Pro-Unionists and other European leaders (largely scared of similar nationalistic moves within their own country) have attempted to scare Scottish voters, arguing that a 'Yes' vote in favor of Scottish Independence ahead of next year referendum would necessitate Scottish re-application to the European Union. Such statements are largely baseless and ignore important EU legal and political realities. Irrespective of how Scotland ultimately votes, fear mongering such as this shouldn't factor into the debate (but will likely remain a salient issue in the months ahead).
On September 18, 2014, Scottish voters will head to the polls and vote on a referendum, which if passed, would establish an independent Scottish state, effectively dissolving the 1707 Act of Union which brought Scotland into political union with the United Kingdom in the first place. Despite a spirited nationalist campaign, a slew of recent polls, show that Scottish voters are unlikely to vote 'Yes' on the question of Scottish Independence and instead continue with their present political arrangement of so-called devolution. That said, Nationalist hopes for an Independent Scotland took a serious blow late last month when Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy declared that an Independent Scotland would have to seek new membership in to the EU.
The Spanish prime minister has suggested that an independent Scotland would have to apply to become a member of the EU from the outside.That said, anyone reading Mr. Rajoy's statement should heed the prime ministers declaration as less of a warning to Scotland and more of a warning directed to Spain's own fractionist regions.
Mariano Rajoy said that if a "region" opted to leave a member state, then it would "remain outside the European Union".
It would then require the agreement of all 28 EU members before it was allowed to join, he said.
The Scottish government aims to negotiate entry from within the EU.
This would be done in the 18 months between a Yes vote and formal secession from the UK, it has said.
Speaking at a media conference during a summit with French president Francois Hollande, Mr Rajoy said: "I do not know the White Paper presented by the Scottish president (sic).
"I would like that the consequences of that secession be presented with realism to Scots.
"Citizens have the right to be well informed and particularly when it's about taking decisions like this one.
"I respect all the decisions taken by the British, but I know for sure that a region that would separate from a member state of the European Union would remain outside the European Union and that should be known by the Scots and the rest of the European citizens".
The BBC's Tom Burridge, in Madrid, said the Spanish prime minister's comments were being seen as an implicit warning to the Spanish region of Catalonia, whose autonomous government wants to hold a vote on independence.Should Scotland vote for Independence, however, it is unlikely that Scotland would find itself out of the EU come 2016.
Mr Rajoy strongly opposes having an independence referendum in Catalonia, in north-eastern Spain.
But the Catalan government says it plans to announce the date of its referendum, and the question it will put to Catalan voters, before the end of this year.
John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, disputed the conclusion, pointing out that the country is already within the EU. It would not therefore be applying to join, but discussing the terms of its continuing membership, he argued. “We will be negotiating our arrangements and our membership from within the European Union, which is the key point of distinction,” he said.Likewise, a more recent analysis by the London School of Economics found a Scottish exit from the EU highly unlikely for a number of reasons:
So what is there evidence for? There is evidence that the EU cares a great deal about citizenship. Every person holding the nationality of an EU Member State is afforded EU citizenship as well. As Aidan O’Neill QC has written, this issue would likely be deemed of vital importance should a post-independence Scotland find itself making a case for continuing EU membership in front of the EU Court of Justice. But it may well weigh heavily on the EU Member States as they seek to resolve the problem posed by an independent Scotland through political mechanisms. And this is because of its connection to another concept that the EU cares very deeply about, namely democracy.
Democracy is one of the principles set out at the beginning of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU prides itself on being a normative power and seeks to promote democracy in the near abroad as well as the global system. While academics disagree about the real motivation of this commitment – is it genuinely normative and liberal or merely window-dressing for more material interests – nobody argues with the rhetorical commitment.
So there is an issue of what sociologists call ontological security at stake here for the EU. Put simply it is hard to see how the EU can champion the cause of democracy day in, day out, and then deprive those living in Scotland of their EU citizenship as a consequence of exercising a democratic right to vote for independence. It would be virtually impossible, politically, for the EU to square that circle and maintain its coherency as a champion of democracy.