The UK’s controversial decision to leave the EU has had resounding effects all around Europe. Recent upticks in unrest in Northern Ireland have shown the knock-on effects of the decision are also affecting parts of the United Kingdom itself in ways not fully anticipated by Parliament. Another issue now pressing on the country. Scotland’s bid for independence, or even simply rejoining the EU, has gained more traction in recent months than any other time in recent memory.
During Thursday’s local elections, Scotland’s own separatist party won the majority of seats. This means that Scottish independence is once more the topic of heated discussion in the region. The Scottish National Party, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as well as the Scottish Greens, won over fifty percent of the seats in the local elections.
The government of the UK is ruling out another referendum. However, should Scotland strike out on its own from the rest of the UK, it would likely look to rejoin the EU swiftly, according to experts on the region’s politics. Some experts, like Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, have an optimistic viewpoint. “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 reporters.
“An independent Scotland is going to have to realize though that there’s a process to go through, criteria to meet,” Hughes continued. “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.”
Experts are in agreement that Scotland would need to jump through a few hoops to get back into the EU. Scotland would need to spin up its own government at a national level for the first time in over 300 years. Joining the EU would require the region to have a functional national government that handles the writing and enforcement of laws in a way that has fallen to London for centuries.
Notably, the process of gaining independence would need to be peaceful and legal for the country to have any chance of rejoining the European Union. If Scotland strikes out on its own against the wishes of London, it’s likely that some member nations of the EU would block their accession. Spain, for instance, has an interest in not legitimizing unlawful independence bids thanks to its own ongoing struggles with Catalan.
While Scotland looks closer to independence than ever, it will still need to convince London to allow the region to have a referendum regarding independence. The likelihood of this remains to be seen.