Another wheel comes off the SNP’s independence bandwagon as EU Commission President says Scotland would find it difficult to join EU

It has not been a good week for Scottish independence campaigners and particularly the SNP. Their primary objective in their quest has been to achieve a break up of the UK without scaring any horses. We’d hardly notice, they said. Everything would go on pretty much as before. We’d still have the Queen and the pound and, of course, an independent Scotland would be admitted to the EU automatically on the same terms as the UK currently enjoys.

This week George Osborne, backed by Danny Alexander and Ed Balls, ruled out the SNP’s preferred option of a currency union. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction involved accusations of bullying and bluffing. Of course it would all be different if there was a yes vote. And thus they expect the electorate to play the biggest game of chicken in electoral history.

Today it went from bad to worse for them. You may remember the ongoing argument about an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU. It’s all been a bit of a fiasco. The SNP says that of course Scotland could just continue in the EU on exactly the same terms as the UK has at the moment. Salmond even implied that they had legal advice that told them so until the Information Commissioner dragged out an admission that they had no such thing.

Well, the President of the European Commission told Andrew Marr this morning that it would be difficult or maybe even impossible for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

In his interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Barroso said: “In case there is a new country, a new state, coming out of a current member state it will have to apply.”

John Swinney described Mr Barroso’s comments as “pretty preposterous”

He said it was important that “accession to the European Union will have to be approved by all other member states of the European Union.”

He went on: “Of course it will be extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state.”

Mr Barroso cited the example of the Spanish not recognising Kosovo.

He said: “We have seen Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance. So it is to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of our countries getting the agreement of the others.”

John Swinney can say it’s preposterous if he likes, but this is the guy who effectively has the keys to the EU so he should know what he’s talking about.

It certainly sounds like it’s time to get those horses on some anti anxiety medication.

Willie Rennie said it was time for Alex Salmond to put his White Paper into the shredder:

The European Commission President knows more than most how other countries will react to an independent Scotland’s application to join the EU. He can’t be aggressively dismissed with Alex Salmond’s characteristic bluster.

It’s not up to Alex Salmond if Scotland joins the EU.  If even just one country says no it does not matter how loud Alex Salmond shouts, Scotland will not be in.

At best Alex Salmond is gambling with Scotland’s membership of the EU. At worst a vote for independence is a vote to leave the EU.

Leaving the EU would be bad for trade and jobs.

Not only does the SNP need a plan B on the Pound but now they need a plan B for the EU. Perhaps they should shred the White Paper and start again.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said that the plan was a pig in a poke compared to his positive vision of a thriving Scotland in Britain and the EU.

While Alex Salmond struggles with his plan to remove Scotland from the EU and the UK Pound, I will be going around Scotland this week showing why we already have the best deal.

I will be going coast to coast meeting businesses and talking to them about what matters most for them.

Being part of a large UK single market, an influential EU member and keeping the UK Pound all help scottish companies.

I want us to keep what is best for Scotland. Alex Salmond wants to keep ignoring reality and ask us to give all of this up for his pig in a poke plan.

His EU and currency policies are marching to a tune that no one else can hear.

He is the proud parent and everyone else is out of step except oor Jonny.

Scottish business, the EU President and the three main UK political parties are all wrong according to him.

I will keep making the positive case for what we have in Scotland and the First Minister must start facing up to the hard facts that are starting to engulf him.

While there’s no doubt that this has been a disastrous week for the SNP, I am quite worried that we’ll hear nothing but currency and EU for the next couple of hundred days. We should be talking about the sort of Scotland we want to see. We need some brightness, positivity and aspiration about giving us all a better future whatever the outcome of the vote.

To be fair, we have had a lot of positive stuff  from Cameron last week, Alistair Carmichael a few weeks ago and with Willie Rennie’s push for more powers but there ware too many dark clouds and storm forces hiding the sun for my liking.

