“In the event of independence, Scotland’s EU membership should be restored immediately”. This was a suggestion sent in from Jakob on the Conference on the Future of Europe platform. A similar idea was sent in by Jock. Given that Debating Europe wants to support the work of the Conference, we thought it might be fun to take Jakob and Jock’s idea and put it to a couple of experts for them to respond.

Scotland voted for Europe. When the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom in the 2014 referendum on independence, they did so under the impression that remaining in the UK would mean remaining in the EU. Ultimately, though, Scotland was dragged out of the EU by Brexit, even though a majority of Scots (62%) voted Remain. This discrepancy is the justification for the recently-elected coalition of Scottish National Party (SNP) and Greens to seek another referendum on Scottish independence.

So far, Boris Johnson’s government in London hasn’t taken a clear position on whether it would agree to an independence referendum. If, however, Scotland were to embark on the road towards independence, should the EU welcome it with open arms? What precedent would that set for other independence movements around Europe? Could Scottish accession to the EU damage our relationship with the UK?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Andrea arguing that Scotland should hold another independence referendum as soon as possible and take the UK’s place in the EU.

We put this comment to Kirsty Hughes, founder and director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations. Does she think an independent Scotland should join the EU?

I think there are several parts to this question. First of all, will there be another independence referendum? The Scottish National Party and the Greens, which are both pro-independence, got a clear majority in the recent elections. Therefore, I do think there is a mandate for a referendum, but it’s not one that Boris Johnson is necessarily recognizing. Yet, there may be a referendum within the next five years. At the moment, the opinion is 50/50, so we cannot be sure which side would win.

What has become clear is that the pro-independence vote is very much a pro-EU vote. There used to be a significant number of people who supported independence but had voted for leaving the EU back in 2016. And now, they seem to be a very small group. There is also a larger number of voters who wouldn’t support independence who voted leave. Before, they may have supported remain or leave, but the people who support independence today are pretty much pro-EU.

We put the same question to Erik Bergkvist, a Swedish Member of the European Parliament, who sits with the S&D group. Would he like Scotland to join the EU?

I regret that the UK left and I would like the UK to return to the EU. But if Scotland decides to leave the UK, and it’s done by the book, then I would welcome Scotland to the European Union if they would like to apply for membership.

Our next comment comes from Maskedman. He expects a complicated (and possibly even violent) split of Northern Ireland and Scotland from the UK.

For a reaction to this gloomy prediction, we spoke to Andreas Rahmatian, Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow. How should the EU respond in the event of a breakup of the United Kingdom?

The EU will most likely stay quiet on the internal issues of a state as it did during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. This also applies to EU member states (Spain with regard to Catalonia). The UK has no written constitution and no regulations about a possible secession of Scotland from the rest of the UK. The treaty of the Acts of Union of 1707 which unified the Kingdoms of England and of Scotland and formed Great Britain is understood to allow both parties to leave, but there is no procedure how that would have to be done.

At the moment, England is less keen on maintaining the Union with Scotland as one would think: this is not an absurd idea if you look at the current governing branch of the Tory party to which Boris Johnson belongs. This group of Tories which is in power now does not care much about Scotland at all. Politically, if Scotland wants to leave, the current London Government is probably the best one they could possibly have for such a plan. Because for them England is really their political focus and Scotland is just seen as a financial burden. Ironically, the Tory party is meant to be the Conservative and Unionist Party but they are actually not unionist at all at the moment. This was still different under Theresa May because she was a more traditional Tory in this regard. But for Boris Johnson, Scotland is a side issue.

Importantly, Scotland must prepare a Scottish constitution if and when it becomes independent. This new constitution would also have to stipulate clearly the possibility for dual (Scottish-English) citizenship of English residents in Scotland. By doing so, it would prevent a lot of tensions and possibly unrest within Scotland if independence were to happen.

For another perspective, we asked MEP Erik Bergkvist the same question.

