top of page

Pamela Nash: Ten Questions Scot Gov must answer on the EU

It is straight from the SNP playbook to respond to public scrutiny by trying to shift the political debate back to the party’s pet subject. And the nationalists are playing the same tune once again this week.

There is chaos in A&E departments with the worst weekly statistics since January, education reforms have been kicked into the long grass, there is a record level of foodbank use in Scotland, a complete lack of transparency with the Covid inquiry, and an £11,000 iPad bill for the Health Secretary when he was on holiday.

So what does the Scottish Government do? It produces another taxpayer-funded document as part of the SNP’s campaign to leave the UK.

Yes, amid a catastrophic NHS crisis and just weeks out from the budget, civil servants have again been told to focus on the nationalists’ obsession with dividing the people of Scotland.

What a scandalous waste of public resources.

The latest instalment in this fantasy series is about EU membership for a separate Scotland.

The SNP does not have a monopoly when it comes to disappointment about Brexit – and it should never be forgotten how little the party spent across Scotland on actually campaigning to remain in the EU (just £90,830, less than it has on by-election defeats).

But, whatever you think of Brexit, the idea that a quick re-entry is possible is fanciful.

Firstly, the majority of people in Scotland do not want to leave the UK, as poll after poll confirms. And they certainly don’t want another divisive referendum any time soon.

And even if Scotland did separate, the path to becoming an EU member state is nowhere near as simple as the SNP would have you believe.

The procedure is well defined and there are no shortcuts.

The argument made in 2014 about being a ‘continued’ member – flimsy even then – is no longer relevant post-Brexit, so Scotland would follow the same EU accession process as any other country. There are no opt-outs, whatever the SNP might allege.

A separate Scotland would then need to demonstrate that its laws, policies and practice would comply with what is known as the ‘acquis’ at accession and set out how it would meet the EU’s fiscal rules.

Should, somehow, a path be found through all the expensive, lengthy and somewhat paradoxical negotiations with EU officials, ultimately a single country can then still veto the whole thing.

It is well known that Spain, among others, has reservations about nationalist breakaway states.

So there is not even a remote guarantee of success.

For the SNP government’s paper to begin to be seen as credible, it must answer the following questions:

1. Would there be a referendum on joining the EU?

2. How many years would it take from the point of separation to the point of accession?

Experts say four-to-five years after independence would be a reasonable estimate should membership ultimately be achieved – and the incredibly complex negotiations to leave the United Kingdom and tear up centuries of partnership would have to be concluded first. We could be looking at an expensive decade of chaos.

3. Would a separate Scotland make the required commitment to join the euro in good faith and, if so, how long would it use the pound and how long would it then use a separate Scottish currency before joining the euro, and what impact would these changes have on mortgages and pensions?

It is also a requirement that a member state has its own currency, so not the UK pound, and then adopting the euro later. That means three different currencies for the people of Scotland during a period of intense constitutional upheaval – just imagine how the markets will react to that, and what that would mean for pensions and mortgages.

4. If Scotland secured the agreement of Ireland and the remainder of the UK to join the Common Travel Area (CTA), would it agree not to diverge significantly on immigration policy?

5. It would not be possible for a separate Scotland to be part of both the CTA and the Schengen borderless zone. Would Scotland seek an opt-out from the Schengen borderless zone and how would it convince EU institutions to legislate for this?

6. If Scotland is not granted an opt-out from the Schengen borderless zone, would Scotland proceed with an application to the EU given a hard border would then need to be established between Scotland and England?

The Schengen borderless zone allows free travel within. As the rest of the UK is not part of the zone, it would not be possible to be part of both the CTA and Schengen zone, and the EU has stopped giving opt-outs to EU applicant countries from the Schengen zone. This would necessitate a hard border between Scotland and England.

In the event of a separate Scotland managing to negotiate an opt-out, this would come at a cost.

And joining the CTA comes with a requirement for alignment on immigration – so that would make the SNP’s stated aim to increase inward migration extremely difficult.

7. How would Scotland construct the required border controls on goods, and what impact would leaving the UK internal market have on Scottish businesses given the rest of the UK is by far our largest trading partner (60 per cent of trade)?

Given the SNP has made it clear that it wants to bring back the free movement of EU citizens, you can’t have that without border controls with non-EU countries such as the UK


So a separate Scotland would be looking at a goods border with our nearest neighbour (an absolute requirement, causing chaos for exporters), and would also need to explain how it would prevent EU citizens simply heading south to England.

Is this nationalist government really going to say that the cost, the chaos and the implications of a border would be worth it?

8. What would be Scotland’s budget contribution to the EU?

9. How would Scotland go about planning to reduce its deficit to the required three per cent of GDP given it currently stands at nine per cent?

This requirement is part of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact, a necessity for applicant members, and could only be met by putting in place serious public spending constraints over time – putting already critically stretched services like the NHS and schools at terminal huge risk - and increasing taxes, which will simply be unaffordable.

10. What would be the impact on the fishing industry of a separate Scotland handing some control over its waters to the EU and joining the Common Fisheries Policy?

If the Scottish Government’s latest paper is to withstand the slightest scrutiny, it will address all of these challenges and many more.


But the SNP does not have a track record of being honest with voters, so I fear it will simply resort to unfounded assertions instead.

That does a disservice to public debate.

The SNP may not like the fact that most Scots do not agree with its divisive dream of separation, but that is no excuse for making up fanciful claims in a desperate attempt to shift voters’ attitudes.

The forthcoming paper is the seventh since the nationalists embarked on their latest independence strategy.

Unless there is going to be some genuine honesty with the people of Scotland, it should be the last.

It’s time for the people’s priorities – not the SNP’s.


bottom of page