Frankly, I’d consider it less risk to my way of life to slide down an ice mountain face down on a tea tray, or attempting a quadruple somersault sliding down an ice filled pipe on a bit of plastic than voting yes in this referendum.
And just to round off the nationalists’ bad week, it appears that those nasty unionists have been trying to psych them out with all these television programmes about Britishness. Heaven forbid, Mary Berry even judged  red, white and blue cupcakes. What a terrible scandal. I know this looks like a parody, but it isn’t. Of course it was all about the referendum, and nothing to do with the Royal Wedding, Olympics and Diamond Jubilee. Glad we have that clear. It is slightly worrying that they appear to think that politicians can use broadcasters in this way.  But, just to be on the safe side, maybe we should just refer to the BC from now on. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • It’s an interesting theory, but it depends entirely on the supposition that independent Scotland would be an entirely new state that had never existed before 2014 (or whatever date), rather than an existing state which is one of the component nations of the UK and would be one of the UK successor states. Under this theory, however, would it not also follow that the “RUK” would be a new state that had never existed before whatever the date of this imaginary break-up is? Wouldn’t the RUK have to apply to membership in the EU as well? It seems to me that the UK was formed by the union of England and Scotland, not by the annexation of Scotland to a preexisting UK. Take Scotland away, and the UK as we know it no longer exists.

    Of course, this ought to be a great comfort to the anti-EU faction — it’s a backdoor manœuvre that would extract the UK from the EU, solely on the say-so of a majority of voting Scots!

  • Keith Browning 16th Feb '14 - 7:14pm

    That country we know as Great Britain/United Kingdom is only 70 years older than that fledgling country (with no history) the United States of America, so all this nostalgia about OUR ancient traditions is utter nonsense . Great Britain was a union of England and Scotland created in 1707, to plunder the world, which is what it did for 250 years. Why are the Lib Dem hierarchy supporting the continuance of such a country that has exploited so many peoples across the globe.

    Neither country particularly likes the other and so this is a perfect opportunity for both to go their separate ways, in an amicable fashion.The rump that is left after Scotland has bad a fond farewell, perhaps could be known as the ‘Disunited Kingdom’.

  • Alex Dingwall 16th Feb '14 - 7:18pm

    Caron and I are never going to agree on Independence, we’re far more likely to agree on the merits of Dr Who (I think that’s a prerequisite of Lib Dem membership)

    But I hope we both believe that our own members and Scottish voters should be given facts. So I really do think its a bit more than over-egging the pudding to portray the personal view of a civil servant as the official view of the European Commission, and really Willie and Alistair should know better ( and I am sure they do).

    On 12th September last year Mr Barosso took part in the “Global Conversation” of Euronews TV Channel where he engaged in a debate with european citizens where he gave a detailed reply to a question on internal enlargement. In his answer he makes clear the fact that internal enlargement is something more than a regular enlargement and that the European Commission would require a request from a member state to develop a conclusive legal analysis of the institutional impact at EU level of such an event..

    To date the European Commission has not been asked by any member state for a legal opinion on this matter. Of course it has been open to the UK Government to do so but it has refused.

    So no wheels have come off Independence buses, no earth shattering revelation has been handed down from on high. There remains no European Commission legal opinion for or against the Scottish Government’s position as set out in their White Paper.

    I’m grateful to the Centre Maurits Coppieters (CMC) for the link to the interview.

    It is probably worth stating what the exact position is of the Scottish Government on EU membership if there is a Yes vote. This position is based upon legal opinion by the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, Scotland’s chief law officer and backed by other experts including the former European Court of Justice judge Sir David Edward,

    “the Scottish Government will immediately enter into negotiations with Westminster and EU member states to ensure that an independent Scotland achieves a smooth and timely transition to independent membership of the EU. Scotland will negotiate the terms of membership of the EU during the period we are still part of the UK and, therefore, part of the EU.”

