Scotland Independence: Lawyers Say Independent Nation Would Have To Renegotiate International Status

Scotland's position in the United Kingdom has come under scrutiny as the government publishes legal opinion ahead of next year's independence referendum.

Experts have suggested that Scotland would not continue to hold the same rights and powers in the event of a yes vote in 2014.

The document outlining their views follows work across Whitehall departments to try to explain how Scotland and the rest of the UK "benefit" from the union.

Cameron drew on Olympic glory to suggest breaking up the union would be damaging to Britain

It comes on the same day as advisers to First Minister Alex Salmond publish an economic framework for an independent Scotland.

The report looking at monetary, financial and fiscal policy recommends retaining sterling as a currency if Scotland votes to secede.

Salmond's council of economic advisers brings together academics including Andrew Hughes Hallet and Alex Kemp as well as Nobel-prize winning economist Sir Jim Mirrlees.

According to the report: "Scotland's economy is strong enough and sufficiently aligned with the rest of the UK that a separate currency would not be necessary."

Meanwhile law specialists said that an independent Scotland would have to renegotiate its relationship with international organisations while the rest of the UK would continue as before.

Professors James Crawford and Alan Boyle set out their opinions on bodies from the European Union to Interpol as part of the analysis paper published on Monday.

It does not include specific advice from the European Commission on the implications of Scottish independence in the EU however.

The 57-page opinion finds that the "overwhelming weight" on precedent suggests Scotland will become a new state while the remainder of the UK will continue to hold its previous position.

"This means that if Scotland became independent, only the remainder of the UK would automatically continue to exercise the same rights, obligations and powers under international law as the UK currently does, and would not have to re-negotiate existing treaties or re-apply for membership of international organisations," the summary states.

Professor Crawford of Cambridge University is an Australian State Counsel, similar to a QC, and is a nominee to be a judge of the international Court of Justice. Professor Boyle is an expert on international law-making and the settlement of international disputes.

The SNP has published a document outlining how the final transition to independence would take place

Their opinion was requested last year by the Foreign, Cabinet and Advocate General offices.

David Cameron launched a defence of the UK on Sunday prior to the publication of the report.

The Prime Minister said: "I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain's success - so for me there's no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.

"The real question is whether it should - whether Scotland is stronger, safer, richer and fairer within our United Kingdom or outside it."

Scotland's deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the paper would only serve to boost support for an independent Scotland.

She said: "For the UK Government to argue that the UK will be a 'continuing state' and that an independent Scotland would have no rights betrays a near colonial attitude to Scotland's position as a nation and gives lie to any suggestion that they see Scotland as an equal partner in the UK.

"The reality is that the status of Scotland and the rest of the UK following a 'Yes' vote in Autumn 2014 and before Scotland became independent in 2016 will be determined not by assertions of law, but by negotiation and agreement.

"That is the only and overwhelming lesson that can be drawn from the many international precedents that exist."