Independent Scotland in EU 'not as easy as Salmond thinks'

Video transcript:

How will an independent Scotland fit in with the EU?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

At first sight I think there will be no big problem. The European Union is made up of small states and large states, and I think an independent Scotland will certainly meet the accession criteria for new membership, which is mainly that you have to be a democracy, you have to adhere to the rule of law and have to have a market economy.

But if you look closer there are big problems and uncertainties with this kind of succession, economically, legally and politically.

The biggest uncertainty has to do with currency and public debt of an independent Scotland. It seems that Scotland will not be able to keep the pound, and will not be able to form something like a Sterling currency union, and that means that Scotland will have to create its own currency first, and then perhaps introduce the euro.

This will take a long time, and during that time it will be very hard to convince the financial markets that this is a viable construction.

We have already seen some capital flight from London, and with independence there might possibly be a bank run and Scotland will lose much of its banking business.

Also, Scotland will start with probably a public debt of around 90 per cent and a budget deficit of around six per cent, so this already makes it very difficult to apply for becoming a member of the eurozone.

Scotland would first have to show that it is able to bring its own budget in order before it can join the Eurozone.

The second point is that an independent Scotland will no longer be a member of the European Union, it would have to reapply.

And this is not as easy as Alex Salmond thinks, because first Scotland would have to become an independent state. And that involves rather long, tricky constitutional issues and a long divorce negotiation with the rest of the UK. And only then as an independent state can Scotland apply for membership of the European Union.

And even then it is unlikely that Scotland will be able to keep the opt-outs and the rebate that the United Kingdom now enjoys. And certainly many European member states will try to make it as difficult as possible for an independent Scotland to join the European Union because they have similar problems in their own countries with their own regions wanting to become independent.

What will the knock-on effect be for other regions in the EU that are seeking secession? And how will this impact on the EU?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

I think at first it will certainly encourage the secessionists, certainly Spain with the Basque region and Catalonia, but also in Belgium with the Flanders region, and perhaps even Italy where southern regions might want to become independent, and in the long run perhaps even France with Corsica and Brittany.

On the other side, if this process of Scotland becoming independent and joining the EU becomes as messy and complex as it is quite likely, Scotland could also provide a rather daunting example.

So it could make these separatists think twice, if this is worthwhile.

But in the long run, I think the overall structure of the European Union will become more confusing and more complex because we have these two processes at the same time: regionalisation, more autonomous regions and perhaps even states on the one side, and also more centralisation with more and more policies being done in Brussels, so we are living in interesting times, certainly.

  • On referendum day, September 18, 2014, voters across Scotland will vote on the Yes/No question: 'Should Scotland be an independent country?'
  • Everyone over the age of 16 who lives in Scotland is eligible to vote.
  • Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond says the 300-year-old Union is no longer fit for purpose and that an independent Scotland, aided by its oil wealth, would be one of the world's richest countries.
  • If Scotland votes for independence it will not leave the union until 2016.
  • Scotland would keep the Queen as head of state under current plans.