    “There is, within the EU Treaties, a legal framework by which Scotland, a country that has been an integral part of the EU for 40 years, may make the transition to independent EU membership in the period between the referendum and the date on which Scotland becomes an independent state. Article 48 provides a suitable legal route to facilitate the transition process, by allowing the EU Treaties to be amended through ordinary revision procedure before Scotland becomes independent, to enable it to become a member state at the point of independence.!

    “There is no Treaty provision that would require Scotland to leave the EU on independence. It would also be against the self-interest of the EU collectively, and of the Member States individually, to seek to deprive Scotland of EU membership given that Scotland is an integral and highly valued part of the single market. Throughout its history the guiding principle of the EU has been enlargement of its membership, not contraction.”

  • Robin Bennett 16th Feb '14 - 7:57pm

    Caron, I know it’s easy to criticise the editor, but to keep up the standard exemplified by Alex Dingwalls’s informative contributions, can we have no more bandwagon wheels and such like please? On other sites, the independence campaign gets plenty of disastrous / bad days / weeks, hammer/ double / fatal / crippling blows, spiralling black holes, major uncertainties, dilemmas . … (yawn).

  • I think the real problem is that in the SNP’s view negotiating seems to mean they get what they want. As with currency union for there to be union all parties need to agree. I wouldn’t want a newly independent Scotland to be outside of the EU but I think the Spanish will. It will have nothing to do with their view on Scotland or the UK but be a warning to their own separatists.

    I’m sure there will be negotiations, but only a fool would bank on the outcome, and only a politician would refuse to detail their plan B in case it betrayed the fact they may not get what they want. Salmond is not a fool and he really should be more honest about the “what ifs”.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Feb '14 - 9:59pm

    “this is the guy who effectively has the keys to the EU so he should know what he’s talking about.”

    Huh. So much for the usual claim of the Europhiles that the EU is democratic because it’s the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament that has the power, not those unelected Commissioners…
    Mind you, perhaps I shouldn’t take the word of someone who claims that “I’d consider it less risk to my way of life to slide down an ice mountain face down on a tea tray, or [attempt] a quadruple somersault sliding down an ice filled pipe on a bit of plastic than [to vote] yes in this referendum.”
    Thank god the Unionist campaign isn’t matching those nasty nationalists’ ridiculous hyperbole.

  • So the exact position of Scotlands legal position is not an exact position as espoused by the CJEU, but a legal opinion by the chief legal officer of Scotland? This wasn’t the same legal officer who advised that a minimum pricing policy for booze wasn’t contrary to EU law perhaps?

    Of course Scotland could, in time join the EU. It is just which parts of the acquis they can opt out with. Schengen, perhaps. The rest..nah. Better get the currency option dusted off positions a which ERM band the new currency will gloat before adopting the euro.

  • So basically, the message from the English to the Scots is that we’ve got you locked in. You can’t have the pound, you can’t join the EU, you’re stuffed. Never mind whether or not you want your freedom, we English rule the roost, and we won’t let you have it.

    A recipe for a Yes landslide.

    I say this as an English Unionist who is dismayed with the way English Unionist politicians are behaving. It’s the crass stupidity that gets to me most. Can’t they see how counter-productive their behaviour is?

  • Who says Scotland can’t join the EU? No English politican has. Barrosso has poured cold water on the manner of joining and the last time I checked he a) wasn’t English and b) wasn’t part of the British government. As regarding sterling, the Scots can use it; but not in the manner which the SNP assumed (without asking) that they could.

    If that is bullying, which is Rich coming from Salmond, Sturgeon et al then thicker skins need to be grown. The anti Englishness of the SNP is now apparent. It starts from Salmond downwards, so whatever happens the bitterness and recriminations are sadly, now with us.

  • Paul In Twickenham 16th Feb '14 - 11:18pm

    Years ago there was a cartoon in Private Eye with two farmers in the foreground while in the background a fox is talking to startled-looking sheep. One farmer is saying to the other “the fox is worrying the sheep again”. A speech balloon above the fox reveals that he is saying to the sheep “and your pensions will be worthless”.

