SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- Ben Riley-Smith/Telegraph: Both Spain and Belgium would block an independent Scotland’s application to join the European Union, a former president of the EU’s finance council has predicted.
Ruairi Quinn, an Irish politician, said the secessionist movements in both countries meant it was “highly probable” their parliaments would vote against Scotland joining.
He also predicted that the country would have to adopt the euro as the price for gaining full EU membership after a Yes vote.
The warning followed claims by Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, that an independent Scotland would end up using the euro because it is the “least bad” currency option.
The comments put Alex Salmond’s claims that Scotland would keep the pound and remain inside the EU after independence back in the spotlight ahead of tonight’s TV debate.
Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “That it is taking outsiders like Mr Quinn to tell Scots the truth on issues like the EU is testament to the deceit of the Nationalist campaign.”
In a separate development, one of the most senior authorities on EU law has undermined the SNP’s case for continuing to charge English students tuition fees for Scottish universities after independence.
Sir David Edward, a former judge at the European Court of Justice, said the policy outlined in the Scottish Government’s White Paper would be “incompatible with EU law and could not survive challenge in the Court of Justice”.
Sir David, regularly cited by as an expert by Mr Salmond, also said the SNP’s argument on the issue “appears to be shot through with confusion, inconsistency and irrelevance”.
It has been suggested that continuing to charge English students after independence while other EU nationals studied for free would be discrimination.
Mr Quinn, a Labour politician in Ireland, was president of the EU’s Ecofin Council in 1996 when finance ministers decided on the economic criteria for member states joining the new euro currency.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Quinn said all EU members would have to vote on Scotland’s membership in their national parliaments, adding: “In my opinion, it is highly probable that at least two member states, maybe more, will vote no.”
Mr Quinn said that Spain “will not want to create the precedent” of a region “deciding to leave and join the EU in their own right” given the secessionist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
He added that Belgium is “extremely worried … a Scottish precedent would really encourage the now very rich region of Flanders to secede from the Kingdom”, adding: “This would impoverish Belgium.”
Presuming all countries did approve membership, Mr Quinn said that Scotland would be “legally obliged” to join the euro if it met the correct economic conditions.
Mr Balls, who alongside the chancellor and the chief secretary to the Treasury has ruled out sharing the pound with an independent Scotland, made a similar prediction over the weekend.
“I fear that an independent Scotland would end up finding that joining the euro would be the least worst of all the bad options,” he told the Observer.
“It’s not what I would choose for Scotland. And I am not surprised at all that Alex Salmond doesn’t want to admit it now, but joining the euro would likely be his only realistic plan B.”
In a separate development, a new poll found almost three quarters of Scots aged over 60 are concerned about how pensions would be funded after independence.
The Survation survey of more than 1,000 voters found that 24 per cent most trusted Alistair Darling on pensions, while just 12 per cent most trusted Mr Salmond.
Mr Alexander, speaking for Better Together, called Mr Quinn a “highly respected figure in European politics” whose views “cannot simply be ignored” by Nationalists.
“Mr Salmond can’t hide any longer. He has one last chance to set the record straight in tonight’s TV debate. If he fails he will go down as the man who tried to bluff Scotland but got found out,” Mr Alexander said.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: ‘Mr Quinn will be aware that one of the entry criteria is membership of the exchange rate mechanism for two years – which is itself voluntary – so no country can be forced to join the euro against its will, as the example of Sweden makes abundantly clear. An independent Scotland’s currency will be the pound.”
He added: “Scotland has been part of the EU for more than 40 years, and this is clearly in the interests of all member states.”