5 things you need to know about Sturgeon’s trip to Brussels


CommonSpace looks at the five things you need to know about Nicola Sturgeon’s trip to Brussels 

NICOLA STURGEON has returned from her diplomatic offensive in Brussels where she met EU leaders and sought political allies in her fight to maintain Scotland’s place in the EU.

Later today (30 June) Sturgeon will present the outcomes of the trip to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

CommonSpace looks at the 5 things you need to know about Sturgeon’s Brussels trip.

1. The rebirth of diplomacy

The circumstances under which Sturgeon travelled to Brussels are completely unprecedented.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and Scotland’s vote to remain, Scotland and the rest of the UK have adopted two separate foreign policies, something not supposed to happen within the UK union.

Scotland has attempted to defend its links with the EU, whilst the UK has delayed severing its ties by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. The EU has urged the UK to speed-up the process.

The divergence of policies only widen the gulf between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

2. The changed reception from 2014

Sturgeon’s reception could not be more different from former SNP leader Alex Salmond’s attempt to curry favour in Europe ahead of the vote on Scottish independence in 2014.

When there seemed little question of the UK’s continued EU membership it would have caused major friction between the UK and leading EU players had Scotland’s case for independence been given an audience.

Salmond remarked that the latest trip represents a changed mood, as he had “the door shut” on him by former president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

By contrast Sturgeon was met by both European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.

3. Concern from France and Spain

One thorn in the SNP’s side that remains from 2014 in President Mariano Rajoy of Spain, who has once again intervened to frustrate Scotland’s claims to continuing membership of the EU.

In 2014, motivated by its own concerns of Catalonian succession from Spain, he argued that Scotland would have to reapply for membership of the EU in the event it left the UK.

Now he, and President Hollande of France, have raised concerns over negotiating with Scotland separately from the UK, which is the member state. However, this is also evidence that it is independent states that negotiate with the EU – meaning that Scotland may require to become independent to stay in the EU.

4. The Celtic alliance

Ireland has come out strongly in defence of Scotland, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny interceding on Scotland’s behalf to remind the European Council that Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

At the same time, President Michael Higgins spoke in Glasgow about Scotland and Irelands historic ties, and about hopes that the nations had more direct communication rather than have their ties mediated via England. 

5. Visible public support

It always helps on such international missions to have demonstrable support at home.

That’s why Sturgeon was so pleased to see demonstrators for her position outside the Holyrood Parliament.

What people are saying

Nicola Sturgeon: “If there is a way for Scotland to stay, I am determined to try and find that way. I've found enormous interest in the referendum result, as you would expect, and I've also had a sympathetic response to the position Scotland now finds itself in.”

Alex Salmond: "The choice that people in Scotland potentially have to make in the next independence referendum may be between Europe and London – the European Union or the British union."

Jean Claud Junker: “Scotland won the right to be heard in Brussels.”

Mariano Rajoy: "If the United Kingdom leaves, so does Scotland. Scotland has no competences to negotiate with the EU. The Spanish government rejects any negotiation with anyone other than the United Kingdom."

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland

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