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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Scotland can legally negotiate a continuation of its current membership from within the European Union following a Yes vote, an EC official has confirmed.
 
Mario-Paulo Tenreiro, who is responsible for institutional questions at the Secretariat General of the European Commission has said it would be "legally possible" for such negotiations to take place whilst Scotland remained an EU member.

The official was responding to a direct question from a member of the public, who asked: "Does the President agree with me that, given Scotland is already in the EU and therefore meets criteria for membership, an independent Scotland would be able to negotiate its terms of membership of the European Union within the European Union?"

In a letter of reply, Mr Tenreiro said that whilst a change of treaties would be required - needing the approval of other members - that: "…as you say, it would of course be legally possible to re-negotiate the situation of UK and Scotland within the EU."

Official confirmation that there is no legal bar to negotiations taking place after a Yes vote will be seen as a significant blow to opponents of independence who have claimed that a Yes vote would see Scotland thrown out of the EU and having to re-apply.

Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore claimed that an independent Scotland would find herself outside the EU having to negotiate its way back in. 

Better Together head Alistair Darling claimed that any application for EU membership could see Scotland waiting up to nine years before being allowed back in to the EU.  Speaking in February this year, the Labour MP - who leads the anti-independence alliance Better Together - said that an independent Scotland, "would face a lengthy application process to the EU."

The EC Official's response supports the conclusions of the Law Society of Scotland which, in August, published a report that also concluded that Scotland's membership of the European Union would encounter no legal barriers

The legal paper pointed out that Scotland already complies with EU treaties and acquis and therefore qualifies "in legal terms for EU membership in its own right." and added that "Scotland would have the capacity to be recognised as an independent state".

In July, leading academics and politicians from Denmark insisted that a newly independent Scotland would encounter no problems continuing its membership of the European Union.  MP Rasmus Helveg Petersen said Scotland would find the process of acquiring its own membership "fairly quick" and a "mere formality".

The Danish government official said: "It would be very clear [...] it could happen overnight."

The spokesman on foreign affairs for the Denmark's Social Liberals added:  "The criteria is very objective, Scotland would qualify.  If Scotland wants it, yes.  It would be a mere formality."

Earlier this year the Scottish Government published a list of 30 countries that have become independent since 1960, with an average of only 15 months from the referendum date to full independence.  The Scottish Government has set a timetable of twenty months within which it says EU membership can be negotiated.

[Details of this story, along with a copy of the letter with the recipient's name removed, was sent to BBC Good Morning Scotland late last night.] 

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