This House believes the best way to protect Scottish interests in the EU is to vote for independence.

On Thursday 18 September 2014 people in Scotland will vote on the question 'Should Scotland be an independent country'.[1] What Scotland's relationship with Europe will be in one, five or ten years after the referendum is unclear.

            A Scot voting no (to remain in the UK) could not be sure that Scotland will be in the EU in a decade because of the possibility of a UK referendum on leaving the EU. In January 2011 the coalition government passed a bill that implemented a 'referendum lock' which would require a UK referendum on the EU if there were any major treaty changes.[2] This lock is currently the only legislation for a referendum. However, in January 2013 David Cameron promised an in/out EU referendum by the end of 2017 if he won the next general election.[3] Despite this commitment Tory Eurosceptics regretted the lack of an EU referendum in the Queen's speech and so put forward their own referendum bill which is going through the Commons to guarantee a vote, at the time of writing it looks likely to pass (and then get savaged in the House of Lords which however cant stop the Commons passing it).[4] Therefore a referendum on staying in or leaving the EU looks likely within the next five years or so.

            A Scot voting yes (to create an independent Scotland) would be equally unsure of the implications of their choice. Scotland's relationship with the EU in the event of independence is a hotly contested issue which the subject of the debate, the EU itself, has done little to clarify. Nothing in the EU treaties deals with what would happen should a region within the EU become independent.[5] Whether Scotland is regarded as a continuing state or a new state affects whether it would remain in the EU or would have to apply for membership. The commission has implied it would have to apply for membership and this raises the possibility that Scotland would at least temporarily leave the EU following independence.

            Certainly there would be much more clarity to a vote on Scottish independence if Scottish voters knew whether they were voting to remain part of a UK within the EU or one that would not be, rather than voting not knowing if they would be ejected from the EU against their will a few years down the line. This argument has been made by those in favour of an early EU referendum but is now certain not to happen.[6]

[1]    Q&A on the referendum: Referendum campaign official sites:

[2] Gardner, Carl, ‘The EU bill explained’,, 11 January 2011,

[3] BBC News, ‘David Cameron promises in/out referendum on EU’, 23 January 2013,

[4]    Stevenson, Alex, ‘EU referendum bill analysis: Ignoring the ‘gimmick’ might backfire’,, 4 November 2013,

BBC News, ‘EU referendum: Tory MP will take forward bill’, 16 May 2013,

[5]    Arabella Thorp and Gavin Thompson, 'Scotland, independence and the EU', House of Commons,‎ p.4.

[6]    Trench, Alan, W’ill an EU referendum kill the Scottish independence referendum?’, The Spectator, 9 May 2013,   


An independent Scotland would avoid having a referendum on EU membership

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has said that they would not hold an EU referendum in an independent Scotland. Scotland is [quote=Nicola Sturgeon] regardless of the direction of UK policy - Scotland is strongly committed to continuing within the EU as an independent nation[1] [/quote] A vote for independence would therefore be a vote for a stable relationship with Europe.

Interestingly should Scotland become independent and accede to the EU there would have to be a treaty change to provide for Scottish representation in EU institutions.[2] This could well trigger an EU referendum in the remainder of the UK (rUK) under the 'referendum lock'.

[1]    Sturgeon, Nicola, ‘Scotland’s Relationship with Europe’, The Scottish Government, 26 February 2013,  §9

[2]    Avery, Graham, ‘HC 643 The foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland, Foreign Affairs Select Committee, 24 September 2012, point 6.


The SNP's strongest argument, repeatedly made, is that independence would allow Scots to make their own decisions. It would therefore be only right that Scots whether independent or not should be allowed their own referendum on EU membership. The principle of a referendum on EU membership is supported by 58% of Scots with only 36% opposing a referendum.[1] A vote for independence would therefore seem to be a vote in favour of the validity of referendums legitimising the need to have referendums on similarly large issues in the future. A vote for an independent Scotland is not necessarily a vote for a stable relationship with Europe.

[1] McLean, Christopher, ‘Scots want EU referendum but would vote to stay in’, Ipsos MORI, 14 February 2013,    

Scotland is more pro-EU than the rest of the UK

According to a February 2013 Ipsos-mori poll Scots want an EU referendum but 53% would vote to stay in the EU and only 34% would vote to leave. Indeed if Scotland became independent those who wanted it to be in the EU rose to 61% and the number who wanted out fell to 33%.[1] In England 48% would vote to leave (as of November 2012) and 44% would vote to stay in.[2] The UK Independence Party whose principal policy platform is a desire to leave the EU has performed considerably worse in Scotland than in England. In the 2010 general election UKIP received 3.1% of the vote[3] whereas in the Scottish election the next year they only received 0.9% of the vote.[4] Similarly in the 2009 European Parliament elections UKIP came second nationally receiving almost 2.5 million votes, 16.5%[5] of all votes cast but in Scotland it came 6th, beaten by all four main parties and the Greens receiving only 5.2% of the vote.[6] Scots clearly believe their interests lie with Europe and it would be better for Scotland not to be tied to a country where sentiment is considerably more negative towards the EU.

