The Scottish Referendum
Risk of double jeopardy!
The frenzy that has – understandably – taken hold of the United Kingdom on the eve of the referendum on Scottish independence is abetted by the efforts by the main English political parties to make a last minute attempt to “save” the Union at nearly any cost.
While numerous debates are being held concerning the pros and cons of Scottish independence, the question of Scotland’s relationship with the EU has only been addressed superficially.
It has certainly been pointed out that if the “Yes” vote prevails, Scotland will need to undertake the intricate process of adhesion in order to rejoin the EU. While there is no doubt that the current Treaty would demand such a “formal” procedure, it seems, however, hypocritical – if not downright unacceptable - to argue that the outcome of such an application is “far from certain”, a position attributed to some highly placed European officials. Indeed, no one can doubt that Scotland fulfils all the “Copenhagen criteria” and would be capable of complying with all the “acquis communautaire” to which it is already currently subjected as part of the UK. To argue that a number of Member states, such as Spain or Belgium, might veto membership in order to avoid fuelling their own separatists’ demands or that the UK would do so by vengeance, would be accepting in advance the primacy of the letter of the Treaty (requiring unanimity for enlargement) over the spirit and the values that are at the very core of the EU’s existence. In such a situation, the disintegration of the Union would become only a matter of time.
On the other hand, should the “No” vote prevail, Scotland’s future would remain tied to that of the United Kingdom. Under these circumstances, if the Referendum promised by David Cameron in 2017 on the UK’s EU membership led to “Brexit”, Scotland would find itself automatically excluded from the EU.
It is therefore imperative, regardless of any other promises for greater autonomy and self government that might suddenly be on offer by all UK main political parties, that Scotland receives the assurance that in a forthcoming vote on UK membership of the EU, the votes in Scotland be tallied separately from those in England. If Scotland voted to stay in the EU and England voted otherwise, then it is up to England to negotiate its new relationship with the EU. Scotland would become independent and the rightful successor to the UK as a full Member of the Union. (Just as the England will remain an EU Member after a possible Scottish session).
Making it clear right now that the Scots would have a second chance at voting for independence – albeit indirectly - in the event a referendum on membership of the EU was held in the UK, might well sway many Scottish voters to remain for the time being within the UK, being assured that its membership of the EU is not put into question. It would indeed be an unforgiveable sleight of hand if, having secured the “No” vote, the UK was in a position to dictate Scotland’s future in the EU in 2017 based on the overwhelming majority of English voters over the Scottish.
It is not too late to communicate transparently on this vital aspect of next Thursday’s referendum and doing so would considerably reinforce the moral standing of the political class as a whole.
Brussels, September 14th 2014
Paul N. Goldschmidt
Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.
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