Scottish independence: Scotland 'committed' to EU, says Salmond

Mr Salmond outlined an independent Scotland's potential role within the EU

An independent Scotland would be an "enthusiastic, engaged and committed contributor to European progress", First Minister Alex Salmond has said.

At the College of Europe in Bruges, Mr Salmond said a possible in/out UK referendum on the EU presented a "real risk" to Scotland's place in Europe.

The speech came ahead of Scotland's referendum on independence.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said separate negotiations with the EU would mean a worse deal for Scotland.

The Westminster politician was also critical of a reported magazine interview with Mr Salmond in which he commended Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on restoring "Russian pride".

In the interview, given six weeks ago, Mr Salmond also said there were a range of Russian actions he did not approve of.

Scotland's first minister was in Belgium on Monday to outline the reasons why he believed an independent Scotland would be welcome in the European Union.

He said: "Scotland's vast natural resources and human talent make it one of the lynchpins of the European Union. We have a key role to play in providing energy security for Europe.

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So Alex Salmond arrives as an enthusiastic European, which no doubt will be well-received, but the path to EU membership for an independent Scotland will not be straightforward.”

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"As one of the wealthiest countries, Scotland is a net financial contributor to the EU and will remain so as an independent member.

"We have more top universities, per head, than any other member of the EU and our academics collaborate with partners across Europe. We have one of the largest national shares of Europe's total fishing grounds. The EU's fisheries policy would unravel without Scotland."

Mr Salmond argued that "not being at the top table in Europe has harmed Scotland's interests for four decades".

He added: "An independent Scotland, as an equal member state, will bring a positive, cooperative voice to the EU, in contrast to the often sullen, disengaged voices that have spoken on our behalf since Margaret Thatcher's speech in this city more than a quarter of a century ago.

"Within the UK, we are occasionally consulted. With independence, we would contribute as equals. And in contributing as equals, we would make proposals to address the democratic challenges that Europe faces today."

Living wage

Mr Salmond also warned Scotland could be "dragged out of the European Union" against its will unless it voted for independence.

He said: "The real risk to Scotland's place in the EU is not the independence referendum in September. It's the in-out referendum of 2017."

The first minister revealed he would urge the European Commission to "rethink" laws that he said prevent the Scottish government from making the Living Wage a requirement of public sector contracts.

Labour has argued that the Scottish government could get round EU rules to include Living Wage requirements in new legislation on procurement. The party secured a Scottish Parliament debate on the topic recently.

Labour MSP James Kelly said: "The Scottish government spends £10bn every year buying goods and services. These contracts should be used to ensure that every Scot is paid the Living Wage.

"400,000 Scots don't earn the Living Wage. If the Scottish government enacted our proposals - which they could do - then an average, a full-time worker who would benefit from this move would be over £2,500 a year better off."

Ahead of Mr Salmond's speech, Mr Hague wrote to the first minister, arguing that "Scotland benefits from the UK's strong voice in Europe".

Mr Hague claimed that, if Scotland opted for independence, negotiations to join the EU "are likely to be complex and long".

Scotland's independence referendum

Who? Voters in Scotland will go to the polls to vote on their country's future.

What? They will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

When? The vote takes place on Thursday, 18 September, 2014.

In his letter to Mr Salmond, the foreign secretary also said the outcome "would certainly prove less advantageous than the status quo".

He said: "People in Scotland deserve to have the available facts ahead of making one of the most important political decisions in the history of our union.

"The terms of EU membership which your government has said it will seek to secure for an independent Scotland are at odds with the EU's own rules of membership."

The Scottish government has proposed using a treaty amendment under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union as a "suitable legal route" to facilitate an independent Scotland's membership, rather than seeking accession as a new member state.

Mr Hague said such a move would require all 28 member states to agree to this, and called on Mr Salmond to provide information on what guarantees he has received from member states regarding this.

He added: "Scotland benefits from the UK's strong voice in Europe and the UK has a proven track record in delivering for Scottish interests in the EU."