I think the EU is behaving correctly, by not interfering in internal processes of the United Kingdom. But an area where the EU shouldn’t stay silent is the internal market. If you want to be part of the internal market, it has to be borderless and Ireland is part of the internal market. I would say, the UK has created a problem with Northern Ireland. This was anticipated, we told the UK that by leaving the internal market, they are not making things easier for Northern Ireland. It is a fragile situation, which I hope will be solved peacefully, but we can see how explosive things still are.

Should an independent Scotland join the EU? How should the EU respond in the event of a breakup of the United Kingdom? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Creative Commons (BY-SA 2.0) – John Allan


83 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Kovács

    Yet there is no such thing as an independent Scotland. The very act of raising this question in this forum is interference in British domestic affairs.

    • avatar
      Sanya

      Kovács János Although “I’m not happy that British left EU” (if I may say) I totaly agree with You

    • avatar
      Constantinescu

      Kovács János and you propose to held a few milion people toghether with you, by force!? Idi Amin, it’s that you?…

    • avatar
      Kovács

      Constantinescu Florin By force? :-) There was a referendum. Perhaps there will be another one in the future, but it is for them to decide, not You or me. There are rules. Why, do you think it would be democratic to repeat the referendum until a decision favorable to them is made? When the possibility becomes reality, the raised question will be interesting. But it is quite controversial, how the European federalist agenda is trying to interfere in internal matters of certain countries.

    • avatar
      Debating

      Kovács János Interfering in British affairs? Oh don’t make us blush

    • avatar
      Alvaro

      Kovács János. Hungarian opinion…

    • avatar
      Constantinescu

      Alvaro Branco said a spanish guy…

    • avatar
      Debating

      Constantinescu Florin (and both Spain and Hungary are EU Member States… the UK is not, of course, but we are discussing suggestions from the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe platform here)

    • avatar
      Alvaro

      Constantinescu Florin. You have to review your geography lessons.

  2. avatar
    Michał

    Why not Catalonia and Northern Italy too?

    • avatar
      Debating

      Michał Szostało ✍️ absord ✍️ all ✍️ autonomous ✍️ regions. Galaxy brain idea to solve independence struggles

    • avatar
      Michał

      Debating Europe I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’ve written. You support separatist movements in the UK but not in Spain?

    • avatar
      Debating

      We support debate on Europe and European issues, even on difficult questions (and we welcome different perspectives). And, as you say, there’s obviously a tension between those in the EU who would welcome an independent Scotland as a member state and those keen on discouraging European separatist movements. How would you resolve that tension?

    • avatar
      Michał

      Debating Europe That’s a good question, but I am a Christian anarchist so… any answer I give would probably be unhelpful. :D Bravo for ackniwledging that there is a tension there, though.Honestly, I’m at the point where the EU can do whatever it likes… After the spectacle of a Dutch guy who supports euthanasia lecturing Orban on “European values”, it’s all black comedy now…

    • avatar
      Oliver

      Michał Szostało Scotland has been dragged out of the EU despite wanting to remain a member. It held a referendum within the framework of UK constitutional law in which staying in the EU was the key factor for deciding to stay in the UK. That factor is now moot. Conversely, Catalonia is WITHIN the EU. As such, under EU law, it has substantial protections even vis-a-vis the government of Spain and can enforce adherence to certain standards via supranational courts. Leaving Spain would also mean leaving the EU, and the efforts undertaken have not been within the framework of Spanish constitutional law.

    • avatar
      Michał

      Oliver Hauss This is going to turn into a Monty Python dead parrot sketch, but yes, I’m aware that Catalonia is in the EU. So you support separatist movements, as long as they are not in the EU, or serve the purpose of EU expansion? This is all ridiculous any way you slice it. I don’t much care what Scotland does, I just hope that terrible lady running it doesn’t become a high ranking EU leader.

    • avatar
      Yannick

      Michał Szostało why not indeed

  3. avatar
    Filipe

    This matter concerns Scotland and the UK, as much as I would like them to remain in EU. In Portuguese we have a saying that says something like “Only who is inside the convent knows what goes on inside.” (Quem está no convento é que sabe o que lá vai dentro.) Anyway, if Scotland becomes independent, that would establish a dangerous precedent to other countries with separatist movements, despite it’s a decision for the UK to make.