[1]    McLean, Christopher, ‘Scots want EU referendum but would vote to stay in’, Ipsos MORI, 14 February 2013,   

[2]    Social Research Institute, ‘British public split on our future with the European Union’, Ipsos MORI, 15 November 2012,

[3]    BBC News, ‘National Results’, Election 2010

[4]    BBC News, ‘Scotland elections’, Vote 2011

[5]    BBC News, ‘European Election 2009: UK Results’, Elections 2009

[6]    BBC News, ‘European Election 2009: Scotland’, Elections 2009


Just because the Scots are less Europhobic than the English does not mean they are actually natural Europhiles. There is still a fair amount of euroscepticism in Scotland [quote=Prof. John Curtice] The rise of UKIP is also evident here albeit at a lower level[1] [/quote]. When Scots were asked 'Which institution do you think has most influence over how Scotland is run?' in 2012 9% thought the EU did, when the question was changed to 'Which institution do you think ought to have most influence over how Scotland is run?' Only 1% said the EU, which certainly implies a degree of Euroscepticism.[2] One poll asking the question 'if Scotland were independent do you think it should join the EU?' even got a no answer, with 49% saying no and 32% saying yes.[3]

Indeed Scotland was more anti-european in the 1975 referendum on Europe than England. 41.6% of Scots voted no to joining the European Community compared to 31.3% of English.[4] Scottish attitudes towards the EC/EU changed in the 1980s as Thatcher was becoming increasingly Europhobic. Because of this shift some academics think that the Scottish pro-european sentiment is a result of anti-Tory feeling rather than a judgement on Europe itself.[5] If this is the case then once independence removes the threat of Tory government Scottish attitudes to Europe might well shift back into a more anti-European position.

[1]    BBC Newsnight Scotland, 25 October 2013 01:12 am

[2]    What Scotland Thinks, ‘Which Institution do you think has most influence over how Scotland is run?’, 2012,

[3]    What Scotland Thinks, ‘If Scotland were independent do you think it should join the EU?’, 2012

[4]    Wikipedia, ‘United Kingdom European Community membership referendup 1975’, accessed 4 November 2013,,_1975   

[5]    Carrell, Severin, ‘Salmond’s EU crisis: polling suggests Scottish voters care’,, 7 November 2012,

Scotland has different interests to rUK

States are often seen as having one single unitary interest, however this is not the case the interests of different regions can be very different. It should therefore not be surprising that Scotland and rUK have different interests with relation to the EU. For example on climate change Scotland has the greatest potential for the generation of renewable energy in Europe with 25% of Europe’s tidal potential and 10% of wave potential[1] yet the UK is in favour of scrapping European targets for the generation of renewable energy.[2] UK ministers have also been accused of “working against Scotland” on agriculture being willing to accept reductions in farm support meaning that Scotland receives the lowest level in Europe.[3] Scotland’s own interests would therefore be better represented by having its own government at the negotiating table than a UK government.

[1] ‘Energy in Scotland: Get the facts’, The Scottish Government, 10 July 2013,

[2] Harvey, Fiona, ‘Britain resists EU bid to set new target on renewable energy’, The Observer, 25 May 2013,

[3] McLaughlin, Mark, ‘SNP Conference: UK ministers ‘working against Scotland’’, The Independent, 19 October 2013,


On the vast majority of issues rUK and Scotland have the same interests. Scotland wants to retain the UK’s opt outs on issues such as the free movement of people and the Euro. Scotland also has the same interests on the main issue for the EU; trade. Nicola Sturgeon has highlighted the benefit to Scotland of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership something that the UK is also strongly in favour of.[1]

[1] Sturgeon, Nicola, ‘Scotland’s Relationship with Europe’, The Scottish Government, 26 February 2013,

Scottish independence might be a faster route out of the EU than a referendum.

