The question of potential Scottish EU membership is a foundational aspect of the independence debate today. 100 questions on re-joining the EU
In the post-Brexit era, the outlook for our relationship with the EU shapes how many people approach the constitutional issue. In fact, we in Scotland have debated that relationship for the past decade at least: through the campaigns for the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 EU referendum, to the process of the UK leaving the EU and exiting its transition, to the current post-Brexit EU-UK relationship. Over those years, EU relations have been a recurrent feature in our politics and public debate.
Having dedicated so much time to considering the UK’s former EU membership, Brexit and possible Scottish EU membership, Scotland’s political conversation on the EU should be thoroughly informed and nuanced. In reality, Scotland’s EU debate is at present superficial, repetitive and inward-looking. It is driven by headline sentiment and recycled arguments. It has adopted the mistaken view that, because relations with the EU are essential to the future of Scotland and the UK, the reverse is true for the EU. Scotland’s political system and many of its various participants evidence too little understanding of the workings of the EU, the Brussels agenda and the politics of the EU and its national capitals.
This state of affairs is insufficient for our times. Scotland should have positive and productive connections with the EU, whatever its constitutional future. It should have a thoughtful and developed debate on how to engage with the EU as part of the UK. It should have a serious and detailed conversation on the premise of Scottish EU membership, as part of the wider independence debate. When it comes to EU relations, Scotland needs substance over sentiment.
This report addresses the matter of Scottish EU membership in the event of independence. It does not consider the ongoing dispute over whether to hold a new independence referendum. To focus on its purpose, the report is premised on the scenario that Scotland applied to join the EU after independence, which resulted from a referendum agreed between the Scottish and UK Governments. In so doing, it considers the choices and challenges at play on the EU issue. To that end, this report sets out 100 essential questions on EU membership for Scotland in the case of independence. Divided into 20 themes, these questions illustrate the range of consequential topics which should be part of Scotland’s debate on this matter, but which are either absent or lacking in depth.
Any credible and serious proposal for Scottish EU membership should, at a minimum, address these questions in a forthright and thorough manner. It is incumbent on proponents of independence to offer detail at this stage. While it remains unclear whether or when a bona fide independence referendum may be held, the debate will assuredly continue. That debate, including on the question of EU membership, should be as informed and substantive as possible. It is high time to upgrade Scotland’s conversation on EU relations in the present and potential EU membership in the future. This report provides a foundation for the latter, while other work from European Merchants supports the former.