THE SNP's case for independence was dealt a damaging blow last night when the European Commission and senior academics challenged the Nationalists' core assumption - that an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.As I write, there are 373 comments on this story on the Scotsman's website.
What it apparently boils down to is this: If Scotland decides to be independent, would what's left of the existing entity be deemed to be the continuing UK? I think that this is one of those "not-proven" situations, but read the Scotsman's comments.
We could argue like this. Great Britain was formed when the Scottish and English parliaments both ceased to exist in 1707 after the Treaty and Acts of Union. From then on there was one British parliament. (Wales had already been incorporated into England centuries earlier.) Similarly, in 1800 Ireland joined the union to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 part of Ireland became independent. So if Scotland became independent, what's left would be the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. On the other hand, we could claim that Wales was effectively part of England back in 1707 and the entity with which Ireland merged in 1800 was the 1707 union of Scotland and England. If either of the two "founding father" nations secedes, the whole union must be considered at an end and therefore all successor entities would equally have to apply to join the EU, the UN, NATO, or whatever.
There are legal opinions on both sides of the argument and I have no doubt that it would all come down to politics. Yes, Spain might want to veto Scottish entry so as not to encourage the Basques and Catalans (but Spain would no longer be able to harvest our fishing grounds!) If England, or England and Wales, or England Wales plus Northern Ireland were deemed to be the continuing UK, would they veto Scotland? Probably not, but we can hope! My view is that the EU is overwhelmingly a political construct. Its purpose is to create a super-power that would rival and then eclipse the US. Would the EU like Switzerland and Norway to join? Of course. Turkey? Perhaps not.
I think that it's inconceivable that the EU would somehow stop an independent Scotland from joining the club. It's not just the oil, the fresh water, the minerals and the renewable energy. What matters is that we're part of what the EU considers to be theirs.
Of course, if Alex Salmond could guarantee that we wouldn't be allowed to join the EU, the SNP would get my vote in May.