Negotiations on Scotland’s position in Europe will take place from within the EU after a referendum on independence next year, said First Minister Alex Salmond.
“Scotland will still be a member of the UK so negotiations will take place by definition from within the European Union”, Salmond told BBC News on Wednesday (16 January).
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has said that any newly formed state would have to reapply for membership from outside the EU.
But Salmond does not believe that will be the case for his country.
“We’re not currently a member state and I’m confident that Scotland will be negotiating its position after the referendum, before independence, from within the context of the European Union. That point is inarguable.”
Following a positive outcome in the vote, talks between Scottish ministers and EU officials would take place before the transfer of sovereignty, in 2016, Salmond said.
The Commission did not respond to a request for legal clarity on this matter. Barroso has previously declined to comment on Scotland's case specifically.
British lawmakers have begun debating an order to allow the Holyrood government in Edinburgh to hold a referendum, which is expected in the autumn of 2014.
No euro prospect
In the radio interview, Scotland’s head of government contrasted his party's desire to stay in the EU with the UK’s current drift towards the exit.
“We’ll be negotiating to stay within the European Union. The prime minister [David Cameron]… is going to have some sort of negotiations which might result in the rest of the UK being out of the European Union. Frankly … the idea that oil rich, renewable energy rich Scotland will not be wanted as part of the European Union is simply incredible.”
The United Kingdom, including Scotland, currently has opt-outs on the euro currency and the Schengen area, citizens whose governments are a member of which are permitted to move freely without border controls. Accession negotiations require new member states to opt in, potentially spelling the end of the pound sterling in Scotland and border controls set up between it and England.
But Salmond said there was currently “no prospect” of a newly independent Scotland joining the euro. “It’s not part of the position.”
Salmond said his government would abide by whatever the outcome of the referendum, but he said it was within the right of Scottish citizens to choose their government.
“The referendum is beyond argument in terms of its democratic credentials. That this is something that can be judged down here [in England], that somehow there’s a question about how the Scottish Parliament democratically elected would decide these things, I don’t think does credit to those who cast doubt on the credentials of the people of Scotland’s ability to decide these things for ourselves. I think those times have changed and we’re quite entitled to do that.”
Salmond told BBC on Tuesday that the right to a free education and to a home could be enshrined in the written constitution of an independent Scotland.
The first minister said the UK was out of step with other European democracies in not having a formal, written constitution.
- 5-8 June 2014: European elections (dates to be confirmed)
- 24 June 2014: 600-year anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn with which the referendum is set to coincide
- Autumn 2014: Scottish referendum expected