Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations and author of a new report, explains some of the challenges and opportunities facing Edinburghby Alice Wright / March 27, 2020 / Leave a comment
Politics as we have come to know it may be taking a hiatus, but it has not ceased completely. Scottish independence rocketed back up the agenda in the wake of the Brexit vote and debate will continue over the merits and drawbacks. One fundamental question is how an independent Scotland would join the European Union. Here, Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations, answers some questions about its new report, “An Independent Scotland in the EU: Issues for Accession.” With contributions from 15 authors, from academics to ex-civil servants, lawyers to journalists and economists, the main impetus is that a constitutionally independent Scotland would be eligible to join the EU over a period of four-five years. When I spoke to her over the phone, Hughes answered questions about currency, fishing, a unilateral referendum and of course, how she foresees the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the future of the independence debate.
The report states that Scotland would have to commit to the euro. Is this new and is the SNP likely to want that?
It’s not new for the EU or candidate countries to join, but the SNP policy on currency has changed. That is no longer to stick permanently with the pound, which was the policy for the referendum in 2014. Its current policy, which was also set out by the Growth Commission for Nicola Sturgeon, says that Scotland would use the pound even without the UK’s permission—this is called “sterlingisation”—and that it would then move to a Scottish currency as soon as was economically wise. There is an awareness in the SNP that to join the EU, if Scotland had a large fiscal deficit, that would have to be reduced.
There is also a recognition by the SNP that if you are joining the EU, there are no opt-outs from the euro. However, even though technically they would be committed, as David Gow suggests in his chapter, they may not actually have to join the single currency. Scotland could “do a Sweden,” which makes sure it never quite reaches the criteria. But the Scottish government won’t want to go on about that too much, as Brussels could well tell them to go off and join Norway outside the EU but in the European Economic Area. So you have to watch who…