After 300 years of common history Scotland wants to separate from the United Kingdom. Alex Salmond, the popular leader of the Scottish National party, has presented a 700 page White Paper on November 27 setting out the case; and in September 2014 the Scots will be invited to vote on their independence by way of referendum.
From a European perspective this is not a welcome development. Europe should not split up in small entities. With just five million inhabitants Scotland would be among the very small EU member states. Its secession would reinforce similar trends in Catalonia.
The Scottish leader has announced the intention of an independent Scotland staying within the EU, while maintaining the British Pound as its currency, rather incompatible options.
The small share of the oil and gas revenues (8%), equal to the demographic share being the main reason for the desire to quit the United Kingdom, the EU should beware of a proud country joining that seems unable to settle minor fiscal differences with England.
The EU should also avoid of being blinded by the importance of Scottish oil and gas reserves. These are presently the most important in Europe after those of Norway, but will be running out in the coming decades.
The EU Commission should therefore make it very clear to everybody in Scotland that if they were to decide their independence next Scotland will have to make a new application for membership and that membership will oblige Scotland and England to divide among their present voting rights and seats in EU institutions. Like all EU member states it will, of course, have to adopt the euro.
Such “warnings” might hopefully strengthen the majority in favour of remaining within the United Kingdom.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 27/11/2013