Scottish independence: John Swinney rejects EU reapplication reports

EU flag The Scottish government believes an independent Scotland would remain in the EU

The Scottish government has insisted an independent Scotland would remain in the EU, despite reports suggesting the country would have to reapply.

Finance Secretary John Swinney told the BBC membership was not in question, but negotiations on detail would be needed.

He spoke after a report in The Scotsman newspaper said the European Commission had confirmed in a letter that a go-alone Scotland would have to reapply.

A referendum on Scottish independence is scheduled for the autumn of 2014.

The European Commission has yet to confirm the details of the letter, which is due to be sent to the House of Lords economic affairs sub committee.

Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "When Scotland votes in the referendum in 2014, and assuming there is a yes vote as a result of that referendum, Scotland will still be at that stage a part of the UK, and what we have always accepted is there has to be a negotiation about the details and the terms of Scotland's membership of the EU.

"But crucially that would be taking place at a time when we are still part of the UK, and still part of the EU of which we have been members for 40 years."

Analysis: BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt reports.

He added that there was an important distinction between Scotland "applying" and "negotiating".

Mr Swinney said it was clear that after becoming independent the country would be negotiating "from within".

The minister believed that any talks on agreeing new terms of membership would be completed by 2016.

But Scottish Secretary Michael Moore believed an independent Scotland would lack clout over EU membership negotiations.

He said: "John Swinney said today that Scotland would have to negotiate the details and terms of Scotland's EU membership. What we really need to know is how they will sort out the Schengen agreement?

A simple question?

  • The BBC's James Cook asks whether an independent Scotland would remain a member of the European Union.... and discovers finding the answer is tricky. Read in full

"How will they negotiate an opt-out from the Euro? No new member state has joined since 2005 without a clear commitment to join. The Scottish Government cannot wish these problems away."

Lords on the economic sub committee are currently looking at the issue of independence and what impact it would have on Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Start Quote

The commission has been very clear that we do not comment on specific situations, but can only give a view in general”

End Quote Spokesman for President Jose Manuel Barroso

They wrote to the European Commission asking for guidance on what would happen to an independent Scotland's future membership of the EU.

The BBC understands a reply exists and will be sent within the next week.

A spokesman for President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "President Barroso has been invited to contribute to the House of Lords inquiry on the implications of the economic implications for the United Kingdom of Scottish independence. The president has not yet replied.

"The commission position is well known and set out in the series of responses given to European parliamentary questions. The commission has been very clear that we do not comment on specific situations, but can only give a view in general."

The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt said: "The EU's position is that a nation becoming an independent state would have to re-apply for EU membership.

Start Quote

They [SNP government] acknowledge, Scotland would have to negotiate terms. But they insist such a negotiation would be amicable. Which is where, for now, the issue rests”

End Quote

"There would be a negotiation which would only start when it was clear what the relationship was between Scotland and London."

The Scotsman writes that it has seen the letter and it says: "If a territory of a member state ceases to be part of that member state because it has become an independent state then the treaties would cease to apply to that territory."

It adds that the correspondence goes on to say that on independence, Scotland would become "a third country" - a technical term for a European state outside the EU which would need to apply to join the 27-member organisation.

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes told the newspaper: "I understand [the President of the European Commission] Jose Manuel Barroso will be replying to the economic affairs sub committee on the economic impact of separation and we have had evidence here in Brussels confirming Scotland would have to seek accession to the European Union."

A spokesman for Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government was going to write to the European Commission expressing its concerns about the events surrounding the letter which has not yet been sent.

He added: "Serious questions now need to be asked as to where these claims came from and what role members of the House of Lords Committee and the UK political parties played in this fabricated story.

"This incident shows that these Westminster committees and their inquiries are simply anti-independence propaganda tools, and are not seriously considering the opportunities of independence.

"The Scottish government will be writing to the European Commission making clear our serious concerns about this incident."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Perhaps I have not been clear

    I want the author known. I want him or her to be important and the decision final and authoritative so I can campaign for a Yes vote on that basis.

    I don't want existing CAP and Fishery agreements novated over to Scotland. If we go in it should be on a vote in a few years time.

