AN independent Scotland would be fast-tracked into the EU but have to rejoin the Common Fisheries Policy and commit to using the euro, according to a major academic report.

It said accession could take four to five years, with Scotland’s deficit, currency and the border with England posing “challenges” in light of Brexit.

Reducing Scotland’s deficit below the EU target could mean a severe “spending squeeze”, it warned.

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However the analysis also said Scotland would overtake other accession states in the Western Balkans, and have “considerable” representation in Brussels.

Many of the issues would only become clear once the UK had negotiated its own new relationship with the 27 EU states, the authors said.

The study, An Independent Scotland in the EU: Issues of Accession, has been compiled by the Edinburgh-based thinktank the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER).

Nicola Sturgeon has said that if Scotland becomes independent she would want it to reapply for EU membership to minimise economic damage from Brexit as soon as possible.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director of the SCER and the report’s editor, said the timing would depend on how long the UK had been out of the EU, and therefore how much the country had diverged from EU laws and regulations.

She said even if the divergence was modest, the accession process “might, at the fastest, take four to five years”.

She said Scotland would learn “painfully that these are not really two-sided negotiations... accession talks are a process where the EU holds all the cards. It is not a moment or process to ask for several or major opt-outs.”

Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist of the European Policy Centre, and a member of Nicola Sturgeon’s Standing Council on Europe, said “becoming an EU member will take time”.

He said: “It is not feasible or credible that EU membership will immediately follow from independence.”

Tobias Locke, professor of law at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, said there was “little doubt that an independent Scotland would qualify to apply for EU membership”.

However currency would be an issue.

All accession states must commit in principle to joining the euro - although some countries, like Sweden, have avoided it in practice by not taking the necessary preliminary steps.

He said: “It would not be possible for [an independent Scotland] to avoid having to commit to the adoption of the euro; and if politicians were too vocal about their non-commitment to taking such a step, there is a danger that the EU might in the end not agree to Scottish membership”.

Dr Arno van der Zwet and Professor John Connolly, from the University of the West of Scotland, said the EU would want an independent Scotland to rejoin the Common Fisheries Policy - another political controversy, particularly in the north east.

They said: “Negotiations on an independent Scotland joining the EU would almost certainly be predicated on the basis that Scotland would have to adopt the Common Fisheries Policy. “However, this would not be welcomed by most of the fishing industry and it could prove politically awkward if the Scottish government would sign up without any concessions that would benefit the fishing communities.”

However they also said an independent Scotland would be better placed to represent Scottish interests in Brussels than as part of the UK.

Dr Katy Hayward, of Queen’s University Belfast, said the border between a post-Brexit England and an Eu-member Scotland would need tough smuggling controls, adding: “One thing we can be sure of: implementing an external border of the EU between Scotland and England would bring challenge and disruption.”

Dr Hughes added: “This major report, with contributions from leading experts, underlines that an independent Scotland could join the European Union.

“Accession to the EU is a substantial, detailed and time-consuming process – and has different implications for an independent Scotland post-Brexit.

“But it is a manageable process, and considering the diverse range of 22 states that have joined the EU after its initial launch, it would be hard to say Scotland could not, like these states, join too if that was its goal.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This report makes the eye-watering cost and upheaval of the SNP’s position on re-entering the EU completely clear.

“Included in the many drastic measures Scotland would have to accept would be subjecting our fishermen to the hated Common Fisheries Policy, adopting the euro and austerity on stilts in order to get the deficit under control.

“The SNP would happily subject the Scottish people to all this unnecessary and damaging hardship for their own ideological ends.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK Scotland in Union campaign, said: “Nobody has ever questioned that a separate Scotland could rejoin the EU, but, post-Brexit, this report lays bare the stark reality of what that now means.

“It would not be automatic and would take years of negotiation.

“It would result in a border with our neighbours in England.

“As 60 per cent of our trade with the rest of the UK this would put jobs and livelihoods at risk.

“It would require massive public spending cuts to drive down our deficit – currently the highest in Europe – at the expense of our cash-strapped schools and hospitals.

“It would mean committing to leaving the pound behind and switching to the euro, with none of the opt-outs the UK previously enjoyed as a member.

“It’s time for the SNP to be honest with voters: the best future for our country is as part of the UK, growing our economy, saving the pound, and maintaining the bonds of friendship with our friends and neighbours without building a barrier between us.”

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SNP Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scotland is in a unique position, having been a member of the EU for 47 years and following all its rules. We continue to share the EU’s core values and our position is recognised and understood in Brussels.

“Donald Tusk, until recently the President of the European Council, has said there will be enthusiasm from everyone in Brussels for an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU and he spoke of the empathy for Scotland in Europe.

“The Scottish Government recognises there is an application process to go through and we will bring forward a detailed proposition in due course.”