SNP furious as doubt cast on Scottish future in EU
Barroso says membership for independent Scotland is ‘difficult, if not impossible’
Scottish first minister Alex Salmond: sterling is “as much Scotland’s” as the rest of the UK’s. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s declaration that EU membership for an independent Scotland would be “difficult, if not impossible” has provoked fury from the Scottish National Party.
Speaking in London, Mr Barroso said the agreement of all existing member states would be needed before a new country formed from one of them could be admitted into the union.
“We have seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance,” he said – though the linkage between Kosovo, which is not part of the EU, and Scotland, which is – infuriated the SNP.
“I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible,” Mr Barroso said, though he insisted he was not interfering in the Scotland debate.
The comments mark one of the worst weeks yet in the campaign for the independence campaign, coming days after a sterling currency union with London post-independence was ruled out by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The extent of the fury caused by Mr Barroso was illustrated by Scottish deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who accused him of making a “preposterous” charge.
Scotland has been a member of the EU for 40 years and would continue to remain one as it made the “transition from being in the European Union as part of the UK to being part of the European Union as an independent country”.
Using nearly identical language, Scottish finance secretary John Swinney said the Yes campaign accepts “there has to be a negotiation and there has to be agreement with all member states”. However, he said no EU country has ruled out Scottish membership.
But there are strong fears – not just in Spain, which fears Catalan demands for self-determination – that a Scottish Yes vote could spur secessionist demands across Europe.
Labour MP Douglas Alexander, a Scot, said: “Now their claims on EU and sterling are in tatters, it seems [the] SNP have no plan B other than to retreat into claims of victimhood”.
Monarch and Nato
Besides promising to keep sterling, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has deliberately sought to neutralise contentious issues, insisting that Queen Elizabeth would continue as monarch and that Scotland would stay part of Nato.
The repeated blows suffered by the independence campaign has prompted some to argue it should be taking stronger positions on key issues, rather than seeking to comfort worried, centre-ground Scottish voters.
Instead of proposing a sterling currency union, where Scotland would be represented at the Bank of England but retain independent control over tax, spending and banking, some in the Yes camp believe it should go all out and recommend a new currency.
However, Mr Salmond, who once wanted Scotland to join the euro, has shied away from this. Today, he will insist once more sterling “is as much Scotland’s as the rest of the UK”.