Before 2012 the SNP argued that Independence could be achieved and Scotland remain within the EU while retaining all UK opt outs with a minimal amount of trouble. However this position has since changed largely due to European commission pronouncements on the issue.[1] There is no EU precedent to the situation that Scottish independence would bring about. It has been argued that Scotland would not automatically remain part of the EU and would have to reapply. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said [quote=Barroso] For the European Union’s purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent it is a new state and then it has to negotiate into the European Union[2] [/quote] Certainly if Scotland's application to join the EU were a normal one then the 18 month timetable between referendum to independence would not give enough time to go through the process of joining the EU. Some applications have taken over a decade, the UK's own (second) application took over 5 years. The fastest application was Finland which only took 2 years 10 months between application and accession.[3] Even seemingly very minor disputes can hold up membership for long periods, a Croatia-Slovenia dispute over maritime access considerably delayed the accession of the former. Thus small disputes like with Spain over fishing rights or with Ireland over Rockall could be a considerable drag on Scotland's application.[4] None of the above are insurmountable problems and would only impose a temporary exit of Scotland from the EU. However, it is possible that Scotland will be unable to rejoin. It ought to be remembered that enlargement requires unanimous support of the current member states, which may not be forthcoming. A number of other states such as Belgium and Italy have regions with national aspirations, the most likely European opponent to Scottish independence would be Spain with its eastern region of Catalonia's independence movement often being compared to Scotland's. As a result there have been persistent rumours that Spain might veto Scottish re-entry into the EU in order to send a message to its own separatists.[5] Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy was plain when he said [quote=Rajoy] It's very clear to me… a country that would obtain independence from the EU would remain out of the EU.[6][/quote]

[1]    Carrell, Severin, ‘Barroso casts doubt on independent Scotland’s EU membership rights’, The Guardian, 12 September 2012,  McSmith, Andy, ‘The impact of that Barroso letter’, The Independent, 20 December 2012,

[2]    Davidson, Ruth, ‘Separate Scotland would have to reapply to EU – Barroso’, Scottish Conservatives, 10 December 2012, [BBC Hardtalk transcript]

[3]    Wikipedia, ‘Enlargement of the European Union’, accessed 4 November 2013,

[4]    Open Europe Blog, ‘Scottish independence and EU accession: tricky to pull off in one manoeuvre?’, 5 February 2013,

[5]    York, Christopher, ‘Scottish Independence: Spain Could Veto EU Membership’, The Huffington Post, 6 December 2012,

Peterkin, Tom, ‘Scottish Independence: Spain key to Scotland’s EU hopes’, The Scotsman, 4 November 2012,

[6] Carrell, Severin, and Kassam, Ashifa, ‘Scottish independence: Spain blocks Alex Salmond’s hopes for EU transition’, The Guardian, 27 November 2013,


The SNP argues that the transition from being a constituent part of the UK inside the EU and being an independent state within the EU would be seamless.[1] While 'the Scottish government does not take the process of EU membership for granted' they hope to notify the EU of their intent to join the EU before the referendum and then use the period between a yes vote and independence to negotiate their accession.[2] They would have 18 months to sort out the transition between the referendum on independence on 21 September 2014 and independence in March 2016. It should be remembered that an independent Scotland should already meet all the criteria for membership as a result of having already been a member so should be able to go through membership negotiations quickly.

[1]    The Scotsman, ‘Scottish independence: Hague EU claims criticised’, 31 October 2013,

[2]    Sturgeon, Nicola, ‘Scotland’s Relationship with Europe’, The Scottish Government, 26 February 2013, §42-5.

The UK or rUK is not going to leave the EU.

Despite the legislative activity an EU referendum is still not an immediate prospect. Legislation as it stands only calls for a referendum in the event of treaty change, which would itself take years to negotiate. The private members bill currently progressing through the Commons is likely to be butchered in the Lords and David Cameron's promise of a 2017 referendum relies on a Conservative victory in 2015. Such a victory may not happen, despite Labour's soft poll lead the natural bias of the current boundaries make an outright Conservative victory a very remote prospect.[1] Even if a referendum does get held the out supporters would then have to win it. Although polls for a prospective EU membership referendum tend to show those who favour the exit leading this cannot be taken as necessarily meaning that it is likely to happen. Polls change, the AV referendum saw numbers initially favourable to AV swing round to a decisive victory against AV over the course of the campaign.[2] There are a number of reasons why this is likely in an in/out EU referendum. A vote to leave the EU is in fact rather unlikely because of the full weight of the establishment in the staying in camp. Businesses tend to favour staying in because [quote=John Cridland, Director General of the CBI] being a member of a reformed EU is the best way to preserve market access[3] [/quote]. The CBI released a report that said that each UK household was £3,000 better off due to EU membership.[4] That is a lot of money and if opinions on the EU are anything like those on Scottish independence it is a killer argument. 56% of scots would favour independence if it would make them £500 better off but only 22% would still be in favour of independence if it would make them £500 worse off.[5] If similar swings were to occur in an EU referendum Britain would not be leaving the EU. Furthermore, the referendum is likely only to occur after a renegotiation which is bound to bring something, enough for the (presumably Conservative) Prime minister to recommend a vote to stay in, the result would be support for the EU across all three main parties, plus the nationalist parties as well. A renegotiation sufficient for a conservative PM to recommend staying in also has an interesting effect upon polled voting intentions by almost exactly reversing them. A YouGov poll (May 2013) found that while under the current terms 47% would vote to leave and only 30% to stay but after renegotiation 32% would vote to leave and 45% to stay.[6]

