EDINBURGH Feb 21 Britain's Secretary of State
for Scotland will tell the Scottish parliament on Wednesday that
Scotland is leaving the EU whether or not it becomes
The comments by David Mundell are bound to raise hackles
with the pro-independence devolved Scottish government as talk
of a new referendum on splitting from the United Kingdom swirls.
A majority of Scots voted to stay in the European Union in
last June's Brexit referendum but Britain as a whole will
nevertheless quit the EU due to the weight of the pro-leave vote
in more populous England.
The Scottish government says that means Scotland should have
a choice on a future without the United Kingdom.
Although the independence movement lost a referendum in
September 2014, the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) says
that a second independence referendum is warranted as Brexit
means circumstances have significantly changed.
But Mundell will say: "The Scottish government are in
exactly the same position they were in before the 2014
referendum - arguing for an independent Scotland that would face
an uncertain process applying to join the EU as a new member
"There is no set of circumstances in which Scotland could
remain a member of the EU after the rest of the UK has left," he
will say, according to an advance copy of his speech.
Mundell is the only member of the British parliament from
the ruling Conservative Party to hold a seat in Scotland.
In response to his comments, a Scottish government
spokesperson said: "Scotland faces being dragged out of Europe
against its will by a Tory (Conservative) government with just
one MP out of 59 in Scotland, but that MP – David Mundell –
seems totally oblivious to the irony of him seeking to lay down
the law on what should happen next."
The devolved government in Edinburgh has proposed that
Scotland be able to retain at least membership of the EU's
single market once Britain leaves.
But it accepts that the EU will not negotiate with it
directly. And the British government has given no sign it is
ready to seek special deals from Brussels for Scotland.
The notion that Scotland could somehow secede and negotiate
its own independent membership of the EU to start by the time
the rest of the United Kingdom leaves the bloc in early 2019 is
dismissed as far-fetched by British and EU officials.
European Union leaders refuse to be drawn on hypothetical
questions of whether a future independent Scotland would be let
in and how long that would take. Fears of encouraging the
break-up of other members, such as Spain or Belgium, meant the
EU maintained a chilly distance from the Scots' 2014 secession
However, Scots' strong vote in favour of remaining despite
the Brexit vote in England has generated sympathy, EU diplomats
say. As long as Scotland avoided a unilateral or disputed
secession, Spain and others would find it difficult to argue it
should be uniquely and indefinitely barred from joining the EU.
The EU treaty says "any European state" may apply. "There's
no question we would welcome Scotland very warmly, and pretty
quickly, once it became independent," a senior EU diplomat said.
How long that might take is unclear. As part of the EU now,
Scotland broadly meets all the membership criteria, for example
on democracy. While a troubled country like Serbia is still
negotiating its accession after seven years, members like Sweden
joined in the 1990s within two years of applying.
However, the changes inherent in becoming an independent
state would raise uncertainties about Scotland's institutions
and its economy, which could prolong the accession process.
In any case, the timing of a new bid for secession is
unclear. Earlier this month a poll suggested support for
Scottish secession has risen to 49 percent from 45 percent, the
same level as in the 2014 independence referendum.
(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary in Edinburgh and Alastair
Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Angus MacSwan)