SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER Alex Salmond said today that the European Union would find a way to keep Scotland in the bloc should it vote for independence from the UK.
He also claimed Edinburgh could assume no share of the United Kingdom’s national debt if London, as planned, snubbed a formal currency union with an newly-independent Scotland.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso warned yesterday that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the EU.
But in a speech to business leaders in the oil city of Aberdeen on the Scottish east coast, Salmond rebuffed that claim:
A European Union which has admitted so many countries from all points of the European compass will find a pragmatic way to accommodate the expression of democratic will from Scotland.
The decision is one for member states, but not to recognise the democratic will of Scotland would run counter to the entire European ideal of democratic expression and inclusion.
“It would pose a challenge to the integrity of the European Union even greater and more fundamental than the threat of British withdrawal. That is why no member state has suggested that it would seek to block Scottish membership,” he added.
The 18 September referendum will ask voters: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, gives a speech in Edinburgh, Scotland, about the forthcoming independence referendum. (Pic: Scott Heppell/PA Wire)
In a speech in Edinburgh last week, UK finance minister George Osborne ruled out a formal currency union with an independent Scotland.
“If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound,” he said.
The chancellor said there was “no legal reason” why the remainder of the UK would have to share the pound with Scotland.
Hitting back, the pro-independence Salmond, who wants to retain the pound sterling and the Bank of England as a shared central bank, said there was an “obvious” flaw in Osborne’s approach.
“If there is no legal basis for Scotland having a share of the public asset of the Bank of England then there is equally no legal basis for Scotland accepting a share of the public liability of the national debt,” he said.
“We are willing, despite the legal position, to accept a share of liabilities but on the basis that there is also a share of the assets, one of which, of course, is the Bank of England.”
Salmond said his devolved administration’s position was based not just in law but also on “goodwill”.
He said London would change its tune on a formal currency union if Scotland voted for independence.
“In the event of a Yes vote, the campaigning will stop and the common sense agreements will start,” he said.