  4. avatar
    Aris

    Yes and with fast track procedures.

  5. avatar
    Alexandra

    I don’t think Europe would accept a Scotland with such an abysmal deficit, and if it did, it would mean harsh austerity for Scots for ages. Bye bye good welfare state. Stop lying to people.

  6. avatar
    Franco

    Always respect the will of the people wherever they are in EU or in the UK.

  7. avatar
    Chris

    As a Scot I’m not opposed to home rule and in fact see it as a catalyst for change across the whole UK (most appealingly a fairer, less London-centric and more devolved parliament for England) but IMHO it would be a mistake to leave the UK, only to jump straight back into the EU. Not only would it be swapping one master for another, the EU itself hasn’t exactly been keen to offer clarity on what the accession process would be, or indeed even if it would be fast-tracked, despite having been a member for over 40 years. If a YES vote does happen, the best option for me would be to forge close ties with the British Commonwealth a la Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with an EEA/EFTA style deal with Europe, akin to Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

  8. avatar
    Yannick

    YES! It’s really time for Europe to dilute its blind allegiance to the founding nation-states and to recognise its role as a safety net for the Europe of regions. And yes, Scotland should be first.

  9. avatar
    Robert

    And yet, Scotland isnt independent !!! Does that mean then any small seperate state could then join ??

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should an independent Scotland join the EU?

    Scotland is not independent and never will never be.

    • avatar
      thehandbehindthecurtain

      Hear Hear.

    • avatar
      maskedman

      @Catherine Benning, so what are you or England going to do about it? Do you want a war? Do you want to fight the European Union?

  11. avatar
    José

    It is up to the people of Scotland, but I would say “yes”.

  12. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Many thanks to the Friends of Europe/DE for inviting us to share some surreal humour!

    In the event of a.m. suggestion finding its way into the Loch, making it past the Nessie monster, surviving hypothermia plus the Scots with their frugal mentality- which obliges them to carefully scrutinize not to repeat the foolishness of the Scottish nobility in the 1700s to emulate the European Colonizers- but use their thriftiness instead & ask for a quotation how much the EU would charge for an eventual exit later on.

    Rather think twice to avoid an expensive Hopscotch to oblivion- driven initially by untamed EU euphoria.

  13. avatar
    Olivier

    Well the target of EU is to gather regions of Europe and destroy nations.. It s a federal approach of Europe. Not sure that citizens of Europe want it.. Organise a référendum then

  14. avatar
    maskedman

    Based on my life experience I think that the Russian president is right. Western countries only care for other countries if they can benefit something from them. The EU will not help Scotland unless they profit from them! It is all about money. Face it. There is no moral or ethics in this, but just money. Norway and Iceland do not want to join the EU, because they do not want to contribute to the European budget. It is all about money, money and money!

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Maskedman

      Scotland is a drain on the British economy and therefore the English tax payer as a whole. The European tax payer will have to pick up their huge welfare budget should they agree to absorb this unproductive group of individuals, because, for sure, Westminster will not continue with the nuclear sub base there should they make such an unwise decision as to be part of the EU. Plus, are the Scots aware that Europeans do not get anything like the universal health care of the NHS. That once they leave our care and attention toward them, they will need health insurance to top up what they presently get for free at the point of use? No more dental care, optical care, or, indeed, the kind of housing, schooling, disability allowances, unemployment benefits they presently love to receive in the billions. Not to mention the rush of African, Middle Easton and, in fact, entire world immigrants, will make a beeline to their shores to further pressure them out of the stretched resources they ‘may’ receive from the EU. (Ask Greece all about it) And, they will have to build a wall across the border to stop the gush of ‘Klingons’ trying to make it to London, that land of the Global shyte hole. The one the entire rest of the Western world is longing to procure. I don’t think. Look at France trying desperately to dump their charitable receivers onto the British tax payer as they don’t want to pay their money to feed them, any more than any other EU state does. The fools who signed up to the UN catastrophe need to be forced to contribute their full salary and homes to enforce this burden they placed on the rest of us.