'Constructive role'

Mr Salmond sent a reply to the foreign secretary stating that "the UK government has repeatedly refused to jointly approach the Commission with the precise legal scenario on Scottish independence".

He told Mr Hague the purpose of his visit was "to articulate the constructive role an independent Scotland could play in the Europe Union".

"This contrasts of course with the renegotiation and in-out referendum favoured by your party, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the real threat to Scotland's position comes from the anti-European streak which now dominates your approach to politics," he said.

In addition to criticising Mr Salmond's stance on Europe, Mr Hague said Scotland's first minister had made a "gross error of judgement in international relations" by paying tribute to Russia at a time when it was "annexing by force the Crimea".

Mr Hague was reacting to remarks by the SNP leader which are part of a wide-ranging interview to be published in GQ magazine on 1 May.

Asked about whether he admired Mr Putin, Mr Salmond is reported to have said: "Certain aspects. He's restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing.

"There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the inter-mesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally, they are lovely people."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell also criticised the first minister's comments.

"I am afraid to say that Mr Salmond's admiration for 'certain aspects' of Vladimir Putin's leadership reflects a disturbing lack of judgement," he said.

"The explanation that this was before recent events in Ukraine is wholly unconvincing."

Voters in Scotland go to the polls on Thursday, 18 September when they will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

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  1.  
    20:39: Alasdair Lamont BBC Scotland at Celtic Park

    "All of a sudden Astra look pretty tidy and should probably be ahead. Three good chances (two smart Craig Gordon saves and a loose bit of finishing preventing the goals) and the home crowd aren't happy with the ease with which the Celtic defence is being carved open. Celtic have got to be better than this."

     
  2.  
    20:38: Former Celtic midfielder Murdo MacLeod on BBC Radio Scotland

    "We have been a bit disrespectful to Astra. We called them the whipping boys of the group, but just now they are playing the better football."

     
  3.  
    20:35:

    An awful ball across the face of his own penalty box by Celtic midfielder Charlie Mulgrew hands a good chance to Gabriel Enache, but the midfielder drives the ball wide from 16 yards.

     
  4.  
    20:34: CLOSE!

    Astra's Vasileios Pliatsikas has to head away a dangerous Mikael Lustig cross to the back post and, although nothing comes of that, the Greek defender goes close to volleying into his own net after another ball looped in by the Swede.

     
  5.  
    20:30: Alasdair Lamont BBC Scotland at Celtic Park

    "Not much so far to excite the home fans who braved the wind and rain. Celtic have had plenty of possession but are yet to test Silviu Lung in the FC Astra goal."

     
  6.  
    20:27: GREAT SAVE!

    Craig Gordon stretches out a big leg to deny a low drive from Astra's Constantin Budescu. The visitors are piling on the pressure.

     
  7.  
    20:26:

    A superb 22-yard half-volley from Ghanaian midfielder Seidu Yahaya almost takes Craig Gordon by surprise and the Celtic goalkeeper chests it away in unconventional style.

     
  8.  
    20:25:

    It's Astra's turn to exert a bit of pressure on the Celtic defence, but it remains goalless in Glasgow with neither side having seriously threatened.

     
  9.  
    Red Bull Salzburg 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb (Alan Carvalho) 20:23:

    News from Austria is that Salzburg have taken the lead in the other Group D game through Brazilian defender Alan Carvalho.

     
  10.  
    20:20: Join the debate #bbcscotfootball

    cade evans: "We should win tonight, but how inconstant we are under Delia, I wouldn't be surprised if we got less!" Assume you are a Celtic fan there!

     
  11.  
    20:19: Former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner on BBC Radio Scotland

    "It is a slow start by Celtic. They are not moving the ball with any urgency. They are maybe a bit worried about this team and are wanting to have a look at them."

     
  12.  
    20:16:

    Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk thumps a free-kick into the Astra defensive wall. Bit of a waste of a good opportunity there. Not exactly a Dutch master!

     
  13.  
    20:13: YELLOW CARD

    Astra midfielder Seydou Yahaya is the first into the referee's book for a lunging challenge as Celtic begin to exert some pressure.

