‘Comment is Free’ piece on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU

I was asked by the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent, Severin Carrell, to write something about José Manuel Barroso’s remarks about ‘seceding’ states becoming members of the European Union, which suggested that the EU would not automatically accept Scotland as an EU member as a ‘successor state’ to the current United Kingdom.  A statement by the Commission President is clearly not determinative of what might hypothetically happen in a few years’ time, let alone what view other EU institutions might take – membership issues will fall ultimately to the European Council to decide.   However, Barroso’s statement raises the stakes, raising legal issues (as the ‘state succession’ issue is only part of the legal argument about Scottish EU membership, the other part arising from EU citizenship), as well as political ones.  In it, I try to explain the two lines of legal argument, how Barroso’s statement is unhelpful to the SNP’s referendum strategy, and how it seems to reflect a rather narrow view by the Commission of what the EU is about that would seem to be at variance with other activities of the Commission.

The piece has appeared on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site, and can be found HERE.  To judge from the volume of comments, it has excited a good deal of interest.



Filed under EU issues, Publications and projects, Scottish independence, SNP

2 responses to “‘Comment is Free’ piece on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU

  1. “Mr Barroso stated that, if Catalonia were to hold an independence referendum, although that is not allowed under Spanish law, and if it were to produce a majority in favour of independence, that would be a matter for the international community and international law rather than, as the Spanish state maintains, an internal Spanish affair.” –


    …which to my reading, is something supporters of Scottish independence should also welcome?

    What is your view?


  2. Dave

    It depends on the meaning given to ‘independence’ in the case of Scotland. In the pre-democratic era (1707) the parliaments of the Kingdom of Scotland and that of the then Queen of England were united. A Yes vote would result in the dissolution of the United Kingdom, which would cease to exist in the event of Scottish independence. It would not be a case of Scottish secession. There would be two successor states to the Act and Treaty of Accession to the EU, 1972. The UK Parliament, which passed the Act and endorsed the Treaty, would cease to exist, and although it might continue to meet in the same building, it would be elected by a different constituency and would have to be re-named.

    Why then should one qualify as a successor state and not the other? In any case, I can’t imagine, in the world of realpolitk, as opposed to academic argument or nit picking, that post independence any former UK citizen will lose his/her EU citizenship in the event of the dissolution of the UK. The London based press and media, including The Guardian, have been far from even handed in their coverage of the issues. I have no doubt that the unionists and British nationalists in Whitehall and Westminster will do their utmost to scupper the democratic will of the Scottish people by fair means or foul.

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