Scottish independence: Jean-Claude Juncker EU comments 'distorted' by pro-UK campaigners

Pro-UK campaigners have been accused of 'distorting' his comments to suggest an independent Scotland would mean leaving the EU

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Pro-UK campaigners have been accused of "distorting" the words of the newly-elected president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, after he said the EU needs to "take a break" from expansion and there would be no new members of the EU in the next five years.

In his political guidelines, Mr Juncker said the EU should consolidate what has already been achieved by the existing 28 member states, but did not refer specifically to Scotland.

He told MEPs ahead of a vote making him the new President of the European Commission: "Over the next five years, there won't be any new member states acceding to the European Union.

"It's hard to imagine that one of the candidate states with whom we are negotiating will have, in time, met all the accession criteria."

Opponents of Scottish Independence seized these comments and suggested his remarks signal a ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland's forthcoming independence referendum would also be a vote to leave the EU.

They claimed an independent Scotland would be forced to get back in the queue for EU membership and would not be back in before 2019.

Following Mr Juncker's comments, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said earlier: "It is now clear that if we leave the UK, we would be leaving the EU. This would put thousands of Scottish jobs at risk and would be massively damaging to our country."

But Mr Juncker's office has since confirmed he was not referring to Scotland in his comments and he was actually referring to countries already in an accession process with the EU, BBC Scotland has reported.

A spokesperson said: "At no point is Scotland mentioned, as this is an entirely separate issue.

"Mr Juncker has made his position on this clear on many an occasion: this is an internal matter of the UK and he will respect the result of the Scottish referendum."

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the No camp had "wilfully twisted" Mr Juncker's words and demanded an apology.

"This blatant act of dishonesty is a major blow to the credibility of the No campaign," she said.

Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

"The No campaign are guilty of distorting remarks by the newly-elected president of the European Commission, which is an extremely serious matter. They must withdraw their bogus assertions as a matter of urgency and issue a public apology."

The Scottish Government maintains the terms of Scotland's EU membership as an independent state would be agreed during the 18-month transition period following the September ballot.

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It says Scotland is already part of the EU, and therefore meets all the requirements for membership.

A spokesperson for pro-Union campaigners Better Together said: "These comments lay bare the full extent of the problems we would face if we left the UK.

"The countries who have already started the application process to join the EU face a five year wait. As President Juncker has made perfectly clear, if we leave the UK, we would then have to start the application process to join.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said the No campaign had "distorted" Mr Juncker's position because "Scotland is already in the European Union and will negotiate our member state status from within".

"Jean-Claude Juncker is obviously talking about countries not currently in the EU, such as Kosovo and Turkey - unlike them, Scotland complies in full with every single European rule and regulation," he said.

Additional reporting by PA