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Scotland’s future in the EU analysed by Scottish Government committee

A select committee of MSPs have released a document detailing the possible statuses Scotland could soon assume in the European Union (EU).

The European and External Relations Committee, made up of representatives from each party in Holyrood, consulted academics, economists, and research institutes in their research for the project, entitled ‘The EU referendum result and its implications for Scotland’.

Following the referendum decision on 23 June for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May elected to not trigger Article 50, which would trigger negotiations for Britain’s official withdrawal from the EU.

The decision taken to leave the EU on 23 June left negotiations “characterised by uncertainty”, according to the Scottish Government report which was published last week. 62 per cent of Scottish voters chose to stay in the EU.

Members of the committee, which was chaired by MSP Joan McAlpine from the Scottish National Party (SNP), discussed the implementation of Brexit in a Scotland where constituents voted overwhelmingly to remain.

Andrew Scott, Professor of Law at the University of Edinburgh, discussed replication of what he refers to as the “Greenland option”.

He told the committee that “any arrangement in which Scotland has an exceptional position, with the UK in its present structure, is difficult to conjure up. You asked how Scotland would be represented, and the Greenland option is somewhere in there.”

This refers to Greenland’s independence from Denmark in 1985, in which they withdrew from the European Economic Community (EEC). Greenland’s citizens had previously voted overwhelmingly against membership, however ties to Denmark meant membership was enforced.

Such a ‘reverse’ agreement would enable the withdrawal of England and Wales from the EU, as their voter population had chosen. Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar, where 96 per cent voted to remain in the EU, would retain their membership.

However, in an exclusive blog for the London School of Economics, Ulrik Pram Gad of the University of Aalborg, Copenhagen, warned that such a policy would leave “another problem on the table: namely the relationship [between] England and Wales [and] the EU and the single market.”

“Inspiration for this relationship would have to be found elsewhere, as there is little guidance that can be offered by the Greenland case.”

The Scottish Government committee also discussed the economic repercussions of a break with the European Union, refering to reports from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Fraser of Allander Institute from the University of Strathclyde.

It was found that Scottish international exports were primarily to countries in the EU, with £12 billion worth of trade going to the continent in 2014. The next largest recipient was North America, with just a third of that.

Both the SNP and the Scottish Greens have in the past weeks relaunched their campaigns for a second independence referendum, presenting another option for Scotland’s future as part of the EU.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has since received criticism for calling for a second referendum, as some experts have claimed that support for independence has remained static across Scotland.

Representatives from Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives have led the charge against another independence referendum.

Labour released a statement arguing instead for a focus “on improving our schools, hospitals and vital public services.”

However the First Minister has remained steadfast in her belief that a second independence referendum would be the best option for Scotland.

“Independence inside the EU will enable Scotland to play a full and constructive role in shaping a wide range of policies decided at EU level that impact directly on the people, and the economy, of Scotland,” Sturgeon said in a statement published alongside the committee’s report this week.

She continued; “An independent Scottish Government will, for the first time, be able to represent and defend Scotland’s national interests when EU legislative and policy proposals are being decided.
“This will lead to better outcomes for the people of Scotland.”

 

Image: MPD01605

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