European Union (Membership)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 6 June 2013.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

4. To ask the Scottish Government what recent advice it has received regarding membership of the EU should Scotland separate from the United Kingdom. (S4O-02218)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Unlike the United Kingdom Government and indeed some of those on the Opposition benches here, the Scottish Government has a very clear position on the European Union. Following a yes vote, we will notify our intention to become an independent member state of the EU, and we would secure that through negotiations in the period between the referendum and the first day of independence.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

Can the Deputy First Minister confirm what Fiona Hyslop told “Newsnight” on 15 May, which was that the Government had indeed received legal advice on EU membership should Scotland separate from the UK? Can the Deputy First Minister also confirm that that advice states that EU membership will not automatically transfer in the case of Scotland separating from the United Kingdom?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Yes, I confirm what Fiona Hyslop said—of course I do.

I point out to the member that there is a long-established convention, of both the UK and Scottish Governments, that law officers’ advice is not published, and there are good and sound reasons for that convention. I also point out to him that the UK Government has not published law officers’ advice; it has published academic legal opinion, one of the authors of which has described the timescale set out by the Scottish Government as—I quote—“realistic”. There is a great deal of published opinion that supports the Scottish Government’s position, from Sir David Edward, Graham Avery, former Taoiseach John Bruton and Lord Malloch Brown to name just a few.

However, at the heart of the issue is a political consideration. A no vote would risk Scotland being taken out of the European Union against its will. A yes vote will enable us to stay in the European Union as our interests demand, but crucially it will also enable us to speak with our own voice in the European Union, and that would be overwhelmingly in the interests of Scotland.