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Scottish Nationalists Assumed Automatic EU Membership - Not So

Salmond's assumption that EU membership for an independent Scotland was automatic was challenged by the Spanish foreign minister.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/25/2012, 8:27 AM

Salmond still expects a yes vote
Salmond still expects a yes vote
Reuters

The Scottish first Minister Alex Salmond who, until recently, could do no wrong, received two political setbacks in his campaign for Scottish independence.

One of the arguments that the Scottish leader has been peddling is that an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union. Alec Salmond had previously given the impression that this argument was based on solid legal advice.

This position was assailed by the Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, who told the Spanish Senate that an independent Scotland would not be fast-tracked and would have to go through the same laborious negotiations as other countries, such as Turkey or Serbia. It would then require the unanimous approval of the other members.

Spain obviously is not a disinterested party, as the Spanish People's party of Mariano Rajoy is attempting to fend off separatist movements in the Basque region and Catalonia. In Sunday's elections, the Basque national parties defeated the coalition of federalist parties. The Spanish Foreign Minister made a point of saying that there was no connection between Scotland and what was happening in Spain.

The statement by the Spanish Foreign Minister exposed the fact that the Scottish Nationalists had been acting only on wishful thinking. It was only after the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement between Alec Salmond and British Prime Minister David Cameron, allowing for a referendum on independence, that the Scottish government solicited a legal opinion.

The Scottish Nationalists insisted that their position remains intact as Scotland - and what would be left of Great Britain after a Scottish secession - were both equal successor states and it would be absurd to deny a Scotland, that had been an integral part of the European Union for decades, membership as an independent state.

In an attempt to demonstrate that following Scottish independence it would be business as usual, Alex Salmond reversed his party's policy on NATO membership. An independent Scotland would now remain part of NATO, but it would be a nonnuclear member of NATO that would do away with the nuclear bases on its soil.

It was also limit its military involvement to NATO missions that had received UN sanction. The Scottish Nationalists apparently realized that NATO membership was part of being in the European club, but to allay the suspicions of its left-wing members, this was to be a partial NATO membership that they presumably could stomach. The motion to reverse opposition to NATO carried in the party by a razor thin majority.

The opposition, however, remains unconvinced and two members of the Scottish Parliament bolted the party and will sit in the Scottish Parliament as independents. They were unable to reconcile their membership in a party that is hostile to nuclear weapons, but is entering an alliance with a nuclear doctrine and an alliance dominated by the United States.