OXFORD, October 29 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – Scotland has no right under existing constitutional law to veto a UK referendum on the country's secession from the European Union planned for 2017, Nick Barber, Associate Professor in Law at Trinity College, Oxford told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
"As a matter of existing constitutional law the position is clear; it is the UK Parliament that would decide whether we should leave the EU," Barber said.
Barber, who represents the United Kingdom Constitutional Law Association, added that Scotland's constitutional "right to leave the Union" did not extend to a right to veto other constitutional issues related to the whole of the UK.
"If the rest of the UK voted to leave the EU but Scotland voted to stay, it would be for the UK Parliament to decide how to respond to this," Barber stated.
"Given that Scotland has less than a tenth of the population of the UK I would be surprised if the UK Parliament would set aside the decision made by the other nine tenths of the population," he added.
Barber's comments came ahead of a speech by the leader of the pro-European Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, in which she is expected to confirm her party will seek to amend UK legislation on an in/out EU referendum giving an effective veto for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland if a majority of voters in England back withdrawal from Europe.
"I don't think the EU is perfect. Far from it. It badly needs change and reform," Sturgeon will say in a speech in Edinburgh later Wednesday.
"But I do believe — strongly — that our interests are best served by being in, not out, of the EU. Should a bill be tabled in the House of Commons for a referendum on European Union membership, my party will table an amendment.
"That amendment will require that for the UK to leave the EU, each of the four constituent nations — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — would have to vote to do so, not just the UK as a whole," Sturgeon will tell an invited audience.
Barber told RIA Novosti that he had "some sympathy" with the Scottish Deputy First Minister's position in what he described as an "imbalanced union, like the UK", but warned the precedent of establishing such a veto could have other consequences.
"It is arguable that membership in the EU serves to protect Scotland and Wales from England, and in an imbalanced union, like the UK, the EU plays a role in bringing stability to the constitutional settlement," Barber said.
"So I have some sympathy with Nicola Sturgeon's view — but, on the other hand, it could mean a very small group of people in Scotland or Wales get to veto a decision made by a large majority of the rest of the UK," Barber stated.
Earlier on Wednesday, during Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons UK Premier David Cameron was asked whether he would accept Sturgeon's proposal on a Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland veto.
"We are one United Kingdom. There will be one in/out referendum (for the EU) and that will be decided on by a majority of those who vote. That is how the rules should work," Cameron responded.