The impact of that Barroso letter
In the long argument over Scottish independence, the letter from Jose Manuel Barroso published this week will stand as a seminal moment. The SNP leadership is hastily seeking clarification, but the message from the President of the EU Commission is unequivocal – if Scotland leaves the UK, it will also cease to be a member of the EU, until such time as the EU’s 27 member states have accepted an application from the new Scottish government to rejoin.
Given the problems that Spain, for instance, has from separatist movements, agreement cannot be taken for granted. What Barroso has written about Scotland would apply equally to Catalonia.
What Barroso’s letter does not convey is the simmering fury of EU officials over the behaviour of Alex Salmond, who has repeatedly claimed that an independent Scotland would automatically stay in the EU. They have kept quiet until now to avoid being seen to interfere in an internal issue for the United Kingdom until they received a direct request for information from a committee of the House of Lords.
In Scotland, this issue is so sensitive that it has produced the peculiar spectacle of a newspaper apologising for being too quick to tell the truth. Last Thursday, The Scotsman carried a report by its correspondent, David Maddox, which accurately paraphrased Barroso’s letter. On Friday, after a furious reaction from the SNP, the Scotsman retracted, saying “We understand that Mr Barroso’s response has not yet been sent to the committee. We apologise sincerely for the error.” The Barroso letter arrived on Monday.
While the date on the letter is a detail of no great consequence, Alex Salmond’s repeated, false assertions that an independent Scotland would have automatic EU membership have huge implications. The Scotsman has nothing to be sorry for.
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