automatically leave the European Union if it split from the United
Kingdom, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.
Mr Hague said Scotland benefited enormously from the union but warned
that voting in favour of independence would mean splitting from the
world organisations the UK had signed up to.
He said: “Scotland, of course, derives enormous benefit from being part
of the United Kingdom. And the United Kingdom benefits enormously from
Scotland being part of the United Kingdom.
“It is very important to understand that if Scotland left the United
Kingdom, it would also be leaving the organisations the United Kingdom
is a member of, including the European Union.”
His comments followed a question from Graeme Morrice (Livingston), who
said: “What assessment have you made on an independent Scotland’s place
in Europe and the world compared to the advantage Scotland derives
currently from being part of a strong United Kingdom?”
Comment by Dr. James Wilkie
Foreign Secretary William Hague is perfectly correct. There can be no
question of Scotland's "remaining" a member of any of the international
organisations of which the UK is presently a member, including the EU.
There is no such thing as a Scottish state at the moment, and only
states are eligible for membership of the hundreds of international
global and regional institutions.
If a new state of Scotland is created as a result of the forthcoming
referendum, then it will become eligible to apply for membership of
these institutions - but as a first-time applicant for new membership,
not a continuing one.
In some cases the applications will go through almost automatically, and
in others, especially where stringent entrance qualifications are
demanded, the admittance process can go on for years.
Informal discussions on membership can be carried on at any time, even
now, but official negotiations cannot begin until Scotland's statehood
has been firmly attested by the international community through the
United Nations. The UN is the arbiter on statehood, not a regional
institution, let alone a sub-regional one like the EU.
In the a case of the European regional institutions, the first essential
step is for Scotland to be accepted for membership of the Council of
Europe (CoE), which has very stringent conditions on the maintenance of
pluralist democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. No
state has ever been admitted to the EEC or the EU until it has first of
all obtained membership of the CoE, and met the CoE's conditions as
regards its standard of government.
Belarus, for example, is presently banned from CoE membership because
its political system does not meet the CoE's iron rules on democracy.
The UK was threatened with expulsion until it modernised its political
system with Scottish and Welsh devolution.
Since joining the EU would involve approval by a referendum, entry
negotiations could not begin without the sanction of the highest
constitutional authority, the people.
The SNP and the Scottish Government would appear to have been seriously
- and probably maliciously - misinformed on this issue. I suspect the
pernicious influence of vested interests like the so-called European
Movement, but in any event it is high time that they started taking
advice from people who know what they are doing in this field.
It is by no means axiomatic that Scotland must join the EU or any other
particular organisation, and there have to be very solid reasons for any
step of such magnitude.