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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  • Comment number 230.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Alex Salmond's bully boy tactics lifted straight from an episode of "the Thick of it" may impress his fan base but his history of upsetting his supporters, like Trump, will come back to haunt him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Absolute claptrap from Michael Moore today (as usual). Obviously he has never heard of Bulgaria - joined the EU in 2007, non signatories to Schengen and rejected joining the Euro earlier this year - and have no problems at all with the EU or other member states.

    And this man is Westminster's top Scottish representative. Frightening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.



    What as in Lucky land ? hahahaha ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    I don't like London's politics and I don't like EU's politics. They are bullies and don't care about democracy. We have one of the largest GDP per capita in the EU if you include offshore assets yet we don't look or feel wealthy. I am sick of these people using us and bleeding us dry. Let us manage our own resources instead of London wasting it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.


    It will of course continue to be called the United Kingdom. Otherwise we would have to change all the stationary.

    Austerity and all that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    222 Paul

    Roughly a little more than 6% the population but in terms of resources, 90% oil, 75% the size of England with 9% of the population, the most timber, produces more food per head than England and indeed, Scotland feeds England and so forth. England would be on its knees post independence. Therefore, isn't it time England were a little more grateful?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Scotland can stay in the EU (we will leave by referendum) they can then pay the EU Budget as they have taken on the U.K's mantle. English happy and (apparently/allegedly) most Scots.


  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    How small a secession would allow the UK to continue to be the UK with all of its treaty commitments etc. Scotland, Wales the Isle of Wight ?

    Scots are roughly 6% of the UK by population. I don't see how their secession could be seen as the break up of the UK. Whatever their view Scots need to be open and critical of whats on offer from independence not get swept up by some Braveheart mystique.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    #215 in fact the obvious post-UK country name would be....

    Little Britain :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    5 Minutes ago
    "One thing ( if anybody could answer) when Scotland becomes independant, what is the rump of the UK going to call itself ?"


  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    I love how the English pop up all the time with a little tap off the nose and a word-to-a-friend,like 'aye,you want to watch out for that EU,they'll suck you dry' or 'aye,watch out for that Salmond,he's only in it for himself'

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.


    United Queendom Great Bitterland & Northern Riotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    The SNP are always quoting Ireland and Norway as countries who show us the way in terms of being small, independent and successful. We have now seen that Ireland's apparent prosperity was a house of cards built on shifting sands however would independence not be the time to strike out on our own by copying Norway and staying out of the EU completely. Why are they and Switzerland not in this club?

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Don't ignore the wider EU politics; countries with sucessionist movements will be very awkward buggers about this. So Spain is likely to block Scoland joining in case it encourages the Catalan nationalists, the Belgians, Swedes, Finns might be snippy too. Whether or not Scotland is a "good" EU candidate is irrelevant. We in the UK tend to forget the rest of the EU is also riven by politics!

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.



    Or perhaps Debtland ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    There's your answer Scotland. Scotland would be out of the EU and would have to apply. Quickest has been Sweden, 4 years. Usually it takes about 10. Goodbye common market.

    In addition the Spanish will try to turn Scotland into a desert to deter Catalonia from doing the same.

    A tiny, new country that is desperate the join the EU has no cards at all worth playing.

    That's politics for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Congratulations to Gavin Hewitt (Europe editor) to open a HYS debate on the BBC Scotland pages.

    Douglas Fraser and Brian Taylor constantly pontificate on their blogs on BBC Scotland pages on Scottish issues yet never open for HYS debate for Scots?

    Not a Scot, but see BBC failing all devolved areas of Britain on HYS debates. Maybe less misunderstanding if majority are allowed to share concerns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    One thing ( if anybody could answer) when Scotland becomes independant, what is the rump of the UK going to call itself ?



  • rate this

    Comment number 211.


    And what of those who have extra marrital affairs over many years and marry their new partners immediately after divorce proceedings take place?

    It is, of course, possible and highly likely that negotiations would take place after the vote and before Scotland became an independent state.


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