Alex Salmond: Independent Scotland to join EFTA to get into single market more quickly

Alex Salmond has outlined plans for an independent Scotland to join EFTA
Alex Salmond has outlined plans for an independent Scotland to join EFTA Credit: David Rose / The Daily Telegraph

Scotland would try and join the European Free Trade Association rather than the EU immediately after independence under the SNP’s latest plans, Alex Salmond has confirmed.

The former First Minister said that Scotland would try and join EFTA as a “transition” for an undefined period, before applying to join the EU in the longer term.

He said this would be easier to achieve and take less time because EFTA has only four members and would not have “anything like the difficulties” of getting full EU membership.

By following this route, known as the Norway model, he argued an independent Scotland could have “continuous” membership of the EU’s single market.

His intervention confirmed the Telegraph’s disclosure last week that Nicola Sturgeon was to abandon the SNP’s long-standing policy of an independent Scotland immediately re-joining the EU.

Three of the four EFTA members have also joined the European Economic Area (EEA), which gives access to the single market. This requires the consent of all EU member states.

However, Mr Salmond’s claim of “continuous” membership was undermined last week when Iceland’s foreign minister said Scotland could only start applying to EFTA after it became independent.

This would mean a separate Scotland starting life outside the EU single market for an indeterminate period.

Nicola Sturgeon on ITV's Peston on Sunday programme Credit: S Meddle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that EU membership remained SNP policy but hinted at the EFTA “transition” plan when she told ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme that single market membership was the “minimum” benchmark for Scotland.

Mr Salmond went further by telling BBC Radio Five Live’s Pienaar's Politics programme that there was a difference between “what you do as a transition and what you would do as your aim.”

Confirming he was referring to the Norway model, he said: “The idea is to have continuous membership of the European Economic Area. That’s the logic behind Nicola Sturgeon’s 18 months to two years for the referendum.

“By definition, that is a lot easier to achieve very, very quickly because EFTA is an organisation of four countries. The European Commission in a number of examples has negotiated arrangements like this before for accession countries.

“It’s not something that has anything like the difficulties of securing full European Union membership.”

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