JOHN Swinney's assertion the Scottish Government would not have to apply for membership of the European Union but simply negotiate terms while Scotland remained part of the UK after a yes vote has been branded "ridiculous".

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the Finance Secretary's argument was like other Nationalist ones, which said with independence "nothing really changes – you keep the Queen, you keep the pound, any British institution that people in Scotland like somehow is retained; now they are saying Scotland can vote to become independent but not become independent; it's a ridiculous argument".

Mr Swinney made his remarks about negotiations in response to a report that said the European Commission had told the House of Lords Economic Committee – which is investigating the potential impact of Scottish independence – that the UK's EU membership would "cease to apply" to an independent Scotland.

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The Finance Secretary said that if there were a yes vote in 2014, then Scotland would still be at that stage a part of the UK.

He said: "There has to be a negotiation about the detail and the terms of Scotland's membership of the EU but, crucially, that will be taking place at a time when we are still part of the UK, still part of the European Union."