It doesn’t have to be, but it definitely could be! 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Despite this, on 31st January 2020, Scotland left the EU along with the rest of the UK, thanks to Boris Johnson’s renewed Conservative majority in Westminster. Because of this, an independent Scotland would now have to apply to re-join the EU, assuming its people expressed a desire to do so via a referendum or an election in which the winning party campaigned to re-join the EU. Of the major independence-supporting parties (and those represented in our society) the SNP and the Green Party support EU membership, whilst the SSP are more Eurosceptic.
Many unionists argue that an independent Scotland would face many obstacles to joining the EU. This is untrue. In the days after Brexit, former European Council president Donald Tusk said that everyone in Brussels would be ‘enthusiastic’ about an independent Scotland joining the EU.
Of course, Scotland would still have to go through the formal accession process. This may take time, but Scotland already meets the vast majority of EU laws and regulations that would need to be agreed before accession.
You may have heard unionists argue that Scotland would require a deficit of less than 3% in order to join the EU. This is false. The Maastricht Convergence Criteria do require new members to ‘worktowards’ a deficit of less than 3%, but this is not binding and member states that do not comply are only barred from joining the Euro. A deficit of less than 3% is not a requirement of joining the EU. Countries with deficits higher than 3% have joined before, notably Croatia.
The Maastricht Convergence Criteria also technically require new members to ‘work towards’ joining the Euro. However, not only is there no timeframe on this regulation (so an independent Scotland could simply put off joining the Euro indefinitely if it chose to pursue a different currency path), but it is likely that Scotland could negotiate an opt-out of this particular requirement in the accession process.
In any case, an independent Scotland may choose not to re-apply for EU membership. But the Scottish people would have a choice, and their democratically expressed view would be acted upon, unlike in the 2016 referendum. An independent Scotland would be able to re-join the EU if it chose to do so.