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05/08/13 11:54

Law Society report says Scotland would 'qualify' for EU membership

DFM Welcomes Law Society Contribution.

Deputy FM Nicola Sturgeon today welcomed a report by the Law Society of Scotland which concluded that in the event of a vote for independence ‘Scotland would have the capacity to be recognised as an independent state’ and that Scotland already complies with the EU treaties and acquis and therefore qualifies ‘in legal terms for EU membership in its own right.’

The paper, which asks the UK Government whether it would support Scotland’s position in Europe as an independent member state, also raises other significant questions for those opposed to independence - whether they plan to transfer any further powers to Scotland and how they will approach negotiations with Scotland following a vote for independence.

Responding to the report Ms Sturgeon said

“Independence means the key decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who live here rather than by politicians at Westminster.

“This means, for example, that any future Scottish Government will have the power to shape economic and tax policies to meet Scotland’s needs, scrap the unjust bedroom tax and protect Scottish interests in the EU.

“This paper makes clear that whichever interpretation is taken of the EU treaties, Scotland already conforms to the EU’s requirements and qualifies for EU membership as well as membership of other international institutions in its own right.

“That is a the common sense position that we have set out and which is supported by a number of eminent experts in EU affairs. It would be counter to the entire ethos of the EU to seek to remove a country from the EU which wishes to remain within it and which already complies with EU laws.

“This is in stark contrast with the real and current threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU that exists as a result of the UK Government’s plans for an in/out EU referendum.

“As the Law Society will be aware we have already published a series of detailed papers and statements on key questions which show both how and why an independent Scotland would keep the pound; set out our proposals for a written constitution; and demonstrate the economic and financial strength of Scotland. We have also made clear that our White Paper will be entirely consistent with our legal advice on the issue of European membership.

“In contrast those opposed to independence cannot guarantee Scotland’s future in the European Union and have not set out what, if any, additional powers might come to a Scotland that remains within the United Kingdom.

“The success of Scotland’s independent legal system and profession, which have operated effectively for centuries and made a significant contribution to Scotland’s identity, demonstrate the distinct benefits that other sectors and professions would gain with independence.

“Over the next year we will continue to set out further the gains for people and families that independence offers."

Notes to editors

The content of any legal advice is confidential. By long-standing convention, successive Scottish and UK Governments do not disclose the content of Law Officers' advice – a position that was recently reaffirmed by the UK Minister for Europe David Lidington in giving evidence to the Europe and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament when he said “it has been the practice of successive British Governments never to comment on whether we have had advice from the law officers, and not to publish advice.”

The Scottish Government wrote to the UK Government in January 2013 inviting them to make a joint submission to the European Commission on the issue of EU membership. The UK Government refused.

The UK Government’s own legal adviser, James Crawford has said the 18 month timetable for negotiations on EU membership ‘seems realistic’ (Today programme, 11 Feb 2013)

The Fiscal Commission Working Group proposed an equitable share of assets and liabilities be worked out through negotiation. The UK Government has made clear it will not negotiate in advance of a vote.

Details of the Scottish Government’s proposals for a written constitution and the transition to independence can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00413757.pdf

The Scottish Government remains entirely confident of the common-sense position, supported by a number of eminent experts in EU affairs, that if the people of Scotland vote in favour of independence, Scotland will notify its intent to remain a member of the EU and negotiate the specific terms of that continued membership in the period between the referendum and the first day of independence. It would be counter to the entire ethos of the EU to seek to remove a country from the EU which wishes to remain within it and which already complies with EU laws. Further details on an independent Scotland’s continued membership of the EU will be set out in due course in the White Paper which, as the Deputy First Minister made clear in October, will be fully consistent with our legal advice.