SITREP | Scotland’s Place in Europe : Shape of Proposed EFTA Relationship

SITREP | Scotland’s Place in Europe : Shape of Proposed EFTA Relationship

By Anthony Salamone

SITREP | Scotland’s Place in Europe : Shape of Proposed EFTA Relationship

Image Attribute: Scotland’s Place in Europe, First Minister of Scotland, CC-BY-NC-2.0, Flickr

The Scottish Government’s long-awaited proposals on Scotland’s future relationship with the EU have finally arrived. Titled Scotland’s Place in Europe, the paper might have well instead been called Scotland’s Place in the Single Market. The phrase ‘European Single Market’ appears over 200 times in the 60-or-so pages. The focus of the paper is squarely in the Single Market, the Customs Union, and complementary policies. The emphasis on the Single Market is not surprising, but it worth keeping in mind that the EU is much more than that.

Beyond the prospect of an independent Scotland joining the EU (or, indeed, EFTA), the proposals only really suggest two options – that the UK remains in the Single Market (perhaps with the Customs Union) or, if not, that Scotland remains in the Single Market. Either way, it argues, Scotland should receive substantial new powers, amounting to a much more comprehensive devolution settlement.

Besides exploring the background and outlining the reasoning behind these three claims, the paper does not offer much in the way of specifics. In fairness, it makes clear that detailed work would need to follow (and the paper is more than we have seen to date from the UK government). Overall, it does not tell us much more than what we already knew. However, it does contain a few interesting points on the Scotland-in-Single-Market option which could become important over time.

First, the paper suggests that the question is not of allowing Scotland to join the Single Market, but not obliging it to leave the Single Market (Paragraph 119). The Scottish Government’s framing of the issue as a continuation of Scotland’s existing arrangements is reminiscent of the debate in the independence referendum on whether Scotland could continue as an EU member or would be required to join as a new state.

Second, the proposals contend that Scotland’s participation in EFTA, and then the EEA, could be achieved through a ‘sponsorship’ model – the UK would sponsor Scotland’s participation, presumably through nominally serving as the Member State (Para 136). It offers the example of the Faroe Islands, which has explored this option as part of the Kingdom of Denmark. However, this is not necessarily a precedent, as it hasn’t actually happened in practice.

Third, the document proposes that Scotland might achieve a place in the Single Market through becoming an ‘associate member’ of EFTA (Para 120). The specifics of this kind of arrangement would remain to be seen. Fourth, the paper states that Scotland’s financial contribution for participating in the Single Market would ideally come from ‘Scotland’s pro rata share of current UK contributions to the EU’ (Para 134) – it will be interesting to see what the UK government makes of that logic.

About the Author:

Anthony Salamone (@AMSalamone) is Ph.D. Candidate in Politics at the University of Edinburgh; Co-Convenor of the Edinburgh Europa Research Group; and Managing Editor of European Futures. His research focuses on the politics of the UK’s EU relations and he comments on UK-EU affairs on his blog, Britain’s Europe.

This article is an excerpt taken from an article which was originally published at European Futures under a Creative Commons (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International) License. It represents the view of the author(s) alone and not European Futures, the Edinburgh Europa Institute nor the University of Edinburgh.
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