I never thought I would welcome the words of Jose Manuel Barroso, but he has now declared in his capacity as The European Commission President that not only would Scotland have to re-apply for membership of the EU but that a newly independent Scotland would be treated as a ‘third country’ – not a member state and not a member of the EU. Europe is skewering Alex Salmond and his claims that independence would be "easy" to organise.
The Scottish First Minister has long campaigned for Scottish separation under the slogan ‘independence in Europe’. One critic pointed out that he was justifying the departure from one Union, only to become a junior member of another. The main reason for the SNP’s vulnerability has been that no-one has really ever known how Scotland could leave an existing member state and automatically become another one in its own right – not without having to drop all the opt outs and advantages that the UK has squeezed out of Brussels over the decades.
Last week all that changed again as Barroso made the EU position crystal clear.
As a result, all existing agreements that the UK has secured – including an opt-out from the euro – would not apply to Scotland. This changed the debate in Scotland considerably and while it is true that no-one knows what form an independent Scotland’s EU membership would look like, nor whether it would be forced to take the euro or how long it would have to remain outside the EU it is clear that other member states will object to Scotland getting any opt outs. Scotland might end up with a very bad deal indeed, as well as having to spend some time stranded outside its most important market.
The independence argument is an idea built on limited foundations that are rocking badly. The membership problems I discuss above, but there remain other huge issues which Mr Salmond has no answer to - ranging from NATO, the Monarchy, Scottish bases / armed services, NHS pension liabilities, RBS, the English Pound and the Bank of England setting fiscal policy to name but a few.