The Buchanan Institute, Edinburgh University’s student-led think tank, launched its first series of papers last Tuesday as part of a project highlighting the issues that would surround an independent Scotland’s relationship with the European Union.
The Buchanan Institute encourages students to actively engage with the policy-making process, by researching an area of government policy and conceiving of their own ideas for reform.
Staff at the University are available to assist students in the process as academic mentors.
The Buchanan Institute sends the proposals to the Scottish Parliament, where students’ research is reviewed and considered by the government.
The series of papers, entitled ‘An Independent Scotland and the EU’, analyses the legal and economic ramifications of a ‘Yes’ vote on Thursday September 18.
The study highlights the technical details of the potential negotiations with the European Union that would take place following independence.
The students’ research shows that it is feasible that Scotland could achieve EU membership, but that the debate is about how long it will take, and the legal pathways used.
The research was coordinated by Njord Gording and Walter Hawes, who recently graduated from the School of Political and Social Sciences.
The papers include contributions from undergraduates and postgraduates at the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Daniel Kealy, an Advisor to the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Affairs Committee served as the group’s academic mentor.
The research by students highlights the various legal and political impediments of gaining European Union membership, for which there is no historical precedent. The White Paper insists Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty would be used, where Scotland would be recognised as a separate independent state through a treaty amendment.
However, the report highlights the legal obstacles that are likely to be encountered using Article 49, whereby Scotland would have to reapply for membership of the European Union.
The Commissioner of the European Union, José Manuel Barroso, has made it clear that Scotland could only be part of the European Union through a new application as an independent country.
The students’ research explores variables that could affect the length of time taken for an independent Scotland to join the European Union, such as the use of the veto by countries like Spain.
Due to the presence of secessionist parties in Spain, the Spanish government may provide some opposition to Scottish independence, as it could possibly set a precedent which Catalonian independence parties may seize upon.
Defence and budgetary considerations following independence are also analysed in the series of papers.
At the launch, third year Economics student Dillon Zhou discussed how an independent Scotland’s capacity for trade with the European Union is unlikely to be hindered.
He also explained how an independent Scotland would be more likely to trade more with the EU and less with the rest of the UK.
The research acknowledges that if Scotland becomes independent, “it will be in the interest of other member states, the rest of the UK and the European Union Commission for Scotland to become a fully functioning member state as smoothly as possible”.
Speaking to The Student, Jonny Ross-Tatum, Director of the Buchanan Institute, said: “This our first of many publications. I am delighted that alongside our events and brainstorms, we produce concrete findings and proposals that aim to shape the public debate.”