Nicola Sturgeon 'regurgitated SNP pledges' says Wells
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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is determined to hold a second referendum on independence as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is over, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson firmly resisting the pressure. The Scottish National Party (SNP)’s goal is for Scotland to leave the UK and Ms Sturgeon has also called for the nation to then rejoin the EU. Over the last few years, though, there have been conflicting claims regarding the country’s accession to the bloc.
An independent Scotland would now border a non-EU country, likely requiring infrastructure and border checks between regions whose communities are deeply intertwined – similar to the problem of the Irish border that severely complicated Brexit talks.
Scotland could also be rejected by Brussels due to its current deficit of seven percent of GDP, unless it adopted a strict austerity programme from the EU as well as potentially adopting the euro.
Moreover, new members can only be allowed into the EU through a unanimous vote from the existing member states and according to unearthed reports, the bloc’s national governments did not even want to hold bilateral talks with the SNP about protecting Scotland’s status in the bloc after the 2016 EU referendum.
In a 2016 report by The Telegraph, the publication’s Scottish political editor Simon Johnson recalled how Ms Sturgeon visited Brussels a few days after the majority of Britons voted to leave the bloc.
The First Minister met up with then-President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, but EU member states and the former President of the EU Council Donald Tusk refused to engage in talks with her.
The German Government told the Glasgow Herald this was an “internal” British issue and declined to comment further when asked if it would engage directly with the Scottish Government.
Denmark said its minister for foreign affairs “will not intervene in the internal UK discussions following the referendum last week”.
The Czech Government said it was “premature to address the question of an independent Scotland and its relation to the EU”.
The Estonian Foreign Affairs Ministry did not wish to engage in “speculation” but its Slovakian counterpart opened the door to bilateral talks, saying it appreciated Scotland’s pro-EU attitude.
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Ms Sturgeon’s Brussels visit marked the start of a public relations blitz on the European stage, as the First Minister wanted to carve out her own foreign policy based on Scotland having made a “different choice” from the UK in the referendum.
However, the refusal by Mr Tusk and member states, especially Germany, to stage bilateral talks was particularly significant as all member states have to unanimously agree to any special deal for Scotland or its accession to the bloc.
The European Council comprises the heads of all the member states and Mr Tusk declined her overtures by arguing that a meeting would be “not appropriate” given the “situation in the UK”.
Several central and eastern European states were also reportedly concerned that meeting Ms Sturgeon would encourage other separatist movements.
For example, Spain is struggling with secession demands from Catalonia, so may be unlikely to support a newly independent state.
It was indeed Spain who, ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, crushed former First Minister Alex Salmond’s hopes for a smooth EU transition.
The ex-Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy told his government in 2013 that he believed an independent Scotland could only apply to join the EU from outside the organisation as a new state, as he warned against regions of Europe embarking on “solo adventures in an uncertain future”.
While Mr Rajoy’s government was facing an election in late 2015, before Scotland formally sought to become independent, the Spanish politician’s words were seen as an effective veto on immediate Scottish entry to the EU.
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Speaking at a joint press conference with former French president, François Hollande, Mr Rajoy said: “It’s very clear to me, as it is for everybody else in the world, that a country that would obtain independence from the EU would remain out of the EU, and that is good for Scottish citizens to know and for all EU citizens to know.”
Mr Rajoy said EU treaties “apply only to member states that have agreed and ratified them, and if a part of one member state cleaves from the member state, it converts itself into a third part with relation to the EU”.
He added: “That is the law and that law applies.
“In no way does it benefit our European regions and our citizens to propose divisions or solo adventures in an uncertain future in which the exit points may seem clear but the destination is unknown.”
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