Among the questions most frequently being asked about Scotland and Independence are those which relate to our future relationship with the European Union. There is no doubt in my mind that an independent Scotland will remain an integral part of the European Union on Independence, rather than having to re-apply for EU membership from the outside.
That is also the view of expert Graham Avery, an honorary director-general of the European Commission, who was for 40 years a senior official in Whitehall and Brussels, and worked on negotiations for EU enlargement. He is an independent voice, having been critical of the arguments presented by both proponents and opponents of independence. His is also a highly respected voice. He is a senior member of St Antony's College, Oxford; senior advisor at the European Policy Centre, Brussels, and has been fellow at both the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, Florence.
In a submission to the House of Commons, he has said:
"Arrangements for Scotland's EU membership would need to be in place simultaneously with independence; Scotland's 5 million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years, have acquired rights as European citizens.
For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission. Negotiations on the terms of membership would take place in the period between the referendum and the planned date of independence. The EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries."
His conclusion - based on EU law - is that an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK "should each succeed to the UK's existing membership of the EU, but now as two States rather than as one".
The main, typically negative, argument put forward by the No campaign is that if Scotland becomes independent it would simply cease to be part of the EU and that we would have to re-apply for membership from outside. In reality there is no provision in the EU Treaties which allows for the expulsion of a member state, or part of the territory thereof.
Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, a former Scottish judge on the European Court of Justice, stated his expert opinion on the question very clearly when he said;
"Independence would leave Scotland and something called 'the rest' in the same legal boat. If Scotland had to reapply, so would the rest. I am puzzled at the suggestion that there would be a difference in the status of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of Community law if the Act of Union was dissolved."
Independence will give Scotland, for the first time, a guaranteed voice and vote in all aspects of EU decision-making. With Independence we could build a new and more constructive relationship with our EU partners, with the power to make deals and build alliances to suit the needs of Scotland's crucial national interest. All we have to do is choose Independence in the 2014 referendum. Let's go for it!