      They need to do a full research chapter just to make sure they will not be rushing across the border themselves to escape the horror they feel compelled to vote for. Why the wee Krankie who leads them to their destruction wants in the EU is the personal money she and the idle husband feel is waiting for them to zoom in on.

      https://fullfact.org/economy/tax-and-spending-scotland/

  15. avatar
    maskedman

    I posted a comment here. Why is it not displayed?

  16. avatar
    jthk

    I do not agree the return of UK for it has opted to leave when EU was in great trouble with the refugee influx. EU needs to consider its implication when accepting new members. Totally agree that an independent Scotland’s membership should be restored for it was dragged out of EU involuntarily.

  17. avatar
    Крис

    The UK showed the European bureaucrats that the British politics will be made in London as it should be and now the EU asks should a region in the sovereign country become an independent state and join them? The unity of the UK will never be destroyed by some bureaucrats with absent political skills and compromised reputation.

  18. avatar
    José

    It is up to the people of Scotland.

  19. avatar
    Miguel

    Is just sad to see the EU trying to undermine the unity of a country by fuelling a local proto-nacionalism that has been long gone in history. I do not believe Scots don’t feel themselves as being British and part of the UK and the Common Wealth. And I certainly don’t see them joinning an EU who wants to impose a gender nonsense agenda on their members through economic bullying

  20. avatar
    Николай

    Yes. We need the nuclear arsenal of England

  21. avatar
    Olivier

    This is what EU wants. To destroy nation states to build Europe with régions..

  22. avatar
    Любомир

    It should be decided by their citizens.

  23. avatar
    Nacho

    That’s not EU’s business at all. The relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK should affect anyone but Scotland and the UK.

  24. avatar
    Manuel

    After reading the comments, I came the conclusion that some individuals didn’t understand the question: “if an independent Scotland could joint the EU?”. The answer is yes!

    • avatar
      EU Reform Proactive

      Hi Manuel, “could” it be that you don’t know the difference between “could” and “should”?

  25. avatar
    Artur

    No. Very little time has passed since the 1st referendum. The result of the referendum should be respected for one generation.

  26. avatar
    Kristijan Krkač

    Yes, by all means, and sooner rather than later (criteria are open for negotiation). This will change the map of the UK (most probably Nothern Ireland, and Wales), but perhaps also the map of other EU member states (e.g. Spain and France will be in quite strange situations).

  27. avatar
    Peré

    Up to the Scottish people ofcourse. If they gain independence.

  28. avatar
    Julia

    I don’t recommend it. But if they don’t want to be free anymore, that’s their problem.

  29. avatar
    Arijan

    They probably should, but they won’t.

  30. avatar
    Valter

    Is Scotland a country? If it is country, how can it not want to be independent? Otherwise, is it a colony of a stil existing but archaic imperial structure? So, an independent Scotland, should join the EU. And it would be a great!

  31. avatar
    Venko

    England will not allowed Scotland independent, because all ways through hundreds years of history, find the right persons in politic and pay to them enough money. So Scotland independence its not gone be a happen in our days. Apart from that – Yes, place to Scotland is in EU, like UK as well. I think in UK slowly start to feel and realize negative results from Brexit.

  32. avatar
    Giuseppe

    It’s up to the people of the United Kingdom to decide their future we can clearly and unequivocallly wish them the best

  33. avatar
    darren ross

    I doubt full EU membership is the short term realistic goal of the Scottish government if independence is achieved. The re-entry into the common market and customs union would come first.

    There are huge obstacles to overcome with regards to currency and the land border with England.

  34. avatar
    jthk

    Of course, Scotland is a very peaceful place. There is no reason Scotland should allow the crazy and risky English government and politics to harm its peaceful coexistence and economic prosperity with the EU family, where the well being of Scotland lies.

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