Salmond Confident Independent Scotland Could Join EU

Scotland’s leader says it would be “ridiculous” for the rest of Europe to deny his country membership.

Scottish leader Alex Salmond expressed confidence on Sunday his country would be welcomed into the European Union if it voted to secede from the United Kingdom, arguing that its rich fishing waters and energy potential could make it a valuable member of the bloc.

While an independent Scotland, with over five million inhabitants, would have only 1 percent of the European Union’s total population, Salmond pointed out that the country has 20 percent of the bloc’s fish stocks, a quarter of its renewable energy potential and 60 percent of its conventional oil reserves.

“I don’t think that anyone in the rest of Europe is wanting to exclude fish-rich, energy-rich, renewable-rich, oil-rich Scotland,” the Scottish National Party leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr in Edinburgh. “I think that is a ridiculous proposition.”

But when Marr pressed Salmond on the concerns of especially Belgium and Spain, which worry that Scottish independence could embolden separatist movements within their own borders, the Scottish first minister was not very forthcoming, merely saying he had spoken with leaders from those countries.

Spain is among the fiercest critics of Scottish independence, given that Catalonia, its richest region, is likely to see a successful separation from the United Kingdom as a template for its own ambitions.

Catalonia has a population of over seven million and an economy the size of Denmark’s. Scotland’s economy is closer in size to Portugal’s.

European Union membership could be vital for Scotland if the rest of the United Kingdom refuses to continue to share the pound sterling with the independent country. Although Salmond said in the interview a currency union was viable, British leaders have ruled it out.

Scotland could also be forced to adopt the euro as a condition for membership. As part of the United Kingdom, it enjoys an exemption from joining the single currency which many Britons, including many Scots, see as the source of the continent’s economic problems.

Scots will vote on independence in a referendum on Thursday in what Salmon described as a “once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Opinion polls suggest Scots are nearly evenly divided on the question with opponents of independence leading narrowly.

Earlier this month, a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times for the first time found a 47 percent plurality of voters in favor of secession.