Scotland seeks legal advice on EU membership
(LONDON) - Scotland has formally commissioned legal advice on its position in the European Union if it votes for independence from Britain in its 2014 referendum, the government said Tuesday.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted that while Edinburgh had previously cited "eminent legal authorities" on the issue, it had not until now sought a specific ruling from law officers.
She added that her Scottish National Party (SNP) was dropping a court battle to avoid saying whether it had sought legal advice on how independence would affect Scotland's membership of the EU.
"I can confirm that the government has now commissioned specific legal advice from our law officers on the position of Scotland within the European Union if independence is achieved through this process," Sturgeon told Scottish lawmakers.
"The Scottish government has previously cited opinions from a number of eminent legal authorities, past and present, in support of its view that an independent Scotland will continue in membership of the European Union -- but has not sought specific legal advice.
"However, as the Edinburgh Agreement provides the exact context of the process of obtaining independence, we now have the basis on which specific legal advice can be sought."
Sturgeon said she had asked for lawyers to dismiss an appeal against Scotland's Information Commissioner, which had ruled that the SNP must disclose whether it had received advice.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland's pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond signed a deal in Edinburgh last week for a referendum which could end the 300-year-old union of the two nations.
But the vote has raised the question of Scotland's status within the current 27-member EU if it decides to split.
London has also raised other questions about a break-up of the United Kingdom.
Last week it said that an independence vote could also threaten British security, with enemies of Britain likely to try to exploit any instability.