Europe

Nicola Sturgeon’s EU dream in tatters as she is warned ‘third of SNP do not want to join’

Nicola Sturgeon urges Douglas Ross to get 'off his phone'

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched an assault on the Scottish First Minister at Conservative Party conference this week. He suggested that Ms Sturgeon was losing her popularity after a series of debacles, adding that “the gilt is coming off the gingerbread”. Ms Sturgeon’s independence push appears to have hit a roadblock – a poll found last month that the public don’t back Ms Sturgeon’s timetable for a second referendum. More than half of Scots (52 percent) said there should not be a referendum on Scottish independence in the next two years, while 38 percent said they believed one should take place before the end of 2023.

The poll interviewed 1,040 people aged 16 and above between August 31 and September 1 and was undertaken by Panelbase for the campaign group Scotland in Union.

The Scottish First Minister plans to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, but Tory MSP Stephen Kerr tells Express.co.uk that Ms Sturgeon could face opposition from within her own party.

He warned that many in the SNP don’t want to rejoin the bloc.

He said: “They are going to set up their own currency? Scotland’s going to join the euro? Really?

“We already have this massive deficit that puts us way outside of anything that would allow them to rejoin the EU.

“That’s the other thing. At least a third of the SNP don’t even want to join the EU, so they’ve got another problem on that score as well.”

In December 2016, a poll carried out by the National Centre for Social Research showed that 36 percent of SNP voters backed Brexit.

In a poll of 1,391 people between September 22 and October 24, the researchers also found that 36 of Labour voters backed Leave.

The researchers added that all parties with the exception of Ukip saw a “significant” proportion of their backers vote against their leaders’ advice.

In the wake of the Brexit referendum in 2016, in which Scotland voted to Remain by 62 percent, many expected a boost in support for independence as the only way of staying in the EU.

However, this did not materialise, with support for independence staying quite stable after the Brexit vote.

The first step for any country wishing to join the EU is to comply with a set of standards broadly set out in the ‘Copenhagen criteria’, which cover stable governance, democracy, protection for human rights, a market economy, and the ability to adhere to the EU’s political and economic aims.

All new members of the EU are formally required to work towards membership of the euro and to reduce budget deficits to 3 percent or less as part of the rules set out in the Maastricht Convergence Criteria.

If a member state does not comply with the convergence criteria rules on public deficits, the European Council has the option to enforce policies to reduce the deficit, known as the Excessive Deficit Procedure.

New member states can negotiate a transition period, however, as Croatia did after joining the bloc in 2013.

In August, figures released in the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (Gers) found that the Scottish deficit stands at 22.4 percent.

Spending increased by 21 percent during the year, reflecting the impact of the pandemic, while average public spending per person also rose to £1,828 above the UK average.

A deficit as high as this upon EU entry could result in Brussels making demands to try and stabilise the Scottish economy.

There are also concerns amongst unionists in Scotland that independence could be economically damaging for Scotland.

Mr Kerr added: “Independence would be economically devastating for Scotland, over 60 percent of everything we make ends up being sold in the UK.

“Ms Sturgeon would be intent on making a customs border at Berwick or Carlisle. It would be outrageous, it would impoverish Scotland.

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“Even their own growth commission, Andrew Wilson is one of their own MSPs, he did a report on the economic impact of independence which was buried by the SNP.”

Ms Sturgeon’s hopes of rejoining the EU could be boosted, however, after the Catalonian foreign minister suggested Scotland is receiving “special treatment” from Brussels.

Catalonia’s regional government accused Brussels of having “double standards” because it is deaf to the breakaway Spanish region’s calls for independence and offered it no support after its unconstitutional referendum in 2017.

Victoria Alsina, the foreign minister, said that if Scotland voted for independence and then rejoined the EU, the same should be offered to Catalonia.

She told The Telegraph: “What goes for Scotland must also go for Catalonia. If Europe is favourable towards Scotland having a referendum, it has to look favourably on Catalonia having a referendum.

“If Scotland were to vote in favour of independence and entered as a new member, this mechanism would have to be applied to Catalonia as well.”

She added: “It’s undeniable that Brexit has had an impact on Brussels’ relations with London, but this goes back further.”

The European Commission’s chief spokesman responded: “The constitutional order of the member states (and former member states) of the EU are internal matters for them. We never speculate on the accession of regions to the EU.”

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