Blow for 'No' campaign as ESRC says Scotland would stay
It is unlikely that an independent Scotland would be cut off from the rights and obligations of EU membership for any period of time, according to a leading British research body.
In what will be seen as a significant blow to those campaigning for a No vote in next month's referendum, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) found that although it is likely that it would have to apply through the accession process for new members, EU membership for independent Scotland is not in any serious doubt.
Westminster politicians have frequently claimed that an independent Scotland would be blocked from being in the EU.
The research is part of the ESRC-funded project, The Future of the UK and Scotland.
The paper explores the legal issues surrounding membership of the European Union for an independent Scotland.
It found "strong reasons to believe that in the event of a Yes vote in the September referendum the EU would be prepared to open negotiations aimed at securing the membership of an independent Scotland".
Researchers note it is highly likely that the UK will continue in membership of the EU should Scotland become independent, while it is likely that Scotland will require to apply for accession through Article 49 of the European treaties - the process of joining for new member states.
Article 48 - which the Scottish Government says would allow Scotland to negotiate its membership from within - also offers a "plausible route to membership", the paper found.
Researchers said the timetable proposed by the Scottish Government which sets out plans for full accession by March 2016 is "ambitious", but "it is unlikely, however, that an independent Scotland would find itself cut off from the rights and obligations that come with European Union membership for any period of time".
Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said Scotland would be the wealthiest country in the world to become independent if there is a Yes vote in four weeks' time, Alex Salmond has said.
The First Minister made his comments as MSPs gathered at the Scottish Parliament for the final time before the referendum.
Voters in Scotland go to the polls on September 18 to decide if the country should remain part of the UK or not.
Mr Salmond said: "The referendum has inspired an outpouring of ideas about the sort of Scotland we seek, the Scotland we want to see.
"Some points have become clear. We all agree Scotland's got what it takes to be a successful, independent country.
"We're one of the world's wealthiest countries - our gross domestic product per head is higher than the UK, France and Japan.
"Indeed, if Scotland votes Yes, we'd be the wealthiest country in the world ever to declare its independence."