SNP anger as EU says a breakaway Scotland will have to reapply to joinEuropean Commission letter to House of Lords says Scotland's membership will 'cease to apply' if it breaks away from the UKSpanish government would block entry, fearing it would embolden Catalonian separatists
00:37 GMT, 7 December 2012
First Minister Alex Salmond has insisted an independent Scotland would automatically join the EU – something Brussels disputes
Nationalists have reacted angrily to a warning that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply to the European Union.
Eurocrats say Scotland would not have automatic membership if Scots decide to break away in the 2014 independence referendum.
A leaked letter from the European Commission said the UK’s EU membership would ‘cease to apply’ to an independent Scotland.
The letter, seen by The Scotsman newspaper, was destined for the Lords economic affairs sub-committee.
It stated: ‘If a territory of a member state ceases to be part of that member state because it has become an independent state, then the treaties would cease to apply to that territory.’
But Scottish National Party members insisted they would have to ‘renegotiate’ rather than re-apply for membership.
Finance secretary John Swinney said Scotland would still be part of the UK in the immediate aftermath of a vote for independence.
He added: ‘Scotland would not be applying for membership. Scotland is already a member of the European Union, our citizens are EU citizens today, we follow all of the EU relevant provisions that we are required to follow.
‘Assuming there is a yes vote, Scotland will still be at that stage a part of the UK, and what we have always accepted is there has to be a negotiation about the details and the terms of Scotland’s membership of the EU.
‘But crucially that would be taking place at a time when we are still part of the UK, and still part of the EU of which we have been members for 40 years.’
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland there was an important distinction between Scotland ‘applying’ and ‘negotiating’.
But Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, appeared to confirm that membership treaties would no longer apply to a newly independent country.
The Scottish independence referendum is being held in autumn 2014, when Mr Salmond hopes to capitalise on a patriotic mood marking 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn
In a written answer to Scottish Labour MEP David Martin, Mr Barroso referred to previous legal advice issued in 2004.
An independent Scotland would also have to be unanimously approved for membership by all other EU countries.
But Spain, Belgium and Cyprus could be reluctant to do so as they are battling with nationalists at home.
Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel
Garcia-Margallo suggested in October that Scotland ‘would have to get to
the back of the queue’ if it wanted to re-apply to the EU.