A spanner of sorts has been tossed in the Scottish nationalists proposals regarding independence. They had long argued that as Scotland is currently a member of the EU, naturally post-independence they would still be a member. However, the EU president, Jose Barroso has suggested that a newly independent Scotland would have to apply for membership as a separate entity.
This doesn’t exactly surprise me. With many states clamouring to get into the EU, some like Turkey having waited decades to do so, it would look kind of bad for the EU to merely wink at the Scots and allow them to jump the queue, no questions asked. Also Scotland is far from the only wayward province within the EU. The Basque country, Catalonia, Flanders (Flemish speaking Belgium), Sicily, Sardinia to name a few, all have long established independence movements. Naturally, the position of the EU is that it doesn’t want to be seen to be taking sides in such disputes, as that will inevitably antagonize existing member states. Indeed some within the EU would argue the bloc should be strongly discouraging such separatism. So really Barroso’s statement is really not that surprising.
However, the SNP seem insistent that the head of the EU is wrong (about EU policy!). Again, my position on Scottish independence is that while I’m minded to support it, the devil is in the detail. The problem with the SNP is that they are idealists. And as this situation shows they simply have not thought through properly the process and consequences of Scottish independence.
For starters, even if the referendum passes in 2014 (and my guess is, it will narrowly be defeated) it would still take several years to negotiate the terms of Scotland’s divorce and then implement the transition (though, as I pointed out in a previous article on this topic, once the SNP have a democratic mandate they will have the right to act unilaterally to get around any Tory stalling tactics). Naturally this gives plenty of time for the issue of EU membership to be settled and entry into the EU to be properly negotiated. There might indeed be a period where Scotland is independent of both the UK and the EU but it is likely to be brief.
The SNP Underpants Gnomes
But again, what worries me about the SNP is they’re unwillingness to accept these realities. One gets the impression that their plan is not far removed from that of the Underpants Gnomes:
Step #1 – Vote for independence
Step #2 – ?????
step #3 Go to Gretna, moon the English and tell them get ye to fek
On the other side of the debate, the Tories have tried to argue that a independent Scotland will be forced to join the Euro upon becoming an EU member. I personally doubt this one too. While prior to the current crisis, it was the policy of the EU to strongly encourage euro adoption, this has rapidly tailed off since then. Indeed given the state of Scotland’s banks (RBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and all that sub-prime madness) I suspect the eurocrats will be secretly trying to talk the Scots out of joining the euro at this time.
Worse case scenario, the terms of EU membership might oblige Scotland to adopt the Euro, but there would likely be no time limit set for this. Several other new EU members have also yet to adopt the Euro, a good decade after joining and nobody in Brussels is saying anything.
So if a newly independent Scotland said that they planned on sticking with their own currency for the time being, or they said that it would need to put another referendum to the people, post EU accession, to adopt the Euro, I doubt anyone in Brussels will try to make a federal case out of that.
And again, as with the SNP, I would argue the many opponents of the SNP down south have not properly thought through the implications of Scottish independence for England, some of which I discussed in a prior post on this topic (England loosing strategic military bases, becoming a large net energy importer more or less permanently, loosing a large chuck of its manufacturing base, etc.)