Scotland should not have to enter the European Union (EU) as a completely new state if it becomes independent, according to a leading international lawyer.
Harvard and Oxford-educated Professor David Scheffer, an ambassador for war crimes under US president Bill Clinton and special adviser to his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, said Scotland should enjoy joint-successor status with the UK.
Experts are divided over Scotland`s potential future in the EU in the event of independence. Some believe Scotland will have to apply as a new state, with the remainder of the UK continuing as before, while others believe both parts of the former UK will be admitted or ejected on equal terms.
Prof Scheffer said there is a strong argument for Scotland being ejected and asked to reapply. However, he said the more logical course would be to treat Scotland and the UK as joint-successor states, with the same rights and opt-outs from the EU treaties as they currently enjoy.
"My argument, quite frankly, is that we have two co-equal successor states," he told BBC Radio Scotland`s Good Morning Scotland. "We don't have a situation where I'm going to call the British Government 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.
"I know that argument is out there - it's a very strong one - but 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 entity as successor states."
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "This 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."
Blair Jenkins, chief executive of pro-independence campaign Yes Scotland, said: "Professor Scheffer has looked closely at this issue and what he says completely demolishes misleading claims that somehow Scotland would be expelled from the EU on independence.
"The negative and destructive messages that somehow Scotland, which has been part of the EU for 40 years, would not be a welcome member of the EU simply defies all logic."