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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Scotland in Europe
Scottish independence: Country would leave EU

SCOTLAND would automatically leave the European Union if it split from the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

Mr Hague said Scotland benefited enormously from the union but warned that voting in favour of independence would mean splitting from the world organisations the UK had signed up to.

He said: “Scotland, of course, derives enormous benefit from being part of the United Kingdom. And the United Kingdom benefits enormously from Scotland being part of the United Kingdom.

“It is very important to understand that if Scotland left the United Kingdom, it would also be leaving the organisations the United Kingdom is a member of, including the European Union.”

His comments followed a question from Graeme Morrice (Livingston), who said: “What assessment have you made on an independent Scotland’s place in Europe and the world compared to the advantage Scotland derives currently from being part of a strong United Kingdom?”

Comment by Dr. James Wilkie

Foreign Secretary William Hague is perfectly correct. There can be no question of Scotland's "remaining" a member of any of the international organisations of which the UK is presently a member, including the EU. There is no such thing as a Scottish state at the moment, and only states are eligible for membership of the hundreds of international global and regional institutions.

If a new state of Scotland is created as a result of the forthcoming referendum, then it will become eligible to apply for membership of these institutions - but as a first-time applicant for new membership, not a continuing one.

In some cases the applications will go through almost automatically, and in others, especially where stringent entrance qualifications are demanded, the admittance process can go on for years.

Informal discussions on membership can be carried on at any time, even now, but official negotiations cannot begin until Scotland's statehood has been firmly attested by the international community through the United Nations. The UN is the arbiter on statehood, not a regional institution, let alone a sub-regional one like the EU.

In the a case of the European regional institutions, the first essential step is for Scotland to be accepted for membership of the Council of Europe (CoE), which has very stringent conditions on the maintenance of pluralist democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. No state has ever been admitted to the EEC or the EU until it has first of all obtained membership of the CoE, and met the CoE's conditions as regards its standard of government.

Belarus, for example, is presently banned from CoE membership because its political system does not meet the CoE's iron rules on democracy. The UK was threatened with expulsion until it modernised its political system with Scottish and Welsh devolution.

Since joining the EU would involve approval by a referendum, entry negotiations could not begin without the sanction of the highest constitutional authority, the people.

The SNP and the Scottish Government would appear to have been seriously - and probably maliciously - misinformed on this issue. I suspect the pernicious influence of vested interests like the so-called European Movement, but in any event it is high time that they started taking advice from people who know what they are doing in this field.

It is by no means axiomatic that Scotland must join the EU or any other particular organisation, and there have to be very solid reasons for any step of such magnitude.

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