Published On: Thu, Jun 5th, 2014

Barack Obama suggests Scotland should stay in UK

Barack Obama has intervened in the debate on Scottish independence by saying the United States has a deep interest in ensuring the UK remains “strong, robust and united”.

The US president said at a joint press conference in Brussels with David Cameron that the UK had been “an extraordinary partner” and that, as a foreigner, it seems to have worked well as unit.

Stressing that a decision on Scotland’s constitutional future was one for Scotland’s 4 million voters on 18 September, Obama told reporters: “There is a referendum process in place and it is up to the people of Scotland.

“The United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well. And we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner. But ultimately these are decisions that are to be made by the folks there.”

Until now the Obama administration has been carefully neutral about the referendum but Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, said this was a significant intervention.

“I welcome this important contribution by President Obama,” Alexander said. “His clear statement of support for the UK staying together will resonate with many of us here in Scotland.

“As a global statesman President Obama understands that interdependence is a defining feature of our modern world, and that building bridges, not putting up new barriers, is the challenge of our generation.”

Over the last few days, senior Swedish and Danish politicians have taken a stronger stance against independence. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, said a yes vote would lead to the “Balkanisation” of the UK, because of its potential knock-on effects elsewhere in the union.

“The Balkanisation of the British Isles is something we are not looking forward to,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “It opens up a lot, primarily in Scotland but also in the UK. What are the implications for the Irish question? What happens in Ulster?”

The Danish foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, told BBC Radio 4 in late May that an independent Scotland would need to follow strict processes and criteria to join the EU. Scottish ministers insist special, fast-track arrangements would be put in place after a yes vote, allowing Scotland to join within 18 months.

“There is actually quite strict rules about how new member states can become a member,” Lidegaard told the World this Weekend. “There is this Copenhagen accord where you have to deliver on certain criteria to be able to join the European Union. And that would be the same standards and criteria that Scotland in that case should live up to, and it would depend whether Scotland would be able to do that – whether they can get into the European Union.”