EU expert says SNP’s independence currency plans ‘may not be stumbling block’ for membership

AN EU relations EXPERT has insisted an independent Scotland could join the Union within four years – stressing that the SNP’s monetary plan ‘may not be a stumbling block’ .

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday presented her new economic and border plan for an independent Scotland, stressing that the country would keep the pound and switch to its own currency when “the time is right”.

The Prime Minister said a timetable for the creation of a Scottish currency would not be set, however, the use of sterling would be as “short as possible”.

Ms Sturgeon repeatedly declined to say how long that period would be, but hinted she hoped it would be less than five years.

Until the currency is created, Scotland will continue to use sterling, but will likely have no control over monetary policy.

In the document, a number of economic tests must be met before such a move, including that a new Scottish central bank would establish the currency’s ‘credibility’, create sufficient reserves and that Scotland would be ‘fiscally sustainable’ – as well as the Scottish Parliament approves the change.

Opponents have insisted EU membership – one of the Scottish government’s main arguments for independence – will not be possible until Scotland has control of its monetary policy and its currency, but the Prime Minister said negotiations for access to the bloc could continue during the transition phase to a new currency.

But Kirsty Hughes, the former director of the Scottish Center on European Relations, insisted that “currency may not be the stumbling block it is seen as” when it comes to the Scotland’s accession to the EU.

Ms Hughes said EU member states that are not part of the euro “must treat the exchange rate with the euro as a ‘matter of common concern'”.

She added that non-euro members “must aim for price stability”, but warned that it was “impossible to meet these conditions using sterling”.

Ms Hughes said: “But membership talks can certainly start before these conditions are met. And there may be an alternate route.

“My view on this evolved from talking to sources in Brussels who pointed out that a candidate using the currency of a third country while in the EU is unprecedented.”

She said “one suggested possibility was a transition period” where an independent Scotland could join the EU “while using sterling but not indefinitely”.

Ms Hughes said whether an independent Scotland could join the EU while using the pound or whether it could negotiate a transition period ‘within the EU’ would be ‘a political choice at the moment for EU Member States”.

But she warned that if an independent Scotland uses the pound ‘without the agreement of the UK’ then EU states could challenge it, adding that ‘good relations with neighbors is a crucial part of the EU negotiations. membership”.

Ms Hughes said an independent Scotland could “probably join the EU quickly”, saying it could take just four or five years.

The expert said it could take a year for independent Scotland to gain candidate status and first talks, before one to two years of formal talks and then one to two years of ratification.

She added that if the Scottish pound kicks off after four or five years of an independent Scotland “the two processes coincide”.

Ms Hughes said: “Currency may not be the stumbling block it is made out to be”.

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