After the UK’s complete separation from the European Union (EU), the Scottish National Party (SNP) has asserted its intention to regain EU membership. Initially, Scotland should become independent from the UK, proceed to apply for a new membership in the bloc, and then the EU must decide to let an independent Scotland back as a new member country.
SNP Seeks a Civic Identity for the Country
The rise of the Scottish National Party throughout the last decade and the increasing support for an independent Scotland, have raised the question of national identity as an important matter. Since 1945, electors in Scotland have become far more Scottish and less British, leading to further political rift between London and Edinburgh. The SNP has strongly disapproved of efforts to hold on to the British national identity in the UK and has tried to replace it with the Scottish cultural and political identity in the region.
Reflections of civic nationalism in concepts such as citizenship and nationality in the Scottish National Party’s speeches and policies have been considerable since the formation of the Scottish government in 2007. The period from 2007 to 2014 was a turning point in the Scottish National Party’s history, because it became the ruling party of Scotland for the first time and the first to win a total majority of seats in Holyrood (Parliament of Scotland). It also became the third-largest party in the UK and held the first-ever Scottish independence referendum.
The Term “People of Scotland” Is Used Increasingly by the SNP
The SNP has become widely successful in elections and has been able to balance the different features of its identity as a political party; it has been an important player in attempting Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party has been an opposition party in the UK and has successfully adapted itself to the devolution to become less dependent on London. SNP leaders have mostly used the phrase “People of Scotland” rather than “Scottish People”, to emphasise that Scottish citizenship is based on residence instead of origins, thus implying a civic form of nationalism and also referring to the sovereignty of people in Scotland.
Scotland Must Have EU Consent
The Scottish National Party mentioned in the first independence referendum in 2014 that it was important for Scotland to remain an EU member. In 2014, the question was raised of whether an independent Scotland should reapply for EU membership or whether its membership would continue in the bloc as part of the UK.
The EU Commission has confirmed that if Scotland becomes independent of the UK, it has to apply for EU membership. Based on Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) for the accession process, an independent Scotland’s request to join the EU would need negotiations and the agreement of all EU member states.
On 24 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, with 51.89% for Leave and 48.11% for Remain. In Scotland, 62% of voters chose to remain in the EU and only 38% voted to leave the bloc. It took several years for the UK to finalise its exit from the EU in 2021 following Brexit; however, the Scottish National Party has insisted on the will of the people of Scotland to remain in the EU.
Scotland Can Apply for EU Membership After Independence
It will be challenging for the SNP to hold a second independence referendum from the UK to rejoin the EU following the UK exit from the bloc, as there is a wide range of issues which need to be discussed, such as European interests, Scottish priorities, and its suggested contributions to Europe. An independent Scotland needs to widen its horizons to be a successful EU member state. It has been a member of the EU for 47 years and a part of the UK for three centuries. The process of Scotland’s separation from the UK could take years after a successful independence referendum. If Scotland becomes independent, it can conclude an Association Agreement with the EU and apply for membership in due course based on the formula assigned by the Lisbon Treaty.
New EU Members Must Meet the Copenhagen Criteria
Before joining the EU, the SNP as the party of the Scottish government, must+ meet some membership requirements. These requirements are EU membership conditions and the political, social, and economic dimensions of the Copenhagen Criteria. A new member must comply with all EU standards and rules, acquire the consent of EU institutions and member states, and it should have the consent of its citizens by approval in its national parliament or by referendum. Based on the Treaty on European Union, any European country can apply for membership “if it respects the democratic values of the EU and is committed to promoting them”.
Countries wishing to join the EU need to have: “Stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU; the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.” On the other hand, the European Union must also be able to integrate Scotland as a new member.
A Decade-Long Path to the EU Ahead for the Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party may have a decade-long path back to EU membership. It must handle two sets of negotiations, one with Westminster on the terms and conditions of independence, and one with Brussels on the terms of accession. It will be complex for the Scottish National Party to exit the UK and it can take around five years to complete the process.
It will also take the same amount of time for the Scottish National Party to build the necessary institutions to establish a completely sovereign country. The accession process can continue for another two or more years until the ruling Scottish National Party can work in EU institutions. After a successful navigation of the accession, Scotland will have full access to EU’s security measures and should be given a seat at the decision-making table, policy-making, and legislative processes.
The Scottish National Party, the party of independence, has been growing during the last decade and has been vocally critical of efforts to keep the British national identity on top in the whole of the UK. Since the Scottish National Party first formed the Scottish government, it has adapted itself very well to devolution to become less dependent on London. It has tried to instill the Scottish cultural and political identity which is completely civic and is seen in aspects like citizenship and nationalism.
After Brexit took the UK entirely out of the EU, the Scottish National Party has once again insisted that the country prefers independence and wishes to be a member of the EU. In order to attain this wish, Scottish National Party must leave the UK and then provide the infrastructures for a sovereign state. Once Scotland applies for EU membership, the country must meet several requirements, including the bloc’s political and economic conditions, so it can qualify as a member. The EU should also give a voice to Scotland in its decision making procedures and provide the country with the benefits that all other EU members enjoy.