     
  14.  
    20:09:

    Celtic win the first corner of the game and Charlie Mulgrew floats a header harmlessly over the crossbar after being found unmarked in acres of space 14 yards from goal by Anthony Stokes' cross to the far post.

     
  15.  
    20:09:

    Salzburg take on Dinamo Zagreb in the other Group D game in Austria and we'll keep you up to date with that too when we hear of anything.

     
  16.  
    20:07:

    Celtic concede an early free-kick as they whip the ball about the Glasgow pitch, but the Astra cross into the box is too close to home goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

     
  17.  
    20:05: Alasdair Lamont BBC Scotland at Celtic Park

    "Pretty dreich weather-wise in Glasgow this evening, but the pitch should be nice and slick as a result of the drizzle swirling around the stadium. Celtic have found it difficult to get any momentum this season, but tonight offers an opportunity to build upon the weekend thrashing of Ross County. Their Romanian opponents have had an even more sticky start to the season and lie bottom of Group D. Win here tonight and Celtic are well on the way to the knock-out stage."

     
  18.  
    20:05: KICK-OFF

    Celtic kick off in their traditional green and white hoops, with Astra in all black.

     
  19.  
    20:04:

    Ciaran Fitzgerald: "(3.05 am kick off to follow from singapore) Better be good or ill go car-azy."

     
  20.  
    20:03:
    Celtic goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska is all smiles Celtic goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska appears to have put his troubles behind him as he warms up
     
  21.  
    20:01:

    Here come the teams on to Celtic Park and the Europa League theme belts out in what looks like a half full stadium.

     
  22.  
    19:59:

    Celtic Park is looking a bit sparse at the moment. Let's hope those seats start to fill so we can get the kind of bouncing European atmosphere for which the stadium is renowned.

     
  23.  
    19:56: Join the debate #bbcscotfootball

    Martin Law: "I think that Astra are going to park the bus tonight. No, wait..."

     
  24.  
    19:55:

    Astra make two changes from their 1-1 draw with Gaz Metan. Constantin Budescu and Takayuki Seto come into midfield, with striker Aurelian Chitu and midfielder George Florescu, both Romanian internationals, dropping out, which suggests the visitors will be a bit more defensive in Glasgow as they were in their domestic league.

     
  25.  
    19:51: Alasdair Lamont BBC Scotland at Celtic Park

    "A big night this for Stefan Scepovic, who has yet to show what Ronny Deila and Celtic's scouts saw in him prior to his £2m summer move. Stefan Johansen seemed to relish his more advanced role against Ross County following the return of Charlie Mulgrew and the Celtic fans will be hoping for more of the same from him. And, with Mikael Lustig available again at right-back, Celtic look pretty strong."

     
  26.  
    19:44: Join the debate #bbcscotfootball

    jackos_da: "Think the wheels will fall off this Astra team tonight." Keep those car puns coming...

     
  27.  
    19:43:

    Celtic's line-up tonight shows only one change - on-loan Manchester City striker John Guidetti missing out again because he is not registered for the Europa League.

    His place is taken by Serbian forward Stefan Scepovic, whose Celtic career has yet to take off after his summer arrival.

    Goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska is on the bench despite picking up two black eyes after a well-publicised incident in the early hours of Monday morning.

     
  28.  
    19:40:

    Astra qualified for European football for the first time two seasons ago but missed out on the Europa League group stage after losing in the play-off stage.

     
  29.  
    19:38:

    Astra are struggling in their domestic league - as well as in Europe - but it has to be remembered that they defeated French cracks Lyon to qualify for the group stage. Not only that, but they beat another famous name - Steau Bucharest - to win their first major trophy, the Romanian Cup, after a penalty shoot-out last season. They repeated that feat in the Romanian Super Cup as well.

     
  30.  
    19:36:

    Astra have not won a game since mid-September and have drawn two, lost two since, disposing of their head coach in the process.

    Former Soviet Union and Ukraine international Oleg Protasov took charge of his first match as boss at the weekend, having replaced Daniel Isaila, and his side recorded a 1-1 draw away to mid-table Gaz Metan Medias to now sit fourth in Romanian top flight.

