By Bob Duncan
A leading American professor of international law has said that Scotland and the remainder of the UK (rUK) will be treated as "co-equal successor states" in the event of independence.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Professor David Scheffer suggested that both would be treated equally by the European Union in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum and that a "pathway" would be constructed to ensure continued membership of both with minimal upheaval.
Professor Scheffer (pictured), who is a former Special Advisor to Madeleine Albright at the United Nations and the first US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues during Bill Clinton's second term in office, now lectures at North Western University School of Law.
Speaking on Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme on Saturday he said that Scotland's transition into an independent member of the EU should be clear.
Responding to a question from GMS host Derek Bateman who asked if the rUK will become the successor state, the academic replied: "My argument quite frankly is that we have two co-equal successor states.
"The smart move is to say, 'look, if it happens - namely if the referendum actually, you know, achieves a 'Yes' vote for independence - there will be a path developed for the continued participation of the Scottish people and thus of the new nation of Scotland or the restored nation of Scotland in the European Union"
Professor Scheffer's comments contradict the views expressed by many Unionist politicians who continue to insist that a newly independent Scotland would be thrown out of the European Union and forced to re-apply - some have claimed that Scotland would be forced to adopt the euro.
They also claim that the rUK would simply carry on as normal, keeping all of the current UK's international agreements, treaties and obligations.
According to Professor Scheffer, the fact that both Scotland and England were independent states before the 1707 Acts of Union, with an equal partnership in Union since then, would lead to both Scotland and the rUK being seen as equal successor states if one of the partners chose to end the centuries old agreement.
He added: "We don't have a situation where – I'm going to call it the British government - the British government is the predecessor state that retains all of the rights, without any question whatsoever, that had been established through the Union. And then Scotland is a successor state, somehow cast adrift, told to start from a clean slate, as some kind of new state."
He continued: "I will counter it, I think, with the more logical argument that the most appropriate way to handle the situation is to refer to each of the entities as successor states."
The contribution has been welcomed by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP, who said:
"This is an excellent and enlightened contribution by a man who has worked at the highest level in international law and politics.
"It will come as a huge blow to the anti-independence No camp politicians who know that the real threat to Scotland being ousted from Europe comes from remaining in the Westminster system.
"No serious person can argue that it is anything other than in the interests of the EU to keep Scotland in continuous membership, given this country's huge natural resources in energy and other aspects which make us such a valuable European partner."
"It is only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland at the referendum next year that will ensure Scotland's voice is always heard at the top tables of Europe."