European Union Membership

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th May 2014.

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Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it has received advice from the European Commission that, if Scotland separates from the United Kingdom, it would need to apply to the EU as a new member state. (S4O-03191)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

We have received no advice from the Commission to that effect. Indeed, the Commission has made it clear that it will not issue an opinion until it is presented with a “precise scenario” from the UK Government. I would welcome that, but the UK Government has repeatedly refused to make a joint approach to the Commission with the precise legal scenario on Scottish independence.

The Scottish Government proposes that an independent Scotland negotiate from within the EU, via an amendment under article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, on the terms to be agreed with other member states, as outlined on page 221 of “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”.

The Scottish Government recognises that it will be for the EU member states, meeting under the auspices of the Council of Ministers, to take forward the most appropriate procedure under which an independent Scotland will become a signatory to the EU treaties at the point at which it becomes independent, taking into account Scotland’s status as an EU jurisdiction of 40 years’ standing.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

The cabinet secretary may wish to read the letter written by Viviane Reding, the vice president of the Commission, to the European and External Relations Committee. It states:

“Under Article 49 of the Treaty … any European state which respects the principles … of the … European Union may apply to become a member of the EU.”

However, it also says:

“a new independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the Treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory.”

Does the cabinet secretary agree with Viviane Reding?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I discussed Viviane Reding’s letter with the European and External Relations Committee. Her opinion does not concern the particular circumstances of Scotland, as she was talking about the conventional route for enlargement under article 49. As I have just set out, the Scottish Government’s proposal is via article 48. Moreover, Mr Henry might be interested in correspondence that I placed in the Scottish Parliament information centre in April, after a recent request for information to the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. On 1 April 2014, we received responses from Dr Marianne Klingbeil, who is the deputy secretary general of the Commission, and Jakob Thomsen, who is from the general secretariat of the Council, both stating that neither institution holds an analysis on Scotland’s membership of the EU under articles 48 or 49. I refer the member to those letters, which were placed in SPICe on 22 April.