Scotland's EU Terms Questioned

An independent Scotland would be accepted into the European Union (EU) but lose most of the "special arrangements'' currently enjoyed by the UK, according to a group of MPs.

Scotland may also have to spend an "interim period'' outside of the EU as talks with the rest of the UK and Europe would take longer than the 18-month period earmarked for negotiations, the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster has said.

In its latest report on the referendum the committee said an independent Scotland would "lose all or most of the special arrangements presently enjoyed as part of the UK'', which it listed as the budget rebate, an opt out from joining the Euro, large structural funds and Justice and Home Affairs opt outs.

The Scottish Government said the real threat to Scotland's membership of the EU is "Westminster's reaction to the rise of Ukip and the Prime Minister's promise of an in/out referendum''.

The committee also said that it was "inconceivable'' that an independent Scotland would be able to continue charging students from the rest of the UK to study at Scottish universities.

Committee chair Ian Davidson MP said: "It seems the Scottish Government has drastically under-estimated the time, complexity and cost of negotiating a new position in the EU, as well as the factors weighted against Scotland in any such negotiations.

"It is likely that a separate Scotland would have its application to join the EU accepted - but not on the timetable or terms that the Scottish Government wants. It is simply not credible that the Scottish Government would achieve the terms of entry that it seeks and especially not from the weakened position of its self-imposed deadline.

"The Scottish Government has not acknowledged the true scale of the difficulty it will encounter in seeking better terms than have been achieved by other recent applicants.

"The people of Scotland deserve to be told the truth about the costs and difficulties or re-joining the EU if Scotland votes to leave the UK - and thus the EU.''

The report comes as Scotland elected its European parliament representatives. Ukip won 10.4% of the vote in Scotland giving them their first ever Scottish seat, while the SNP and Labour kept their two seats each and the Tories held on to their single seat.

A spokeswoman for Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said: "This report entirely reflects the anti-independence position of the MPs who took part in this inquiry and looks particularly foolish coming out on the same day it became crystal clear that the threat to Scotland's membership is Westminster's reaction to the rise of Ukip and the Prime Minister's promise of an in/out referendum.

"Despite their hostility to the idea of an independent Scotland even these MPs have had to accept that an independent Scotland will be welcomed into the EU.

"With the UK's own legal expert describing the Scottish Government's 18 month timetable as realistic, a position supported by Graham Avery, honorary-director of the European Commission and with Labour's most senior MEP accepting that as a member Scotland could maintain a position outside of both the Euro and Schengen this report is out of date.

"The reality is that Scotland is an important part of the European Union and with the powers of independence Scotland will finally be able to speak for ourselves on issues such as farming, fisheries and opportunities to boost jobs to secure the right deal for Scottish industries.''