Anwar al-Awlaki is dead

One of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders has been killed by a US air strike in Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki is no more. The al-Qaeda cleric, who became one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, has been killed by a US drone aircraft in Yemen.

It's another foreign policy triumph for Barack Obama, who ensured that Awlaki, of Yemeni descent, became the first US citizen to be placed on the CIA's targeted assassination list. The "spiritual leader" of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seemed to have a hand in almost every major terrorist plot against the west. He was linked to the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, the "Underwear Bomber", the failed Times Square plot, several of the 11 September 2001 attackers and Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed the Labour MP Stephen Timms. All were inspired by Awlaki's jihadist sermons, many of which remained on YouTube, despite the protests of the UK government

His death is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since the killing of bin Laden. Awlaki's relative youth (he was 40), eloquence and reach meant that he filled at least part of the void left by Osama.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Stop pretending an independent Scotland couldn't join the EU

The SNP has a different set of questions to answer. 

"But Spain", is the common response to a discussion of whether, by voting for independence, Scotland could effectively reverse Brexit. "Disaster for Sturgeon as Spain BACKS May over plans to block Scottish independence vote," declared the Brexiteer's favourite, The Express, this month. Spain, according to this narrative, would unilaterally puncture the SNP's bubble by vetoing readmission to the EU. An independent Scotland would be cast adrift into the North Sea.

I just don't buy it. I have put this question to everyone from former EU member state ambassadors to the former World Trade Organisation head and the answer has been the same: "It can be managed." 

There is also a crucial difference between Spain vetoing Scotland entering the EU, and considering its application on its own merit. Spain is indeed nervous about encouraging Catalonian separatists. But read between the lines. Spain's position on Scotland has so far been to say it would have to exit the EU, become independent and reapply. 

Last time I checked, that's not a veto. And from an EU perspective, this isn't as arduous as it might sound. Scotland's regulations would be in line with EU regulations. It would not upset the balance of power, nor fuel an identity crisis, in the way that Turkey's application did. Spain could justify acquiesence on the basis that the circumstances were extraordinary. And for a club struggling to hold together, an eager defector from the renegade Brexit Britain would be a PR coup. 

Where it is far more arduous is for the Scottish National Party, and the independence movement. As I've written before, roughly a third of SNP voters also voted Leave. Apart from the second-glass-of-wine question of whether quitting one union to join another really counts as independence, Scotland's fishing industry has concrete concerns about the EU. SNP MP Joanna Cherry has observed that it is "no secret" that many Leave voters worked in fishing. 

Then there are the questions all but the most diehard Remain voters will want answered. Would Scotland take the Euro? Would a land border with England be an acceptable sacrifice? Would an independent Scotland in the EU push for reforms at Brussels, or slavishly follow bureacracy's lead? The terms of EU membership for an independent Scotland may look quite different from those enjoyed by the UK.

Rather than continuing to shoot down the idea that an independent Scotland could join the EU - a club happy to accept other small countries like Ireland, Austria and Malta - opponents of the Scottish independence movement should be instead asking these questions. They are far harder to answer. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.