Scottish independence: Salmond says yes-Scotland could have stronger EU voice

image captionAlex Salmond will be meeting the public in Hawick

Scotland would have more of a say in Europe if it were independent, First Minister Alex Salmond has said.

During a speech in Hawick, the SNP leader expressed fears that Scotland's voice in Europe could be silenced if the UK were to sleepwalk out of the EU.

That was a reference to Tory Party pledges to hold a referendum on membership of the European Union.

The people of Scotland will vote next September on whether their country should leave the United Kingdom.

They will be asked the straight yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Mr Salmond said in his address to members of the public: "Without independence, Scotland's influence in Europe could diminish further.

"After 2017, our voice might not just be sidelined; it could be silenced altogether if the UK were to sleepwalk out of the European Union

"If we don't become independent we won't have control over what happens.

"It's an all-too-real example of why it will be better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - those who live and work here."

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold an "in-out" referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 if the Conservatives were to win the next election.

But their Liberal Democrat coalition partners oppose holding such a vote.

In Mr Salmond's speech he claimed Scotland would have been entitled to up to £850m in additional agricultural funding had it been an independent member.

He explained: "An independent Scotland could have benefited from a rule that by 2019 no member state would receive less than 196 euros per hectare - approximately £175 - in farm payments.

"Scotland has traditionally had lower payments per hectare and this could have resulted in increased payments to our rural communities worth £850m over the next six years."

Mr Salmond went on to say that small countries such as Denmark, which has held the EC presidency, had shown that they could "wield great influence".

He added: "Last year, Denmark used its presidency of the council to lead major reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy.

"Scotland worked closely with Denmark. But we had no capacity to lead reforms in the same way that Denmark could.

"Those countries often wield great influence. After all, the EU is an organisation where negotiation trumps ultimatum; where the strength of your ideas can matter more than the size of your population.

"Not being at the top table has harmed our interests for four decades. Within the UK, we are occasionally consulted. With independence, we would contribute as equals."

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said that Mr Salmond was "tying himself in knots" by saying he would keep "all things British one minute by maintaining five unions and then talking about complete separation the next".

He added: "He cannot expect to come to Hawick, not far from the border with England, and ignore shared priorities over trade, free movement of people, transport links, jobs or broadband connections.

"People know everything will not stay the same under independence.

"There would be new currency arrangements, new trade arrangements, new military arrangements which from the record of proposals put forward from the Scottish government are nowhere near as good as what we have now as part of the UK family."

Mr Salmond and his cabinet colleagues have been taking part in a series of public meetings across Scotland.

Ministers visited nearby Melrose during their first summer tour in 2007 and since then the Scottish cabinet has also taken in Dundee, Stornoway, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dumfries, Inverness, Pitlochry, Isle of Bute, Dornoch, Stirling, Kilmarnock, Stranraer, Elgin, Kirkcaldy, Skye, Orkney and Renfrew.

This year's programme will also see events in Campbeltown and Fraserburgh.

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