An Independent Scotland in the EU: Issues for Accession

Primary Author or Creator:
Kirsty Hughes
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Length (Pages, words, minutes etc...)
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This report brings together the views of...what an independent Scotland’s accession process to the EU might look like and what the implications of independence in the EU, while the rest of the UK remained outside the EU, might be

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In many ways, an independent Scotland would look well positioned to join the EU. It would certainly be eligible to apply as a European state... And, compared to the range of states that have joined the EU in the last sixty-three years, Scotland does not look like an outlier.

A whole range of states, large and small, have joined the EU since the first enlargement in 1973 which brought in Denmark, Ireland and the UK. In total, twenty-two states have joined and one, the UK, has left. Those states include eleven countries from central and eastern Europe and the western Balkans... They include the still-divided island of Cyprus, and the group that joined in the 1980s – Greece, Portugal and Spain – having emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s. They also include a number of states who had re-gained their independence before joining the EU – including the Baltic three, and the ‘velvet divorce’ that split the former Czechoslovakia into two states.

In the face of a legally and constitutionally valid independence process, it is hard to argue that an independent Scotland (with 47 years experience as part of the EU, within the UK) would not be likely to succeed in joining. ...Scotland would rapidly overtake the western Balkan candidates and potential candidate countries if it were independent in the next few years.

However, there are many questions that need to be addressed to understand how that accession process may play out. If it is not too long after the end of the transition period in December 2020..., then Scotland will not have diverged very far, quite probably, from the EU’s body of law and regulations – its acquis.

The further the UK, and Scotland, have diverged by the time of a potential Scottish application to join the EU, then the longer the accession process may take. And, in addition, Scotland as an independent state will need to establish institutions, regulatory bodies and laws, that previously sat at UK level during the UK’s period of EU membership.