    The more I listen to the messages from the yes campaign, the more I find myself thinking of that cartoon.

  • Paul In Twickenham 17th Feb '14 - 6:47am

    Oops, sorry. It’s the “no” campaign with its “the sky will fall on your head if you vote no” messages that makes me think of that cartoon. And I speak as someone who hopes and expects that Scotland will vote to remain in the UK.

  • Sir David Edward, former judge at the European Court of Justice has just told the Today programme that a Yes vote would not cause an entity called Scotland to come into existence with the ability to negotiate with the EU. It would have to be the UK – of which Scotland would still be a part – which negotiates the relationship of two countries with the EU.

  • Salmond’s “Project Unicorn” seems to have collided yet again with reality.

    @ David 1
    “it depends entirely on the supposition that independent Scotland would be an entirely new state that had never existed before 2014”
    In seceding, Scotland is creating an entirely new state as far as existing agreements and treaties are concerned. In seceding from the union, it is seceding from those agreements signed by the UK.

    @Keith Browning

    “The rump that is left after Scotland has bad a fond farewell, perhaps could be known as the ‘Disunited Kingdom’.”

    It is outrageous hyperbole and highly insulting to call the remaining eleven twelfths of the UK left after Scotland has decided to secede a “rump”. As for what it will call itself, in the event of a yes vote, I think the rest of the UK would decide of its own accord what name to adopt, without any regard to what the Scots think or feel. I expect it to carry on calling itself the United Kingdom. Whatever the choice is, it will be entirely up to us.

    This is yet another way in which Scots Nats presume to be able to dictate to the rest of the UK and slowly but surely they are finding out that it is simply not possible.

  • “I expect it to carry on calling itself the United Kingdom. Whatever the choice is, it will be entirely up to us.”

    I can’t imagine any of ‘us’ would have any say whatsoever. No doubt the politicians would decide.

  • Nick Tregoning 17th Feb '14 - 10:03am

    Interesting to hear Nicola Sturgeon duck James Naughtie’s question on Today about whether voters in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland should have a say on whether an independent Scotland should be allowed to continue to use a currency that will belong to another sovereign state. She seemed to imply that it would be for the UK to get in line with the SNP’s wishes without the people expressing a preference. Arrogance of the highest order.

  • Peter Watson 17th Feb '14 - 11:05am

    I’m pretty indifferent about Scottish independence, but I do believe that using this particular stick to hit those who want it (“you won’t be allowed into the EU”) smacks of hypocrisy. UKIP, the Tories, and at times the Lib Dems, want a referendum on UK membership that could see an English majority pulling Scotland out of the EU regardless of the wishes of the Scots. Surely the Scots have a better chance of being in the EU – if that is what they want – as an independent nation with a degree of self-determination.

  • Surely the point is that neither the opinion on currency union expressed by the senior treasury spokesmen of all 3 major UK parties nor the opinion on EU membership expressed by Mr Barroso are direct threats by people with the power to acceded to or deny Scotland their wishes. In both cases they are telling Alex Salmond that they consider it virtually impossible to deliver a decision positive to Scotland from those who do hold that power.

    MPs in Westminster will not vote to risk Scotland putting sterling at risk by allowing Scotland to exercise any sovereign power which could have a detrimental effect upon the currency and a vote by the entire EU membership to accept Scotland as a separate member will either not happen or be on terms which the Scots are highly unlikely to find acceptable.

    Surely in his statement this afternoon Salmond is not going to say Scotland has the untrammelled right to decide these things? More likely he will allege that Scotland is so important to everyone concerned that they will in the end bow to its wishes. What an appalling risk to ask his people to take!

  • Liberal Neil 17th Feb '14 - 1:13pm

    Neither this story or the currency union are about anyone telling the Scots that they can’t have things. They are reactions to Salmond claiming that the Scots can decide to have things without reference to anyone else.

