Could Scotland stay in the EU if it votes to leave the UK?

Entry to the bloc is not as easy as simply winning a vote for independence

Pro-independence supporters in George Square in Glasgow after the result.

MSPs at the Scottish parliament voted this week to push for a second independence referendum, but if Scotland votes to leave the UK, can it still be part of the EU?

Can Scotland stay in the EU if it becomes independent?

Nobody knows for sure, but the consensus is no and an independent Scotland will have to reapply to join the EU as a new member state.That was the view of Jacqueline Minor, the European Commission's head of representation in the UK, reports The Guardian, although she did say that Holyrood might be able to fast-track its application because its laws would already accord with EU legislation.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

What is the Barroso doctrine?

Earlier this month, when asked about Nicola Sturgeon's call for a new vote on independence, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the Barroso doctrine "would apply, obviously", The Guardian reports. The doctrine dates back to 2012, when Jose Manuel Barroso, then European Commission president, wrote that a newly-independent state would have to join the queue to apply for membership of the EU.Barroso said: "For European Union purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent, it is a new state and has to negotiate with the EU."

Who else is on the list to join?

The EU is an exclusive club, with a waiting list of states which would like to be part of it. Official candidates at the moment include Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The big question is whether Scotland can skip the queue or would be required to prove its case like the other states.

What currency would Scotland use?

The ruling Scottish National Party has repeatedly rejected the idea of signing up to the euro as using a different currency from its biggest trading partner, England, could be a crippling handicap. However, the EU would almost certainly expect an independent Scotland to sign up to the single currency.

When could an independent Scotland join the EU?

Nobody knows, but using Nicola Sturgeon's timetable of a vote on independence in 2018 or 2019, it is hard to find an expert willing to suggest the country could become part of the EU sooner than 2022.The first delay would be opposition from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has said he does not want to see any new states join the bloc during his term in office, which ends in 2020.Former EU official Kirsty Hughes told The Guardian it would take at least three to four years for Scotland to join after becoming independent. Assuming a 2019 referendum, that would mean 2022 or 2023.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.