[1]    Mylles, Richard, ‘The chances of an EU referendum in the next parliament are wildly overstated’, New Statesman, 18 July 2013,   

[2]    UKPollingReport, ‘Alternative Vote’, accessed 4 November 2013,

[3]    Cridland, John, ‘Leaving Europe would be bad for British business’, The Guardian, 17 May 2013,

[4]    CBI, ‘In with reform or out with no influence – CBI chief makes case for EU membership’, 4 November 2013,   

[5]    ICM, ‘Scottish Independence Poll – September 2013’, 18 September 2013,

[6]    YouGov, ‘YouGov / Sunday Times Survey Results’, 10 May 2013, p.15.


Polls consistently point to a vote to leave the EU in a prospective referendum.[1] Whether this actually happens is a moot point, such a referendum would still bring about instability in the relationship with the European Union. Scotland if independent could avoid this turbulence. At the same time a renegotiation does not mean that Scotland’s interests would be safeguarded as a British Prime Minister would be negotiating with an eye to winning any referendum. The result is that such renegotiations would likely favour English interests over Scottish ones as it is English votes the Prime Minister would need to win over.

[1]    UKPollingReport, ‘YouGov/Sunday Times – Con 29, Lab 40, LD 9, UKIP 14’, 19 May 2013, and others on the same site.

The Scottish relationship with the EU is likely to change after independence.

The UK's various opt outs exist because of the strong negotiating position that the whole of the UK had at the time of the signing of the various relevant treaties. Had Scotland been independent then it would not have been in the same position. It is also argued that if Scotland wants to join the EU then it implicitly wants to join the EU as it is now and could retain exceptional status only in the very short term.[1] The change in relationship would probably change the Scottish attitude to the EU, although it is hard to say whether this would be automatically in a negative way. The implication of Jose Manuel Barroso's comments quoted earlier is that Scotland will be unlikely to retain the UK's opt outs from certain areas of EU policy. Most obviously it is likely that if joining as a new state Scotland may have no choice but to join the Euro at least in the long term when it meets the convergence requirements.[2] Several polls show Scots less likely to vote for independence if Scotland would then have to join the Euro.[3] The other main sticking point would be Schengen, it has been suggested that Scotland would have to join the EU's free travel zone which the UK is not currently a member of and the main consequence of this would be border controls between Scotland and England.[4]Were Scotland to seek to avoid joining the Euro and Schengen then it would prolong the application process meaning that Scotland would be unlikely to be ready to join the EU upon independence. This point was made by the ambassador of the EU's newest member Croatia [quote=Ambassador Ivan Grdesic] if you decide to opt out on many things, you are not ready actually... [/quote] so warning that attempts to opt out of the Euro and Schengen would prolong negotiations.[5]

[1]    Engel, Arno, and Parkes, Roderick, ‘Accommodating an independent Scotland: how a  British-style constitution for the EU could secure Scotland’s future’, European Policy Centre, 24 October 2012,  pp.6-7.

[2]    Thorp, Arabella, and Thompson, Gavin, ‘Scotland, independence and the EU – Commons Library Standard Note’,, 13 July 2012,

[3]    What Scotland Thinks, ‘If an independent Scotland had to join the Euro, how would this effect your vote in a Scottish independence referendum?’, January 2013,

[4]    Barnes, Eddie, ‘Scottish independence: EU may force border terms’, The Scotsman

[5]    BBC News, ‘Scottish independence: Warning over EU membership plan’, 3 November 2013,   


The Scottish Government claims that an independent Scotland would be able to join the EU with all the UK's various opt outs intact. Scotland indeed could not be forced to join the Euro because in order to do so it would have to demonstrate currency convergence for at least two years which the newly independent state obviously would not be in a position to do.[1] Therefore if Scotland retained UK opt outs there would be only a positive change in relationship with Scotland receiving greater representation in EU institutions through having its own seat in the Council of Ministers, possibly its own Commissioner, and also a reallocation of European Parliamentary constituencies that would increase its representation there (and paradoxically increase rUK representation as well).[2]

[1]    Noon, Stephen, ‘Euro membership’, 10 November 2011,   

[2]    Engel, Arno, and Parkes, Roderick, ‘Accommodating an independent Scotland: how a  British-style constitution for the EU could secure Scotland’s future’, European Policy Centre, 24 October 2012, p.7