    He is putting forward propositions that simply don’t stack up, and then claiming to be bullied when others don’t play along.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 17th Feb '14 - 1:36pm

    Barroso’s comment is in the knowledge that Spain would never vote for Scotland’s inclusion because it would give succour to separatists in Catalonia especially.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Feb '14 - 5:17pm

    I am just appalled by the arrogant and rather insulting way that the NO campaign is now behaving,which I assume is a panic reaction to the fact that the polls have narrowed a bit. I have to say that if I were an uncommitted voter in Scotland, what is going on would encourage me to vote YES.

    To be fair to Barrosso what he said was nothing like as bad as the antics of Cameron and Osborne. How Scottish Liberals can associate themselves with what those two are saying is beyond me. (I suppose it’s just a habit you get by being in Coalition with them at Westminster).

    Scottish independence per se may or may not be an appalling idea. But the questions are this. If it happens, would it be better for both Scotland and Residual UK for Scotland to use the pound? In spite of problems, the answer is obviously yes. And would it be better for Scotland and the rest of the EU for Scotland to remain in the EU? The answer is again obviously yes.

    Politics is mostly about pragmatic decisions on what will be best – particularly in the EU. Politicians should tell the truth not make silly statements in the hope they will frighten voters in Scotland into voting NO. If that is the reason they vote NO, the matter will be back on the agenda quite quickly and the underlying bitterness and anger will be all that higher.

    It’s a real pity that Scottish Liberals, with their Home Rule tradition of over a hundredyears, appear to have no distinctive voice in this debate and are just lumped in as “Unionists” – who for a hundred years have been their constant enemies.


  • Peter Davies 17th Feb '14 - 6:58pm

    I think the three main parties need to state categorically that they would not block an application from an independent Scotland. What is needed however is a clear statement from the Spanish government. So far they have contradicted themselves.

  • Many years ago, as a young man, I travelled all over Scotland, back then I was welcomed everywhere as “an equal”, that it to say not as an English person, but as someone from another part of one and the same Nation. I have visited Edinburgh twice in recent times, I will not be going again. The atmosphere has changed; there is anti-English feeling around, anti-English graffiti to be seen and the attitude of ‘some’ Scots leaves an English person in no doubt that we are no longer part of the same Nation – as per 50 years ago. For me this is illustrated vividly by the attitude of so called “Left wing” Scottish politicians. Whereas British Labour people were concerned with unemployment, poverty and hardship among the workers (and unemployed) anywhere and everywhere in these islands – and beyond our shores, now the Scottish “Left” is concerned with such issues only in the geographic area from just north of Carlisle up to Thurso. And that’s it. I truly believe that now it is time that Scotland separated from England. Sad but that’s how I see it.

  • Steve Comer 21st Feb '14 - 1:29am

    I’m getting a bit tired of the way Caron is constantly using this site to beat the Unionist drum. Thanks to Tony Greaves and some of the other contributors to this thread for at least trying to get some balance back into the debate,

    Why is the unionist ‘better together’ camp showing such signs of panic? It has been consistently ahead in the polls, and we know that there is a natural tendency for voters to back the status quo in any referendum. Remember the AV referendum? Remember the Australian referendum on the Monarchy? The referendum votes in Wales on devolution (narrowly carried) and on extending the assembly’s powers (more clearly carried).
    Liberal Democrats should be setting out what we see as an alternative to independence, if we have one. We used to believe in a thing called Home Rule (now renamed Devo max), Can someone tell me which Party Conference rejected that policy in favour of a ‘me too’ Unionist position?

  • I still get astonished by english politicians and commentators asserting that ‘if I were Scottish I would vote yes’. Thanks a lot for defending the union guys. The majority of people in Scotland are against independence and there are very serious worries about finances, pensions, education and healthcare, and yet you cannot be bothered to offer a defence, just a not so subtle hint that you really don’t care about us and want to use the issue of Scottish independence to lay out your own self loathing.

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