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EU or UK? A false choice for Scotland.

Our national hero Billy Connolly took many by surprise by revealing he is considering supporting independence so that Scotland can remain in the EU.

Sir Billy always deserves to be listened to, and opinion polls suggest he is not alone.

But the SNP is playing a cynical game with voters, suggesting that independence would be an easy escape from Brexit. So what’s the truth?

The reality is that, as part of the UK, we are leaving the EU along with the rest of the country. It’s the UK which is the member state, and it was a UK-wide referendum which resulted in Brexit.

If Scotland does one day become independent, we could apply to join the EU – just like any independent nation in Europe can. But, it won’t be automatic.

In fact, given the membership rules, it could take years.

Each EU member must have a budget deficit of no more than 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) before they can join.

The latest official figures put Scotland’s deficit at a whopping 7.9 per cent – four times higher than the UK.

How do you get the deficit down? By both hiking taxes and slashing spending on already-stretched public services such as schools, roads and hospitals. It would be austerity on steroids.

But responsible budgeting isn’t the only rule.

All member countries must also commit to membership of the euro. While the UK and Denmark currently have opt-outs, and there is no strict time-frame for using it, an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to permanently keep the pound.

And, right from the off, a separate Scotland would be handing over financial independence to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, which would set monetary policy and interest rates.

Like any club, the existing members also have a say – and in the case of the EU, it needs to be unanimous. An independent Scotland should not expect an easy ride from Spain. While the Spanish government has said it wouldn’t exercise its veto, it would expect a separate Scotland to join the queue and meet the necessary criteria.

The whole process could take years.

So for those who want independence in order to maintain EU membership, it will be a long, painful wait with deeper austerity after leaving a Union that is worth four times as much to our economy.

Scottish exports to England, Wales and Northern Ireland were nearly £50 billion in 2015, compared to £12.3 billion to the EU internal market.

Asking people to choose between the EU or the UK is a false choice. Regardless of your views on Brexit, it isn’t worth walking away from our closest friends, allies and business partners in the rest of the UK.

1 Comment

Oct 23, 2018

The raw trade imbalance does not reflect the true chasm faced by Scotland. Growth of trade with the EU has been very small over the past 15 years. And EU controlled trade deals with rUK will be made to favour all 27 EU members not Scotland alone. Where will the Growth needed to close the fiscal gap come from?

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