By Ian Dunt
The growing scandal over Alex Salmond's promises about an independent Scotland's membership of the EU has deepened, after further allegations about his behaviour emerged.
The Scottish first minister previously said legal advice showed Scotland would be able to adopt Britain's membership of the EU, including its ability to opt-out of the euro.
But those comments have been called in for question after deputy party leader Nicola Sturgeon admitted no legal advice had been given.
Over the weekend it emerged even Sturgeon's comments may not be reliable, after legal sources close to the first minister told The Independent on Sunday the Holyrood government had been regularly informed EU membership would not be automatic and required "detailed negotiations".
The lord advocate and solicitor general – Salmond's chief legal advisers – reportedly only authorised referendum documents on the basis that negotiations were required with the EU.
"Nicola Sturgeon claimed all the Scottish government had was a blank sheet of paper. Now it is emerging that Mr Salmond was told that 'negotiations' would be required on EU membership and nothing was automatic," Labour MEP Catherine Stihler told the newspaper.
"We need to know what information Mr Salmond is continuing to hide and why he refuses to reveal what legal advice he was given."
In a humiliating move, Salmond reported himself to the independent panel on breaches to the ministerial code last week, but even that decision is now being scrutinised by the media.
Peter Fraser, a member of the panel, told the Scotland on Sunday he had been "stood down" from the panel after he said the allegations against Salmond were too broad to be considered just in terms of the ministerial code.
"My remit had always been the narrower one of 'was there a breach of the ministerial code?'" he said.
"It does seem to me to go wider than that."
Labour justice spokesman Lewis MacDonald commented: "It is not acceptable for the first minister to attempt to manipulate this panel and its remit.
"It would appear Alex Salmond is so desperate to make this crisis go away he is trying to rig the process."
The EU row is starting to do serious damage to Salmond's reputation. Even the Scottish Sun, which supports Salmond as a result of his close friendship with Rupert Murdoch, branded the first minister an "EU liar".
Former chancellor Alistair Darling said: "Alex Salmond has been wounded. He has been caught out."
EU president Jose Manuel Barroso recently confirmed an independent Scotland would be considered a "new state" which would have to apply to join the EU like any other country.
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By Ian Dunt
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