     
  31.  
    19:34:

    Celtic returned to winning ways at the weekend with that five-goal thumping of Ross County, but that followed a 1-0 home defeat by surprise Scottish Premiership leaders Hamilton Academical, so Ronny Deila's side can take nothing for granted. As the Celtic manager said yesterday, Astra would probably win the Scottish top flight if they swapped places with the Glasgow side.

     
  32.  
    19:30: On BBC Sport Scotland Facebook

    Euan Maclean: "3-1 Celtic."

    Michael Farrell McGill: "2-0 the hoops"

    Richard Macmillan: "Who are they going to play next, Corsa?"

     
  33.  
    19:28: Join the debate

    Give us your thoughts on BBC Sport Scotland Facebook.

     
  34.  
    19:27:

    Astra are minus injured Ghana Under-23 striker Sadat Bukari, while French winger Elliot Grandi, previously of Blackpool, is also missing.

     
  35.  
    19:22:

    The Celtic starting line-up confirms that Kris Commons has failed a fitness test after the high-scoring midfielder also missed Saturday's 5-0 thumping of Ross County.

    Emilio Izaguirre has recovered from an injury he sustained in that match and starts at left-back.

     
  36.  
    19:20: LINE-UPS

    Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Mulgrew, Johansen, McGregor, Scepovic, Stokes. Subs: Zaluska, Matthews, Ambrose, Tonev, Griffiths, Wakaso, Kayal.

    Astra Giurgiu: Lung Jr, Pliatsikas, Ben Youssef, Oros, Junior Morais, Laban, Yahaya, Enache, Seto, William Amorim, Budescu. Subs: Coman, Florescu, Bukari, Chitu, Fatai, Gaman, Rus.

    Referee: Kristinn Jakobsson (Iceland)

     
  37.  
    19:19: Join the debate by text on 80295
  38.  
    19:17: Join the debate #bbcscotfootball

    Tonight's visitors, Astra, are not named after a model of car by the way. Fotbal Club Astra Giurgiu are from Giurgiu, Romania, where they were founded in 1921 by an oil-company. Are there any other football clubs that might be mistaken for motor vehicles? Send us your ideas.

     
  39.  
    19:14:

    More on that Rangers statement later when we publish the full story. Now it's back to Celtic Park.

     
  40.  
    19:11:

    Dave King is heading back to South Africa and says he still hopeful that the club will accept his £16m investment offer despite no agreement being reached so far.

    "Our initial proposal to the board was to invest the full £16m by way of equity at 20p per share," he says in a statement.

    "The board requested that we consider a debt/equity mix that would reduce dilution for existing shareholders and allow the debt component to be advanced prior to the extended time frame required for the approval of additional equity.

    "We are amenable to this and to working with the board on the mechanics necessary to ensure that this is achieved provided that the full investment is recognised by way of board representation.

    "We wish to appoint an equal number of members to the board and have the key say regarding the appointment of the chairperson.

    "We will not invest funds and let the existing board determine how these funds are spent. That has not worked well in the past."

     
  41.  
    19:10:

    More of the game from Celtic Park to come. However, we can bring you news from across Glasgow, where former director Dave King has issued a fresh statement about his negotiations with Rangers about his proposal to provide vital funding for the cash-strapped Ibrox club.

     
  42.  
    19:08:

    Celtic start tonight's match hot favourites to beat Romanian visitors who sit bottom of Group D after losing their home opener 2-1 against Salzburg before being on the wrong end of a 5-1 hammering by Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.

    Tonight's hosts, meanwhile, sit top after edging out Dinamo 1-0 at home before scraping a 2-2 draw in Austria.

     
  43.  
    19:05:

    Welcome to another European night, hopefully one full of drama, on the BBC Sport website.

    Here we have live text coverage as Celtic host Romanians Astra Giurgiu in the third round of fixtures in Group D of the Europa League.

    If your preference is trannies, you can tweak your dials to BBC Radio Scotland 810MW, where you will find live radio commentary by Liam MacLeod from Celtic Park.

     

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