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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SNP hit back at Lib Dems over home rule

The SNP have once again slammed Lib Dem plans for extra powers for Holyrood as an alternative to independence.

In the wake of Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie’s conference address in Dunfermline, which highlighted the party’s home rule policy, on Saturday a SNP spokesperson said:  “The Lib Dems have been proposing Home Rule for one hundred years – how many more talking shops do they need?

“Far from being a way to achieve more powers for the Scottish Parliament, people are becoming increasingly aware that a No vote will roll back the achievements of devolution through continued Westminster austerity.

“Only a Yes vote can protect policies such as free personal care and free tuition, by giving Scotland the economic powers that can maximize the benefit of our vast natural and human resources and allow us to flourish.”

In his address Mr Rennie stressed that he saw home rule as a viable option saying: “Scotland has an alternative.

“If we want to keep our influential place in international bodies, but with strong domestic powers, people don’t have to look very far from this room.

“Home rule for Scotland in a federal United Kingdom keeps us as a powerful force for good in the world.”

Under the proposals a swathe of extra constitutional and financial powers would be devolved to Scotland from Westminster. Mr Rennie hailed the plan and said that it: “puts the Lib Dems, once again, ahead of the debate.”

The chairman of the committee responsible for the home rule proposals, Sir Menzies Campbell MP, claimed that they were a natural progression from the current devolution set-up. He said: “Since 1999 when devolution was in its infancy the Scottish Parliament has matured and grown in strength and authority.  The time has come for it to move to a fully-fledged partner as a Home Rule Parliament within a federal United Kingdom.

“With home rule and federalism the Scottish Parliament would have permanent powers, not powers on loan.  This would give us the mature constitutional authority required to work in partnership with the rest of the UK’s parliaments and assembles.”

The Lib Dems policy will not be able to be considered until after the 2014 independence referendum as there will be no second question regarding extra powers for the Scottish parliament.

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Rennie backs Lib Dem vision of federalism

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie

Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie has spoken in support of the ‘Federalism: the best future for Scotland’, report from the Scottish Liberal Democrat’s Home Rule and Community Rule Commission.

The report claims that a form of enhanced devolution, with Scotland given full tax varying powers, within a federal United Kingdom is the best way forward for Scotland. At the launch of the report, which would see the historic Act of Union between Scotland and England being scrapped and replaced by a declaration of federal union, commission chairman Sir Menzies Campbell MP claimed that the current devolved set-up was “unsustainable”.

Mr Rennie stated that his party’s vision will serve Scotland better than the SNP’s independence policy. He said: “Our ambition is to improve the social, environmental and economic well-being of Scotland.

“That ambition can be best achieved when we have a parliament with the powers and responsibilities that enable it to be sensitive and flexible to local needs while able to share risks and rewards with the rest of the UK.

“Home Rule within a federal UK embeds that local power and the means to share with our partners.”

Mr Rennie goes on to acknowledge that the current constitutional setup is no longer relevant for Scotland. He said: “Since 1999 when devolution was in its infancy the Scottish Parliament has matured and grown in strength and authority. The time has come for it to move to a fully-fledged partner as a Home Rule Parliament within a federal United Kingdom.”

Despite the Lib Dems strong opposition to any question regarding enhanced devolution being included in the independence referendum, Mr Rennie claims that his party will be working towards increased federal powers for Holyrood stating: “We will use these plans to lead the debate, to build a consensus and secure a mandate for reform at the next general election. We urge people who like our plans to come on side and make the case for this change.”

Original article here

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