Scottish independence: Commission declines to comment on reports Juncker "sympathetic" to Scotland joining EU

Nassos Stylianou
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Scottish independence: The European Commission declined to comment on Juncker reports

The European Commission has declined to comment on reports that its new president Jean-Claude Juncker would be "sympathetic" to an independent Scotland joining the European Union.

An article in Scotland on Sunday published today included comments from an unnamed "high-ranking EU official", who was quoted as saying that former Luxembourg Prime Minister Juncker "would not want Scotland to be kept out" if it were to vote to split from the UK.

“He’d be sympathetic as someone who is from a smaller country as he’ll understand the obstacles that can be put in the way of less powerful member states,” the source is quoted as saying.

But a Commission spokesperson contacted by BBC Scotland said that the institution would not issue a statement on the report, in line with its policy of not commenting on articles based on anonymous sources.

Professional services firm PwC this month suggested that businesses were diverting investment away from Scotland because of the lack of certainty as Scotland geared up for September's referendum.

The issue of Scotland's EU membership has been a source of major uncertainty and controversy ahead of the ballot, where voters will be asked 'Should Scotland be an independent country', as the two sides have argued over how soon Scotland could gain entry to the 28-member bloc.

First minister Alex Salmond has argued Scotland’s membership would be negotiated in the 18 months between a Yes vote and leaving the UK in March 2016, citing articles from the European treaties as evidence. With the potential situation unprecedented in the history of the union, the reality could be much more complex and critics have questioned whether the Scottish government's timeframe was realistic.

Juncker's predecessor at the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, told the BBC earlier this year that it would be "extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state".

The Law Society of Scotland, the professional body for solicitors, said on Monday that a number of important legal questions on Scotland's future remain unanswered - including issues relating to EU membership.

Juncker's first week at the helm of the EU executive, after his appoint was rubber-stamped my MEPs on Monday 15 July, has seen him dragged into the Scotland debate.

Newspapers in the UK had picked up on comments the EU veteran made in his speech to the parliament when he said that there would be no new member states in the next five years, as Juncker's term would “mark a pause” in EU enlargement and “consolidate” with 28 member states.

Opponents of independence seized on the comments as evidence that Scotland would face a tough task joining the union, but Juncker's official spokeswoman later made clear that the remarks did not refer to Scotland but countries involved in accession talks.

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