A senior member of the Scottish Government has insisted Scotland would not have to apply to join the European Union, despite new reports that the country would need to if it left the UK.
The European Commission is said to have written to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which is investigating the impact of Scottish independence, on the issue. The Scotsman reported that the Commission told the committee that the UK's EU membership would "cease to apply" to an independent Scotland.
According to the newspaper, the Commission stated that independence "would not have a neutral impact".
Its letter to the committee is reported to have said: "If a territory of a member state ceases to be part of that member state because it has become an independent state, then the treaties would cease to apply to that territory."
But Finance Secretary John Swinney argued that rather than applying for European membership, an independent Scotland would negotiate the terms of this from within the EU.
Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland: "Scotland would not be applying for membership. Scotland is already a member of the European Union, our citizens are EU citizens today, we follow all of the EU relevant provisions that we are required to follow.
"So the key point is any negotiation would be taking place not to apply for membership, but for membership from within the European Union, which is the key distinction which has to be remembered in this debate."
Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "The key point here is that when Scotland votes in the referendum in 2014, and assuming there is a Yes vote as a result of that referendum, Scotland will still be at that stage a part of the United Kingdom.
"What we have always accepted is there has to be a negotiation about the detail and the terms of Scotland's membership of the European Union, but crucially that will be taking place at a time when we are still part of the United Kingdom, still part of the European Union, of which we have been members for 40 years.
"As a consequence of that, we will be negotiating our arrangements and our membership and the details of our membership of the European Union from within the European Union, which is the key point of distinction."