The Scottish Government has produced its much-anticipated White Paper setting out the case for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. In over six hundred pages, Scotland’s Future sets out the implications of independence across a spectrum of policy areas, including an independent Scotland’s relationship with the European Union. The core of the argument that is presented by the Scottish Government is for continuity of Scottish membership of the EU. Indeed, the spectre of a UK withdrawal from the EU gives added impetus to the case that is made not just for Scottish membership of the EU but for independence itself.
The White Paper is not a neutral expert analysis of the costs and benefits of Scottish independence. Rather it is a political and constitutional manifesto of the incumbent political party – the Scottish National Party – exercising power under the existing devolution settlement. Its aim is to provide greater clarity on the implications, and apparent benefits, of Scottish independence. Yet, in its analysis of an independent Scotland’s relationship with the EU, the White Paper lacks clarity and candour in three important respects:
- Why is it right to hold a referendum on independence and not to have a referendum on whether an independent Scotland should be inside or outside the EU?
- Why is it better to seek EU membership through a renegotiation of the treaties rather than through the normal accession process?
- Is it self evident that a small state has greater European influence if independent compared to seeking influence via a larger state of which it is a constituent part? Continue reading