Independence would leave Scotland and something called the rest' in the same legal boat. If Scotland had to re-apply, 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."

Thosewerethewordsofthe late Lord MacKenzie-Stuart, a former president of the European Court of Justice, thefinal arbiter inEuropean Unionlegaldisputes, whenaskedaboutanindependent Scotland's membership of the EU. I must confess I share his puzzlement at the arguments by a number of politicians and opinion-formers in the UK that Scotland would cease to be a member of the EU or that Scotland'scontinued membership would require a referendum in France or elsewhere.

Although there are currently no procedures for a member state to leave the EU, and none has yet done so, there is no reason to believe that either Scotland or the rest of what is now the UK would be somehow expelled after independence.

Scotland and the remainder of the UK would be equally entitled, and obliged, to continue the existing full membership of the EU. This was conceded by Emile Noel, one of Europe's founding fathers and long-serving secretary-general of the European Commission, who said Scottish independence would create two states, which would have "equal status with each other and the other states".

This is backed up by Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on the Succession of States, which reads: "Any treaty in force at the date of succession of states in respect of the entire territory of the predecessor state continues in force in respect of each successor state so formed."

In my opinion, Scotland is just as important to the wellbeing of the EU as the EU is to Scotland's success. To take one example, just a couple of weeks ago the European Commission published its latest strategy on Europe's energy requirements. This will be perhaps the most important issue Europe has to tackle in the next few decades, and in particular the decade to come.

Increasingly, the EU is taking a lead on energy. Given the impact of globalwarmingandanincreased reliance on Russian gas supplies, it must do. The EU's progress is based on harnessing the potential, resources and know-how of most of Europe. As one of Europe's most energy-rich nations, with a significant proportion of its wind, wave and tidal power, not to mention industrial expertise, Scotland is already a strategic asset.

But Scotland is not important just because it is windy and has a lengthy coastline. It is resource-rich too, with the EU's most important oil and gas reserves. Scotland is also geographically important. It shares a lengthy maritime border with Iceland, the Faroes and Norway, none of whom is a member of the EU but all of whom have an important relationship with it. Scotland also acts as a bridge between Europe and non-European countries with whom it has ties, such as Australia, Canada, India and the US.

THE late foreign secretary Robin Cookadmittedanindependent Scotland would be a member of the EU when he said: "It's in the nature of the European Union, it welcomes all-comers and Scotland would be a member."

Given enlargement and the EU's otherchallenges these remarks ring truer than ever. It is inconceivable that Europe would do anything else but welcome an independent Scotland with open arms.

Already, 11 of the EU member states are the same size or smaller than Scotland. Enlargement has been one of the EU's great successes because every country brings its own experiences and way of looking at the world. The EU respects and encourages that diversity, which makes it the most successful supra-national body in history. Full Scottish membership of the EU would only enhance that.

An independent Scotland would be a significant player in Brussels and a much-needed voice for Scottish interests. It is high time one of Europe's oldest nations was seen on the European stage.

As someone born in Scotland, of Irish parentage and European conviction, I easily recall the pessimism and even disbelief that permeated my youth that an Ireland independent of London would ever be able to prosper. We now see extraordinary changes wrought in Ireland by self-belief, economic intelligence and, above all, the simultaneous entry of Ireland and the UK into the European Economic Community - as it then was 30 years ago.

The relationship between them has improved immeasurably, so much so that they may well be on the verge of finding a stable and wholesome modus vivendi throughout Ireland too, based on mutual trust and respect. An independent Scotland and the rest of what is now the UK would undoubtedly follow a similar friendly path to mutual benefit and leave behind the sour notes that now trouble the relationship.

Eamonn Gallagher is a former director-general of the EC and former EEC ambassador to the UN in New York