Janet, from Perth, asks: How could Scotland re-join the EU?

An answer from director and founder of the Scottish Centre on European Relations Dr Kirsty Hughes:

Scotland has two obvious routes to re-join the European Union. It could re-join as an independent country and it could re-join as part of the UK. Given the current state of UK and Scottish politics, rejoining as an independent state currently looks more likely. And, on top of that, EU attitudes towards the UK rejoining in the next decade are currently rather negative where there is some EU sympathy towards Scotland.

The EU has a clear accession process that an independent Scotland would have to follow. This already assumes that Scotland had become independent via a legally and constitutionally sound route and had recognition both from the rest of the UK and from EU member states.

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As a first step, the Scottish Government would have to apply for membership. In Brussels, the European Commission would respond by assessing whether Scotland, as a European state, was a well-functioning democracy and market economy and if it was capable of taking on all the EU’s laws and rules. If this was positive, Scotland would then have candidate status and in due course, negotiations would start. To get that far would require the unanimous agreement of all the EU27:  the accession process is political as well as technical.

As the second big step, the talks would start and would be structured around 35 so-called chapters which cover a range of issues in great detail including the single market, transport, agriculture, fisheries, foreign policy, economic policy and much much more. If Scotland applied by, say, 2026, its laws would probably still be fairly closely aligned to EU laws so its accession process would be much quicker than that of countries such as Estonia or Poland.

But there would still be tricky issues. Talks would cover the EU customs union, so the question of Scotland’s border to England – as an external EU border – would come up. Scotland would have to commit to join the euro eventually though it would be unlikely to meet the criteria for joining straight away – so it would join the non-euro group of member states. And its fiscal deficit would have to conform with EU rules or be on a clear trajectory towards meeting those rules.

HeraldScotland: Demonstrators waves EU flags at a protest by Pro EU campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of a debate on the EU Referendum result and the implications for Scotland, in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 28, 2016..Scottish First Minister Nicola

Scotland might need to ask for transition periods in some areas but these could not be many or major. The one exception might be the border-free Schengen area where Scotland, like Ireland, might request an opt-out in order to stay in the UK/Ireland common travel area.

Once talks are complete, the third big step can happen. The Commission recommends that the EU27 agree Scotland’s accession treaty – again, a unanimous vote. If the EU’s leaders agree, then the accession treaty is signed, then ratified by each member state (which can take up to two years). Finally, Scotland would be a member with its own seats at the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

This process takes time: for an independent Scotland, it might be four to five years including ratifying the treaties. What happens in the meantime?

Normally, the EU would agree a temporary trade agreement with Scotland – called an Association Agreement. This will start opening up access to the EU’s single market and to participation in a whole range of programmes such as the student and young people’s exchange programme Erasmus. There would probably also be pre-accession funding to help Scotland adapt where it needs to. There’s no need, and it is not a direct nor normal accession route, to go via the European Economic Area – which Norway and Iceland are in – unless Scotland didn’t want to join the EU.

In the end, twenty-two states have joined the original EU six during its 63 year lifetime as an organisation. The process can be time-consuming, technical and political. But given that states from Greece to Ireland, from Portugal to Estonia to Finland have joined, then so too could an independent Scotland.