By Angela Haggerty
Warnings about border checks between Scotland and England in an independent Scotland have been rebuffed by a Conservative MP, who says there is no reason for the current system to change following a Yes vote.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics East programme, Richard Bacon, the MP for South Norfolk, said there were “plenty parts” of Europe that did not require passport checks, countering previous comments made by former Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP.
Mr Bacon said: “One of the people in the clip said, ‘travel is going to get more difficult’, I mean pull the other one, is it suddenly going to get more difficult to get on a train? Are we seriously thinking that if Scotland becomes independent there will be passport checks on the border?
“There are of plenty parts of Europe where there are no passport checks, when you go from France to Germany, or from Luxembourg to Belgium, and I see no reason why that [border controls] should necessarily happen within this Island.”
In August, Michael Moore – who was sacked as Secretary of State for Scotland last month – said Scotland’s border controls would be a “complete nightmare” in an independent Scotland and raised the prospect of minor roads and farm tracks requiring border patrols because of Scotland’s “friendlier” approach to immigration.
His comments followed warnings from Britain’s Minister for Europe, David Lidington, last year that passport controls on the Scottish border would ne be necessary to comply with EU law because Britain is not part of the Schengen Agreement, which allows free travel between European member countries signed up to the agreement.
However, the warnings have been labelled as scare-mongering tactics by the SNP, with Annabelle Ewing MSP pointing out that Britain operates a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which sets its own immigration policy, and has even been involved in moves to strengthen that relationship with common visas.
“While Mr Moore is peddling silly scares at Scotland, his own government is pursuing the exact opposite policy towards Ireland,” she told the Scotsman.
SNP MSP for the west of Scotland, Stuart McMillan, said Mr Bacon’s comments exposed a fear tactic being used by anti-independence campaigners.
“Once again the No campaign’s Project Fear has been totally rumbled,” he said. “These comments will serve as a huge embarrassment to the Labour and Tory pact trying to stop decisions being made in Scotland – the Tory MP’s comments also serve to contextualise the debate for undecided voters. Hundreds of thousands of Scots are still weighing up how they will vote in the referendum and people don’t like being taken for fools.
He added: “We simply cannot believe a word that Project Fear says. They are clearly panicked by the people of Scotland warming towards a Yes vote. The gains of independence are being laid out and will be made crystal clear by the Scottish Government’s White Paper later this month – the No camp have yet to spell out any form of a positive vision for Scotland’s future.”