Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been contradicted by one of her Cabinet ministers over whether an independent Scotland would immediately apply to join the EU. Earlier this month, the SNP leader claimed Scotland would try and join the bloc right after achieving independence – without holding a separate referendum. In a surprising turn of events, though, Mike Russell, the Scottish Constitution Secretary, disputed Ms Sturgeon’s claims, insisting it would depend on the circumstances at the time whether to hold such a vote.
He also claimed it could be “desirable” to ask Scots about rejoining the EU.
Mr Russell, who is also SNP president, said his personal view was it was not necessary but “there are circumstances in which you could say it would be desirable.”
The Scottish Tories said the SNP’s mixed messages showed its EU policy was “shallow and unclear”.
It comes after Ms Sturgeon repeatedly failed to explain how a separate Scotland in the EU could avoid a hard border with England.
The First Minister argues that opinion polls showing strong support for being part of the EU mean a referendum on an independent Scotland joining would not be required.
Scots voted by a margin of 62 to 38 to Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
However, these surveys and the referendum were conducted in the context of Scotland being part of the UK, meaning the issue of a border with England did not arise.
Moreover, former SNP MP George Kerevan, who at the end of March defected to Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party, has recently claimed it does not make economic or political sense for an independent Scotland to rejoin the bloc.
Mr Kerevan, who is also a journalist and economist, argued that being in the EU would have nightmarish consequences, such as “crushed” wage rates.
He explained: “For a de-industrialised Scotland, successful reabsorption into the EU-German trading bloc would come at the price of becoming a tartan holiday Brigadoon and an underground CO2 storage depot.
“Wage rates would be crushed in order to remain competitive.
“Yet all the economic intervention levers needed for investment and development would be commandeered again by Brussels and Berlin.
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“The only alternative would be to contest with Luxembourg to be a financial haven for laundered money.
“This clearly does not make economic or political sense for an independent Scotland, though it might appeal to the bankers in Charlotte Square.”
Scots voted to stay in the EU less out of an understanding regarding the crisis overtaking the bloc, and more as a sign they were opposed to the libertarian, free-market project being pursued by Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the City Hedge Funds, Mr Kerevan added.
He concluded in his report for Brave New Europe: “Starting from the position of being outside the EU, it makes less sense for a newly independent Scotland to surrender its room for economic manoeuvre by putting itself under the tutelage of Berlin, the Bundesbank and the EU’s bureaucracy.
“Even if Robert Schuman is looking on from Heaven.
“The idea that we should enter such a faltering institution without even consulting the Scottish people, and on who knows what terms, makes less sense still.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Economics Professor at Edinburgh Napier University Piotr Jaworski claimed that even if Scotland applies to rejoin, it is very unlikely Brussels will allow it in.
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He said: “First of all, countries that have splitting tendencies, such as Spain or Belgium, will never agree.
“You then have got countries like Germany and France… and the question is, ‘Why should they want Scotland in?’
“I personally don’t know why.
“We don’t have a big economy, we would have problems almost like Greece, in terms of public deficit.
“Is it really in their interest to have another Greece?”
Dr Jaworski noted that Ms Sturgeon should find something to make Scotland more attractive in the eyes of Brussels.
He added: “The First Minister is trying… with talks about electricity and power.
“But do we have it now? Can we sell it? Who is going to invest it in this?
“We don’t even have money to invest in the buses…”
The annual government expenditure and revenue Scotland report (GERS) found Scotland’s fiscal deficit for 2019-20 was 8.6 percent of GDP, up from 7.4 percent the previous year.
It is not the first time Scotland has been compared to the Hellenic Republic.
In 2016, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) claimed breaking away, from the UK would turn Scotland into “Greece without the sun”.