up to May 5th. Unfortunately his performance in last weeks’ first minister’s questions suggests that his new image is of a faux hard man. Quizzing Eck over the NHS, always a fruitful subject for an opposition party, he started well enough pinning Eck down over waiting lists and operation cancellations. Things went awry when he offered to ‘take the first minister on any time’ over SNP and Labour’s respective records. Nothing wrong with a bit of confrontational politics it was just that Gray didn’t sound particularly convincing or threatening when he said it. Eck laughed, Nicola Sturgeon laughed and when Eck delivered his put down comparing Gray to Mr Angry even Conservative headteacher Annabel Goldie seemed to allow herself a small chuckle.

The Labour party of course still hold a sizeable lead in most polls, however, as we head into the nitty gritty of the election campaign Gray may yet find the road from Saltcoats to Bute House a rocky one.