Scotland politics

European election: Scottish candidates clash

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Media captionCandidates standing in the European Parliament election made their pitch to voters

Candidates vying for a seat in the European elections have clashed over Scotland's future in the EU.

The SNP and Greens told a BBC debate an independent Scotland would be able to become a member.

But Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives said questions over accession remained.

The discussion came ahead of the 22 May European election, and the Scottish independence referendum, on 18 September.

There are six MEP seats up for grabs in Scotland. The last election saw the SNP and Labour win two each, with the Lib Dems and Tories each taking one.

Conservative candidate Ian Duncan said of the independence referendum: "If there is a 'Yes' vote, and I simply do not accept the premise of that statement, the role for us will be very different.

"I believe within a very short space of time, we will be outside the European Union - that's the reality of what a 'Yes' vote means."

Mr Duncan said the position had been made clear by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and those who would have a veto on membership, like Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Image caption Ian Hudghton is standing for the SNP
Image caption Catherine Stihler is standing for Labour
Image caption Ian Duncan is standing for the Conservatives
Image caption George Lyon is standing for the Liberal Democrats
Image caption Maggie Chapman is standing for the Greens
Image caption David Coburn is standing for UKIP

But Green candidate Maggie Chapman, whose party backs Scottish independence, argued: "To argue that Spain will overnight recall its Spanish fishermen from Scottish waters is ludicrous.

"To argue that countries across Europe will recall the students that study in Scottish institutions overnight is ludicrous.

"We may have heard some of these threats, but it's not written in treaty - it's up to us to make it work."

Catherine Stihler, who is standing for Labour, said accession talks involving the heads of the 28 member countries and the European Commission would only start when a post-"Yes" Scotland became fully independent on 26 March, under Scottish government plans.

She added: "There's a process - we should be very clear about that.

"What happens within that 18 months, I have absolutely no idea, but I would think that Scotland would be out of the EU after we come out of the UK."

Dismissing Ms Stihler's assessment of the process, SNP candidate Ian Hudghton said an independent Scotland would become an EU member "from within".

"This is not a new country, this is Scotland with 40 years of time-served membership," he said.

"We are qualified in every single one of the membership application respects. We qualify under every single one of the membership criteria and, therefore, the judgement of whether or not we meet the criteria could be done in an afternoon."

Euro opt-outs

Liberal Democrat candidate George Lyon said of Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy: "I trust the two most senior politicians in Europe when it comes to this one.

"The real political question is, what is it the SNP are willing to give up to get us back into the European Union?

"None of the other countries have an opt-out on Schengen (the common European travel area), none have an opt-out on using the Euro and keeping the pound and certainly none of them have a UK rebate."

UKIP's David Coburn told the TV debate: "Anybody who wants to get out of the European Union, whether they be pro-independence or anti-independence, they should vote for UKIP."

On Scotland's future, he said: "I think coming out of the EU is a great thing for Great Britain, but I think it's an appalling thing for Scotland on its own. We must leave together."