The SNP’s plan for separation is a job creation scheme for constitutional lawyers, argues CATHERINE STIHLER


The change in SNP rhetoric from claiming that Scotland would automatically gain EU membership on day one of independence to accepting that there would require to be a negotiation is a clear U-turn on their original position.

Now they are talking about red lines for any negotiation: keeping the pound, keeping Scotland’s share of the rebate, opting out of Schengen, saying no to the fiscal pact and the list goes on. For a party who rejected the Lisbon Treaty over fisheries, what will they do even with the reformed CFP policy? No country in the history of negotiations in the EU has succeeded in obtaining 100 per cent of their objectives.

So with these red lines the SNP will march off to Brussels the day after independence to negotiate. Meanwhile they will also be marching to London the day after independence to negotiate the terms of Scotland’s break-up from the United Kingdom too. I hadn’t realised that the SNP were setting up a job creation scheme for constitutional lawyers. Which Ministers are going to go where? The concept that Scotland would be negotiating membership of the EU from within the EU is challenged by the UK’s own legal advice on the issue which is now in the public domain. Where is the equivalent Scottish Government’s legal advice?

If we accept the official published legal advice of the UK Government that if Scotland became independent it would  no longer be a member of the EU and have to apply as a new member state then it would not just be Brussels and London Scottish Ministers would be flying to, it would be the twenty six capital cities (let’s, for numbers sake, assume that the ministers in London and Brussels can hold parallel talks) as the 28 member states and their parliaments will all have to approve Scotland’s membership. From my basic calculations there are not enough Scottish Government ministers, never mind teams of ministers, who would be able to conduct these negotiations and there is also the small subject of governing Scotland whilst these talks are being conducted. To top it all, the SNP have said they can do all of this within 18 months. Iceland started their negotiation in 2010 and they are still no closer to joining.

Unless, in addition to their sideline in creating jobs for constitutional lawyers, the SNP are also running a sideline in jobs for diplomats, a job growth area in Scotland would also appear in the diplomatic service. Not even the most adept, talented mutlilingual diplomatic service in the world could turn this around in the timescale suggested. And then there is the small question of membership of the UN, WTO, NATO, ILO and the other international organisations which an independent Scotland would have to join. Meanwhile the people of Scotland are facing uncertainty at their workplaces, jobs threatened, people made redundant, public services cut and family incomes being eaten away when the cost of food and fuel goes up. Whilst the number of food banks increases, why are we wasting valuable resources on a nationalist obsession which brings no real tangible benefit to the day-to-day lives of Scottish people?

The positive choice come the referendum is voting for Scotland to remain firmly part of the United Kingdom – a positive “no”. The choice is yours.

Catherine Stihler is a Scottish Labour Member of the European Parliament. Follow her on Twitter at @c_stihler_MEP.