Scotland’s membership of the European Union is threatened more by the U.K. government than by its bid for independence, according to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“The biggest threat to EU membership isn’t independence, it’s euro-skepticism within the U.K. government,” Sturgeon said in response to questions after a speech at Strathclyde University in Glasgow today. “Scotland’s rightful place is in the EU, playing a positive role in that organization.”
Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party is campaigning for an independent Scotland before a referendum planned for 2014. Her task is to convince people that breaking away from the U.K. is the right move when many of the questions being asked about the economy, defense and the country’s status within the EU won’t be answered before the vote.
In an Ipsos MORI poll for the London-based Times newspaper in October, 30 percent of respondents supported Scottish independence compared with 58 percent opposed to it.
Euro-skeptic Conservatives are putting increasing pressure Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in or leave the 27-nation EU. Last month, with the support of the opposition Labour Party, they passed a motion in Parliament calling for an inflation-adjusted cut in the EU’s seven-year budget.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond agreed in October to an investigation into allegations he misled voters in a March BBC interview over the advice he’d sought on whether an independent Scotland would automatically remain in the EU.
U.K. lawmakers on the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee wrote to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso last month asking for his opinion on whether an independent Scotland would have automatic membership in the event of independence.
In September, Barroso said any new state wanting to join the EU would have to apply for membership, adding that that was not a comment on the Scottish independence campaign.
“When the people have spoken we will emerge as one nation,” Sturgeon said in her speech to members of civic groups. “We will explain how it will be done and the new states that have emerged since the Second World War show it can be done.”