Why Scotland Wants to Break Ties with UK for EU

Wednesday, 29 November 2023

Scotland is once again discussing independence and a return to the European Union. The government of the country has published the report Independent Scotland in the EU as part of the series of publications Building a Better Scotland.

The report consists of four parts. The first discusses the situation of EU and UK members, the second addresses Scotland's relations with the EU after the UK's exit, and the last two focus on the benefits of Scotland's EU membership for both sides.

Read more in the article by Oleh Pavliuk, European Pravda journalist, who discusses why the Scottish government is advocating for independence and EU accession – Return to Europe: Scotland Talks Again about Independence and EU Accession.

The first part serves as a comparative description of the European Union and the United Kingdom, answering the question: which union is better? The answer can be inferred immediately.

One of the key arguments of Scottish nationalists is quite straightforward. If the EU is a union of sovereign states deciding most issues by majority or consensus, the United Kingdom is a "one-way street," where Westminster can essentially block any decision made by the Scottish Parliament, even those approved by the monarch.

After Brexit, Scotland lost access to a market seven time larger than the British one and forfeited several advantages of participating in EU programmes, including scientific exchanges such as Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe, not to mention the complications in trade and interpersonal contacts.

The June report from the Scottish Audit Office even provides a specific estimate of these losses — three billion pounds annually.

While criticism of London is apparent, the report Independent Scotland in the EU also compares Scotland with current EU members. Surprisingly, Scotland would fit into the current European club, as almost half of its members (12 out of 27) have populations smaller or similar to Scotland.

The report even calculates that hypothetical Scottish MEPs could number around 14 — the same as in Denmark, Finland, and Slovakia.

A separate section of the report is dedicated to how Ireland benefited from European integration, considering its history as a former British Empire country. Ireland diversified trade, eliminated excessive dependence on the British market, and showed positive population growth dynamics.

How do the report authors envision the theoretical process of Eurointegration for their country? Very simply: first, independence, then, EU membership application; and finally, accession negotiations based on merits.

The report emphasises that Scotland has been part of the EU for almost half a century (as part of the United Kingdom), so it expects the negotiation process with the EU and aligning its legislation with European law to be fast.

Of course, it does not directly address the "elephant in the room." Specifically, how does Edinburgh actually plan to achieve independence from the United Kingdom?

Any referendum on independence requires Westminster's consent, which, is unlikely to be granted any time soon. The attempt by Scotland to organise such a referendum independently was blocked by the UK Supreme Court last year.

The Scottish National Party, then led by Nicola Sturgeon, mentioned that they would try to circumvent this limitation in a very straightforward way: in the next general elections, they would consider votes for them as votes in support of independence.

Even this approach may face problems now due to a financial scandal in the party, involving its former leader.

Ultimately, it seems highly likely that the Labour Party will win the next general elections in Scotland.

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