Nicola Sturgeon nightmare: Scotland won’t be given ‘special favours’ in plot to join EU

Scotland 'has no mandate for second referendum' says Carlaw

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The SNP head into Thursday’s crunch Scottish election with the debate around the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum dominating the party’s campaign. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she will press ahead with another national vote on the issue – provided her party can secure a majority in Holyrood. She is facing strong opposition from Boris Johnson, with the Prime Minister refusing to transfer the relevant powers for that to happen.

Scotland voted 62 percent to 38 percent against Brexit during the referendum of 2016, and the SNP leader has made no secret of her desire for the country to join the EU as an independent nation.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER), told The Independent a successful bid for EU membership in four to five years is a “best-case scenario”.

But she warned: “I don’t think there will be any special favours given to an independent Scotland.

“It won’t be accelerated. I think the EU will be seen to follow normal procedures.”

The Institute for Government think tank has estimated Scotland’s route back to EU membership could take up to 10 years to achieve.

Anthony Salamone, who runs the Edinburgh-based political analysis firm European Merchants, believes it could take up to three years for a divorce deal with the UK following a successful independence referendum result in 2023, and then possibly up to five years for Brussels to accept an application from Scotland.

He told The Independent: “The process would be very much about Scotland demonstrating it is ready to be a member state. It would take some time to set up the institutions of a state – a central bank and so on. It would depend how quickly and efficiently an independent government would be able and willing to transform itself.”

But Ms Sturgeon and the SNP have come under attack for not detailing a clear path for Scotland within the EU if a split from the UK did materialise, with experts pointing to several hurdles to overcome.

Currency has been a hot topic, with the European Commission and European Council keen on new members signing up to use the euro, a position they would unlikely move very far from.

This was an issue for the SNP during the unsuccessful referendum in 2014, and appetite for use of the single currency doesn’t seem to have improved.

A YouGov poll from last year revealed just 18 percent of Scots were in favour of switching to the euro, indicating there is still an extremely strong allegiance to the pound.

Financial experts have also repeatedly warned Scotland’s already high deficit could skyrocket following independence, with new EU members expected to cut budget deficits to just three percent or below.

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Dr Hughes warned: “The deficit is an issue.

“Scotland might not have to meet it (3 percent target) on day one, but the EU will be looking seriously at your plans to bring it down.

“There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.”

The political analysts have also warned Ms Sturgeon and the SNP an avoidance of not setting out a clear path for Scotland after independence and position back in the EU could backfire.

Edinburgh analyst Mr Salamone said: “SNP people seem surprised the debate is happening right now.

“I think it would be better to set out what you think sooner rather than later, because otherwise, the conversation is going to keep running without you.”

Dr Hughes added: “Voters do need to see the Scottish government and the SNP put out their own plan.

“I don’t think we should wait to have a debate during a six-week independence referendum campaign.

“It’s bizarre to stand apart from the debate – it’s an excess of caution.”

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