Scotland's continued membership of the EU is currently threatened by our remaining within the UK. The antics of the more reactionary elements of the Tory party mean that an in/out referendum for the UK is becoming increasingly likely. Scotland's continued membership of the UK brings great uncertainty to our membership of the EU, with all the repercussions for our citizens and economy that that entails.
By contrast, a Yes vote in September will ensure that Scotland's EU membership continues, and our experience will be considerably enhanced when we acquire the rights and powers which normal independent member states enjoy. At the moment we have six MEPs in contrast to the 13 allocated to similarly sized independent nations; likewise we have no direct and independent access to the Council of Ministers and must ultimately depend on representation by a UK minister, regardless of the electoral preferences of the people of Scotland.
There has been considerable discussion on the precise Treaty mechanism through which Scotland would attain independent Member State status.
Categorical statements to the effect that Scotland must apply for membership under Treaty Article 49 are not based on legal fact and are purely speculative.
Comparisons with historical accession procedures, including the stalled negotiations with Iceland, are fundamentally flawed. Scotland is currently a full part of the EU, the people of Scotland are European citizens and the Scottish legal system is fully compliant with the acquis communautaire.
The fact that Scotland has had a fully developed market economy operating within the EU for four decades quite obviously differentiates our position from that of recent accessions from the east of Europe. The idea that Scotland, after 40 years of continuous membership, would face obstacles to a swift transition to independent membership is not based on the realpolitik which characterises the EU.
Treaty Article 48 offers the best opportunity for a seamless transition to independent membership. Use of this mechanism would ensure that the rights and obligations enjoyed by all EU citizens and businesses would be retained throughout the negotiation period and that no unnecessary disruption to the integrity of the internal market would be caused.
After independence, Scotland will become an equal in a club with 28 other members. SNP experiences in the EU institutions inform us that Scottish arguments will be listened to and evaluated on the basis of their merit; coalitions will be formed on specific issues and compromises will be reached.
At present Scotland's views in the Council of Ministers are only heard if they coincide with those of the UK government.
Throughout its evolution the EU has adapted to new circumstances and acted pragmatically. The effective exclusion of an existing part of the EU's territory is wholly unprecedented and contrary to the whole ethos of the institutions. The EU will adapt to ensure that respect for democracy and the rule of law will be upheld. The respect for democracy and the rule of law has been enshrined in the Edinburgh Agreement signed by the Scottish and UK governments. With both parties committed to cooperating constructively after the vote, it seems reasonable to conclude that our EU partners will be similarly minded.
It is incumbent upon all Scottish politicians to act within the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement. In the event of a yes vote, the people of Scotland have a right to expect their elected representatives to work towards a satisfactory conclusion to negotiations – and for Scotland's independent membership of the EU to be achieved within the timescale suggested. All we have to do is vote Yes, and make it happen!