“An independent Scotland will be denied entry to the EU unless Nicola Sturgeon commits to joining the euro” – Times, 27/10/22


The governing Maastricht Treaty imposes no timetable or mechanism for a new EU entrant joining the single currency. EU leaders agree Scotland would be welcomed “enthusiastically” back into the European fold.


On October 27, 2022, The Times published a story quoting anonymous sources claiming that unless Scotland committed to joining the euro currency area it would be denied re-entry to the EU. The claim was then repeated at FMQs by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross. How significant are these assertions?

While the report may be accurate, it is impossible to verify the status or qualifications of the unnamed sources. It is also obvious that some sources within the EU bureaucracy would be unwilling to give a journalist anything other than a very formal, unnuanced reply to such an inquiry.

READ MORE: Will Scotland have to join the euro to join the EU? What the experts say

However, common sense suggests that Scotland’s re-entry to the European Union would be welcomed by that organisation and that the details would be subject to negotiation. This point was made was made forcibly by Donald Tusk (below), former European Council president of the European Council, as far back as 2020. Tusk argued that Scottish membership would be “enthusiastically” welcomed by EU member states.

The National: Donald Tusk


Apart from Denmark, which has a permanent opt-out, all current EU member states are expected to join the euro – although this depends on meeting certain economic criteria –but there is no set timetable in which they have to do so. Countries can, therefore, join the EU before joining the euro. Seven EU members retain their own currencies: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Sweden. Four non-EU territories also use the euro: Andorra, Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino.

In addition, 14 African nations peg their currency to the euro, which effectively makes them part of the eurozone. These are former French colonies. Also, Iran uses the euro for all foreign transactions and holds the world’s fourth largest reserves of the currency.


The EU is a trading bloc. The common rules of the single market are designed to ensure free trade between members. However, starts retaining their own currency can devalue (reduce the cost of buying their currency) in order to lower the price of their goods, thus giving their firms an advantage. Also, individual currencies can change their value haphazardly. Having a common currency such as the euro eliminates these problems and promotes free trade. Trade, in turn, creates jobs and economic growth.


In order to join the euro, EU member states are required to fulfil so-called "convergence criteria". These binding economic and legal conditions were agreed in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The Treaty does not specify a particular timetable for joining the euro area but leaves it to member states to develop their own strategies for meeting the condition for adoption. It is therefore possible to delay entry indefinitely. The European Commission and the European Central Bank jointly decide whether the conditions are met for euro area candidate countries to adopt the euro. After assessing the progress made against the convergence criteria, the two bodies publish their conclusions in respective reports. These are further ratified by the ECOFIN Council in consultation with the European Parliament and member states.


Very clearly, the Maastricht Treaty lays down no timetable for a member state joining the single currency but joining does require a commitment to eventual membership. It is therefore wrong to state that membership automatically ensures eventually joining the zone – or that Scotland would be refused entry unless it joined in short order. Equally, there is the moral issue that formally agreeing to adopt the euro - even in the indefinite future – entails something of a promise.

The National: The euro is not used in every EU member stateThe euro is not used in every EU member state (Image: The National)


There is no Treaty barrier to Scotland keeping the pound after re-joining the EU, though it may affect entry negotiations. A volatile currency such as the pound may be considered an issue for internal EU trade relationships. However, the Scottish Government has committed to transitioning from using sterling “as soon as practicable” which may reassure the EU institutions that this is not a long-term problem.

This raises the question of Scotland moving to its own currency, as an EU member, yet not transitioning to the euro directly. Again, this might complicate EU membership negotiations. However, we should note the case of Denmark, which has permanent opt-out status. This opt-out is not quite what it seems as Denmark actually fixes its currency, the krone, to the euro (a mechanism known as “pegging”). It would be open to Scotland to peg the Scottish pound to the euro. This would guarantee reasonable certainty in trading arrangements.

Of course, an independent Scotland might actually desire to join the euro and move directly to eurozone membership. Several members of the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission advocated this solution in 2018, before the party adopted its current position of keeping sterling. Entry negotiations could conceivably reopen this debate.

We should note that the proposed transition from using the pound to introducing a new Scottish currency requires the Scottish economy to achieve agreed convergence criteria as refereed by a new Scottish Central Bank. Given that Scotland must also agree to economic and fiscal convergence criteria relevant to EU membership, it seems problematic that the newly independent state should have two separate convergence strategies.


The resurfacing of the canard that Scotland must join the euro is simply inaccurate. However, on a different level, the debate regarding currency options for an indy Scotland remains open and complex.


The National:

A big zero for suggesting “no euro, no entry”.

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