An independent Scotland could join the European Union within two to five years of negotiations starting, Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson has suggested, as he published the latest independence prospectus paper.
The document also described plans for checks on goods which are traded across the border between an independent Scotland and England, with Mr Robertson saying there would be the “least friction possible”.
The seventh paper in the Scottish Government’s prospectus series says Scotland would likely become a “net contributor” to the EU’s budget.
The 78-page document is focused on an independent Scotland’s journey to joining the EU.
It says the process of re-joining the bloc would be “closely aligned” with the process of establishing a Scottish pound, something discussed in a previous paper.
Mr Robertson launched the latest document at Queen Margaret University on Friday, alongside the SNP’s Europe minister, Christina McKelvie.
Speaking to journalists, he said it showed what an independent Scotland could offer to the EU, as well as the benefits of membership for Scots.
Following a Yes vote in an independence referendum, he said, the Scotland would begin negotiations with the UK Government and EU.
He told the PA news agency: “A Yes vote in a referendum on that question in Scotland would begin the process of our negotiations with the UK and then, in time, with the EU.
“And, we would imagine that, that would take in the same sort of order as other countries that have joined, that’s anything between two years and five years.
“But we would be starting from a very different position.
“We’re literally the only part of the European Union that’s been taken out against our will and we’re the only part of the formerly part of the European Union that is seeking to rejoin.”
He said this would be a “relatively quick process”, saying Scotland already aligns with many EU rules.
The prospectus paper says there would be a “single trade window” online for companies which trade goods across the border with England.
Checks on goods need not happen at the border itself, the paper says, though it also suggests “spot checks” and automatic number plate recognition on “minor routes” along the border to monitor non-compliance.
Mr Robertson said Scotland should not be “dependent” on any single market, saying Ireland increased its trade with Europe as it integrated with the continent’s system in recent decades.
He said: “There’ll be free movement of services and, where there are trade rules that need to be maintained because of cross border traffic, that’s exactly what Scotland is going to do.
“And it’s going to do it in the way where there’s least friction possible.”
He suggested the Sweden-Norway border as a model for how this would work.
The need for checks on goods would come about because the rest of the UK would not be in the EU single market.
Mr Robertson was also asked if it is possible to estimate what Scotland’s contribution to the EU budget would ultimately be.
He said: “No, you can’t because these are the things that are subject to negotiation as part of the accession process.”
The UK Government has repeatedly rejected calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and opposition parties at Holyrood have criticised the prospectus series as “fantasy”.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland want both their Governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them, like growing our economy, halving inflation and improving public services.
“We want to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges because that is what families and businesses in Scotland expect.
“This is not the time to be talking about distracting constitutional change.”
Sam Taylor, of the pro-Union think tank These Islands, said the paper’s proposals on currency amounted to an admission that Scotland could not join the EU while using sterling as its currency.
He said: “This paper concedes that independence would mean a hard border with England and giving up sterling for an untested new currency.
“But it downplays or ignores the fiscal and economic costs of separation.”
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