IAN Blackford has insisted he is not concerned about an independent Scotland joining a "lengthy queue" of countries seeking to join the EU, adding he did not agree that it would take a long time to join the bloc following a Yes vote.

The former SNP Westminster leader was asked at a UK In a Changing Europe event whether he was worried about Scotland attempting to rejoin the bloc following a Yes vote when Western Balkan nations are looking to become members as well as Ukraine.

It was also put to the MP that enlargement of the EU is becoming a “toxic issue” between member states. 

But when it was suggested that there would be a large gap between Scotland gaining independence and getting back into the EU because of a "lengthy queue", he dismissed the notion completely and said he had no qualms about being able to rejoin at a decent pace.

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Blackford said: “No, I don’t share that for a minute [that it would Scotland a long time to join the EU].

“I’ll tell you why, because there’s a high level of goodwill which is shown towards Scotland and there’s ongoing dialogue we have with our friends and neighbours in the EU.

“Remember that as part of the UK, we were a member of the EU and we still have that broad alignment as things stand today.

“We were wholly opposed to the UK single market act, so we need to make sure we stay as aligned to Europe as we can do and that will assist in our application to join.

“I think your points about the Balkans are very prescient. We just had the anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica on July 11, and there are things going on in the Balkans which should absolutely worry all of us, and I think what we have got from the EU is a desire to be a player for good to make sure we can continue with that peace in that part of the world.

“I think offering that hope of membership of the EU to those in that region is of course an important factor.”

The EU has developed a policy to support the gradual integration of the Western Balkan countries.

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In July 2013, Croatia became the first of the seven countries to join while Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia have candidate country status – meaning they are considered potential members.

Accession negotiations have been opened with Montenegro and Serbia, negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia were opened in July 2022, and Kosovo submitted its application for EU membership in December last year.

Ukraine applied for EU membership in February 2022 and was granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

Blackford – who has confirmed he will be leaving Westminster at the next General Election – was also asked whether he accepted there would be a hard border between Scotland and England if an independent Scotland was to join the EU.

He said there would be challenges but was confident they would be overcome with “goodwill on both sides”.

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He said: “There is going to have to be a process of negotiation and we’ve lived through the prolonged difficulties with the situation in Northern Ireland.

“But in the end, with the Windsor Agreement, there is a way through that and there’s a way through that recognises, for example, that you still get free movement of people between Ireland and the UK.

“I think sometimes our Unionist opponents will want to play up what they see as the problems with that and of course there are challenges that have to be overcome, but I think with good will on both sides we can find a way through that.

“An independent Scotland will see those in the rest of the UK as our dearest friends or nearest neighbours and certainly people we would want to work with.

“One of the things that will happen out of this is it will strengthen the operation of the British Irish Council, so let’s be a force for good and let’s make sure that, just as we have with the relationship between the UK and Ireland as sovereign independent states, that that will happen between the rest of the UK and Scotland.”