London and EU interests best served by smooth transition following Yes vote


  By a Newsnet reporter
A newly published paper into the aftermath of a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum suggests London and Brussels would be keen for the transition to full EU membership of a newly independent Scotland to be as smooth as possible.
Academics have today published research which concludes that London, Brussels and Edinburgh would facilitate a smooth transition following Scottish independence because it would be in their collective best interests to do so.

The research paper, written by Icelandic Professors, said cooperation and not conflict would follow a victory for the Yes campaign in next year’s referendum.  According to the academics, any attempt by London to obstruct the progress of a newly independent Scotland could result in it backfiring.

“The morning after a ‘Yes’ vote would witness a new situation where the rUK [remainder of the UK] would also be a demandeur and could only hurt itself by casting Scotland into a limbo of indefinite non-membership […] the facts of North European geopolitics should also weigh with other institutional members, balancing any internal-political motives for making trouble.”, the paper states.

It also concludes that the United States would seek minimal disruption, adding: “the US would surely press for minimally disruptive solutions.”.

Velvet Divorce

Later the academics say: “In its given, North-west European and ‘strong state’ context, Scotland’s independence – should it ever happen – would be more of a ‘velvet divorce’ than a violent (conflict-
driven) breakaway or radical régime change.”

The research also claims that establishing a “fast” transition to full Scottish European Union membership would be a priority for other European countries.  Economic, social and political continuity would be ensured through forming a cordial arrangement.

The report ‘Scotland as an Independent Small State: Where would it seek shelter?’  was produced by Alyson JK Bailes, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, University of Iceland, Baldur Thorhallsson, Professor of Political Science, University of Iceland and Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Akureyri.

It states, “More broadly and perhaps decisively, the EU as a whole and its territories currently doing most business with Scotland – starting with the rUK – would face huge economic, financial and societal uncertainty if Scotland was no longer to be part of the Single Market, the Four Freedoms of human and capital movement, and the common bedrock of EU regulation.  This makes it likely, all legal debate and rhetoric aside, that the time of grace before actual Scottish separation (sic) would in fact be used to devise ways of keeping the EU system provisionally alive in Scotland and (re?-)establishing Scottish membership fast.”

The paper also acknowledged the challenges facing a newly independent Scotland which would have to protect a relatively long coastline which included significant offshore resources such as oil, gas and fish.  The paper suggested that a new Scottish Defence Force would mitigate the challenges to an extent but Scotland would still require assistance given the expected importance of the Arctic zone which is expected to open up and develop rapidly due to climate change.

The academics claim that NATO would prefer to keep Scotland as a continuing member contributing modestly.  On the subject of Trident, they argue that it is unlikely that NATO would countenance any government which attempted to “bully” another into storing its nuclear warheads against the other’s wishes.

Other areas of concern, according to the academics, were the threat of terrorism and the lack of diplomatic clout normally associated with smaller states.  This though, the academics say can be addressed through cooperation with other nations and membership of bodies such as NATO and the EU.

The financial and political costs of the new diplomacy and international ties would be different from those associated with the current political union with England, but not necessarily less.

The report challenged the view that an independent Scotland would be too small to influence international events, pointing to the input of many small Nordic nations and the BeNeLux trio of nations who contribute significantly to UN campaigns.

“Their success has been a result of their administrative working practices in terms of prioritization, informality, flexibility and the autonomy of their officials related to the small size of their bureaucracy.  In this sense and through the specialized resources they may bring (including useful locations), small states have something to give as well as receive when entering into shelter relationships.”

The study also looked into the aftermath of a No vote in the referendum and concluded that the distancing from London would continue and that relations with small Nordic European states may play a growing role.

“For sure, the clock will not simply go back.  If important actors in Scotland grow attached to a specific ‘small state’ agenda, and forge new Nordic links, in the process of contingency planning, these themes will stay alive one way or the other in Scottish and UK politics.”