As the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looms closer, European Union (EU) officials past and present are setting out their true positions and feelings on the issue and its repercussions.
The latest big political figure to express strong opinions is the former EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, who has come out in support of Scottish independence.
A former Belgian Prime Minister, Van Rompuy served as EU president from 2009 to 2014. In an interview with the BBC Van Rompuy claimed that Brexit has “changed EU attitudes” to Scottish independence.
In addition, Van Rampuy expressed qualified support for Scotland’s membership in the EU, once independence from the UK has been achieved.
Stating that the process of joining the EU is “complicated”, Van Rampuy added than an application by Scotland would be “very seriously considered”, as long as the mechanism of Scotland’s separation from Britain was conducted in a fully legal and consensual manner.
The former EU president’s intervention comes at a critical time in British politics, with the future of the country at a crossroads.
There are growing fears that a no-deal Brexit will speed up the breakup of the UK, with Scotland widely viewed as the weakest link in the union.
Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon, has called for an independence referendum by the second half of 2020.
Calls for a new independence poll are growing as the fifth anniversary of the first independence referendum, which took place on September 18, 2014, approaches.
The pro-independence SNP has reacted positively to Van Rampuy’s frank remarks, with the head of the Scottish government’s Constitutional Relations department, Michael Russell, saying that an independent Scotland can make a “strong contribution” to the EU.
Russel, who is effectively the Scottish government’s Brexit secretary, said: “There is clearly real sympathy and understanding for Scotland’s position in Europe, particularly given the hard-line anti-EU position of the UK government”.
By contrast, the UK government’s Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, reacted negatively to Van Rampuy’s remarks, saying that Scotland’s place is “better served” staying in the UK rather than joining the EU and “giving away both democratic rights and also our coastal fisheries”.
Van Rampuy’s intervention in the Scottish independence debate, and his holding out the prospect of near-immediate Scottish entry into the EU, is set to further energise the SNP, and Scottish nationalists more broadly, as they set about to create the conditions for a second independence referendum.