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Referendum 2014

Joanna Impey, StrasbourgOctober 30, 2012

The people of Scotland go to the polls in 2014 to decide whether the country should remain part of the United Kingdom. But if Scotland were to become independent, what role would they play in Europe?

Scottish Saltire flag
Image: AP

DW: What are the chances that an independent Scotland would still be a member of the European Union?

Alyn Smith: This has never been done before. But the EU is a pragmatic organization. And the people who deal with enlargement in the European Commission have dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall; they've dealt with the collapse of communism, the collapse of Yugoslavia; they've dealt with bigger stuff than Scotland making a democratic decision. We are part of the EU right now, we are represented in the European Parliament, we are all European citizens, and we want to remain within the EU.

Would Scotland go the whole way and join the eurozone?

That's an aspiration. The policy of the National Party is that we do see Scotland's future in the euro at some point. That needs to be done at the right time, at the right exchange rate, and the people of Scotland would need to say 'yes' in the referendum. Now, all three of those criteria, we are light years away from at the moment, because sterling is so much in flux against the euro, the euro is so much in flux anyway, and the EU is evolving, so we want to see us join at the right time... We're not there yet, so as a holding pattern we stay with sterling for as long as it suits us.

Why do you favor Scottish independence?

It's a million different reasons. Depending on who you speak to within the national party, you'll get a different answer. My personal motivation is that Scotland is an historic European state. We're presently being represented in a way that is not fitting with what we need or want. Scotland is more left-leaning, that's clear. You look at the electoral patterns of Scotland we're a social-democratic, ecological state - the first green parliamentarians who were elected in the United Kingdom were elected in Scotland. We have a different, progressive way of looking at things. Within the referendum, we're extending the age of voting to 16, because 16-year-olds should just be allowed to vote. We were the first part of the UK to ban smoking indoors, we're just about to introduce equal marriage for all people, we're just a more progressive, ecological, Nordic country. Presently our UK government doesn't reflect that.

Alyn Smith, Photo: Wolf von Dewitz, dpa
Alyn Smith is a member of the EuropeanImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Is there any danger that there might be a gap between a 'yes' vote on independence and full EU membership of Scotland?

The timescale is that there will be after a 'yes' vote, roughly eighteen months of negotiations between Edinburgh and London. Parallel to that the European Commission will take due note of what's being decided, because there are implications for both sides. And then everything takes effect at once. So we think that with a cordial spirit of negotiations and the Edinburgh Agreement has made very clear that both governments will work constructively, whatever the outcome of the democratic vote is.

Do you feel a lot of responsibility that Scotland could maybe trigger a kind of snowball effect for other European regions seeking independence?

No, I don't see that happening. Scotland's historical situation is completely different to anywhere else. We've been an independent state longer than we've been part of the United Kingdom. We've only been part of the United Kingdom in relatively recent times, since 1707. So this is us going back to our historical status. No other place has that. We're entirely sui generis legally, we do not create a precedent for anywhere else at all.

But others see it differently - the people of Catalonia, Flanders and elsewhere are following this debate quite closely.

I know they are, but they do so in vain. And if they're looking for direct parallels between their situation and ours, they're not going to find them. I have spent a lot of time in various other places - in Copenhagen looking at how they do European scrutiny, in Oslo seeing how the EEA agreement works, in Catalonia seeing what the legal situation is. It's just not the same. And if they're looking to make parallels, it's because they've got domestic problems that they're trying to use us to fix. And we're just not playing that game.

Alyn Smith is an MEP and member of the Scottish National Party.