How easy would it be for Scotland to rejoin the European Union?

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By Euronews
How easy would it be for Scotland to rejoin the European Union?
Copyright  ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP and licensors

Scotland's separatist parties won a majority of seats at last Thursday's election, meaning leaving the United Kingdom is once again being talked about.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Greens, both stood on a platform of independence and rejoining the European Union, winning more than 50% of the vote.

The UK government is currently ruling out another referendum, but if the moment does arrive, how easy would it actually be for the Scots to rejoin the EU?

Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations said there wouldn't be too much difficulty, given the country's recent history within the bloc.

"If there is a yes vote in a referendum, then I think if it's in the next five years, Scotland is going to still be very close to EU laws and legislation that's got almost half a century experience being within the European Union," Hughes told Euronews. "So I think there is a fairly clear path to accession."

"An independent Scotland is going to have to realise though that there's a process to go through, criteria to meet," she added. "There's no sort of nice wishful thinking and the wave of a wand and you're just back in because you were in once before."

Right now, the UK is in almost complete alignment with EU law, but this could change over the next few years, depending on how far the UK decides to go in its own post-Brexit direction.

Scotland would also have to establish various new institutions that EU membership requires.

"If it's applying to join the EU, is going to be a new state," Hughes explained. "it hasn't been a state for the past 300 years. So it will have a lot of different institutions and regulatory bodies, laws to set up things that were previously done from London or at a UK level.

"So, although in one way it looks fairly simple for Scotland to meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria, to show that it's a properly functioning democracy, to show that it's a market economy."

There would also be the issue of the border between Scotland and England, one country inside the EU, the other out. But Hughes says the experience of the Irish border difficulties that are currently going on would make this process slightly easier.

On the European side, any agreement between Edinburgh and Brussels would require the blessing of all member states, with some countries, particularly Spain, having their own separatist problems to consider.

"Spain would be fine about [a] membership application as long as the independence process had been legal and constitutional, and what that will especially mean from Spain's point of view and from other EU member states point of view is essentially that London and Edinburgh agreed it," Hughes told Euronews.

"If London isn't internationally recognised in Scotland and if Scotland is somehow leaving the UK without a negotiated divorce, then that will be very messy indeed."

But the SNP leader has previously said that this is not a process she even wants to contemplate.

She did say that an advisory referendum could be held if the UK government blocks any legal referendum, but the preference is for a legitimate vote.

One area which might be of major concern though is public finances.

An independent Scotland could risk beginning its new life with a much higher deficit than EU rules normally allow.