    OK :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    #184 What you forget is that you are talking common sense. When do politicans ever bear that in mind????? Have a feeling that Spanish egos will block it

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    All this hue and cry from Nationalist Separatists is tiresome but somewhat fascinating. Their messianic following of the faith that is SNP is clearly demonstrated in Cybernattery.

    Their philosophy is a 'hate' of anything remotely British, Anglophobic and fellow Scots who do not proscribe to their view. It is not a rationalist view or a philanthropic view of Scotland. Hence why they are only 30%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    But why independent Scotland would want to be part of EUSSR? Are EU-Bureaucrats any better than London lunatics? it makes no sense to exchange hepatitis for tuberculosis....

    It would be better for Scotland to be independent from both UK and EU. They deserve true independence. Just like islamist Kosovo which London so hypocritically supports by participating in butchering of Christian Serbia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Of course Scotland wishes to be in the EU.

    Scotland is clinging to the nipple of the English nanny state now. When English funds are gone, it shall seek comfort elsewhere...

    When did this nation of Bravehearts sink into dependence and sloth? Modern Scotland is a sham and a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Let's be clear about this.

    A newly independent Scotland would hold ALL the cards in any signing negotiations between Edinburgh and Brussels.

    It is simply inconceivable that the EU would wish to block entry for a wealthy AAA rated, resource rich country like Scotland whilst actively encouraging other small countries such as the former Eastern European countries to join.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    The idea that the EU would refuse entry to the country with the largest reserves of oil, gas and natural resources is preposterious. Weather Scotland has to reaply or not should makes little difference re Independence, its such a non issue. Unionists hid the truth back in the 70s (McCrone report) and they are attempting to do so again with more lies and scaremonguering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Drive a wedge between the people of Scotland; divide and rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    #172 Yes it would be a headache. But some countries will happily go through it as a warning to their own seperatists
    #176 Spain would do it as a warning to the Catalonians, make an example of of Scotland

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    So Alex Salmond spends his politial life arguing for Scottish independance but then wants to hand it all over to Brussels instead?
    I do love democracy but if we are going to be asked to vote on an issue can we have a full set of facts please - unlike 1975!

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.


    I am cool with down arrows for my view that out of the EU is a bonus for Scotland but down arrows for wanting to know who wrote the letter?

    The EU has its people out today and no mistake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Mel Gibson is bringing out a new film in 2015 called

    Sad- this level of debate is what turns off me as a Scots voter. I want to hear the pros and cons and you dredge up some ancient history and make it about a yes=brave no=chicken scenario. Youve convinced me to vote no. Scotland was an essential part of the success of Empire not a colony as u love to paint it

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    If Independence means no Scottish players for the British and Irish Lions and a requirement to re-apply for the 6 nations, then I'll give my support. As for the 6N's we could invite Spain. Think about it, a could damp Murrayfield or a sun kissed Madrid - you may think that this is a dumb post, but I would suggest that many votes will be cast on the promises of fortune and alledged freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.


    Yugoslavia isn't a case in point. Each country gained its independence, then applied to the EU, although Serbia and Montenegro were in a union after Yugoslavia dissolved. They applied, then Montenegro voted for independence, and started its own negotiations afterwards. However, both of these countries were outside the EU, to begin with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.


    Perhaps but the again, why would Spain bar themselves from our lucrative fishing grounds since fishing is part of Spains economic recovery? That's right, they won't and they won't make us wait to apply either.

  • Comment number 175.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Sovereign statehood is a prerequisite for EU membership.

    Constitutional niceties governing a member-state's composition are internal matters. If a component part secedes that creates a new state. It has no bearing on the continued existence of the sovereign member-state's Treaty of the EU.

    The SNP is as usual playing the smart-Ale(x). Can't have your cake and eat it!

  • Comment number 173.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Just think of the EU's headache of removing the resedency rights of every Scot in Europe and every European (including English) in Scotland and making them illegal immigrants overnight. Thats just one of the issues there are many more. Sorry unionists, the EU will be tied in knots by any attempt to remove Scotland from EU. it will never happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    #167 - Not just Spain. Italy, France & Belgium have issues with seperatists. Could end up with a tougher line being taken against Scotland than normal applicants


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