Europe

Nicola Sturgeon undermined as independent Scotland would have to wait decade to rejoin EU

Nicola Sturgeon is 'hiding' behind independence says guest

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Scotland’s First Minister, Ms Sturgeon, has revived calls for Scottish independence in recent years — even though the 2014 once-in-a-generation referendum on leaving the UK concluded that Scots did want to leave the Union. She has promised that if the SNP — the Scottish National Party — win a majority in the Holyrood election again next week, she will take that as a mandate for another referendum on independence. Having built her arguments for Indyref2 on the basis that 62 percent of Scots voted to stay in the EU, the SNP leader has included a promise to rejoin the bloc in her manifesto.

Ms Sturgeon has claimed Scotland was taken out of the EU “against our will” and that the country’s future is as an “independent European nation”.

She also promised that this referendum would go ahead as soon as the “immediate Covid crisis” has passed, even without Downing Street’s support — the manifesto also explains the SNP hopes Indyref2 can go ahead by late 2023.

The party claimed this is the best timeframe to “equip our parliament with the full powers it needs to drive out long-term recovery from Covid and build a better, fairer nation”.

But, the Institute for Government — which is considered to be apolitical — claimed that the SNP should think about both the “costs as well as the benefits” of leaving the Union and attempting to rejoin the EU.

The think tank pointed out that the UK’s exit from the EU took nearly five years, and so rejoining as an independent nation would inevitably take longer.

It added: “It could take easily as long, if not longer, for Scotland to complete its separation from the UK while also building the necessary institutions to become a fully sovereign state.

“The EU accession process could then take at least two years on top of that, based on how long the accession process has taken for previous new joiners.”

It continued: “The EU would probably welcome an application from an independent Scotland, but only if Scottish independence were based on agreement with the UK Government.

“Under EU law, Scotland could only formally apply to join the EU once it had secured its independence from the UK, and the whole process could take the best part of a decade.

“As an EU member state, Scotland would have no choice but to enforce customs processes, as well as regulatory checks on goods such as animal and plant products.”

It added that this would create a hard border with England, as “there would be a need for new border infrastructure to enforce these rules”, which could create problems with trade.

Joining the EU would also mean Scotland would have to commit to adopting the euro, at least in principle.

Alternatively, Scotland could look for a less restrictive relationship with the EU, where it could secure frictionless trade with both the bloc and its UK neighbours.

Indeed, Ms Sturgeon has described her vision of Scotland as a “bridge” between the UK and the EU, which would make it a “magnet for global investment”.

The SNP’s manifesto has also agreed that any referendum must be “legitimate and constitutional”, and that the Scottish Parliament would talk with Wesminster over the transfer of powers to allow such a public vote to go ahead.

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Yet, the manifesto then suggests the SNP could pass its own referendum bill at Holyrood if the Prime Minister refuses to grant one — in which case, the party says it would fight this constitutional battle “vigorously” in courts.

Many constitutional experts have predicted that the Scottish Government would lose such a battle in court, but the SNP has not explained what it would do in such a scenario.

Others have pointed out that there are currently more pressing issues in Scotland aside from its constitutional place in the UK.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “If she [Sturgeon] obsessed about fighting poverty as much as she does about the constitution, imagine how different Scotland could be as a result.”

Scottish Conservatives constitution spokesman, Dean Lockhart, also claimed: “As Scotland continues to fight the Covid pandemic, it is extraordinary that Nicola Sturgeon thinks it’s a good use of her time to continue to flog her independence obsession across Europe.”

But, Ms Sturgeon has continually explained how she wants Scotland to be closely aligned with Europe.

She told German outlet Welt: “Many voices in the EU say that Scotland has been a member for more than 40 years and meets all standards and regulations.

“We think that we are a unique case for quick accession to the EU.

“Scotland’s accession is not an enlargement. We have been members for most of my life.

“Scotland is coming home, this is not a new beginning. We can act as a bridge between the UK and the EU, bringing people together.”

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