Anti-independence politicians, including Better Together head Alistair Darling, have been challenged to square their campaign’s claims that Scotland has been ‘extinguished’ with their previous backing for the sovereign rights of people in Scotland.
Earlier this week, the Tories’ sole MP in Scotland David Mundell confirmed that he was perfectly comfortable with the description that Scotland had been extinguished by the union.
Mr Mundell was commenting on a report published by the UK government which claimed that Scotland effectively ceased to exist when the Act of Union was signed in 1707. Asked if he was comfortable with the claim, the Tory MP replied “Yes”.
The interview followed publication of a report by the UK government which claimed that an independent Scotland would have to start from scratch, inheriting none of the UK’s treaties and obligations. However the initial claim led to furious backtracking by UK Ministers after it emerged Scotland would therefore incur none of the UK’s massive national debt burden.
The report also contained a controversial paragraph that claimed Scotland had effectively ceased to exist when the 1707 Act of Union was ratified.
According to page 75 of the UK government report:
“For the purpose of this advice, it is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state.”
Mr Mundell’s public endorsement of the claim has been criticised by the SNP. The nationalists said it blew apart Unionist claims that Scotland was an equal partner in the Union.
Now key figures in other anti-independence parties have been challenged to make clear whether they also believe Scotland has ceased to exist.
Last year the Scottish Parliament voted to reaffirm the Claim of Right which makes clear “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”
Only Conservative MSPs voted against the motion which was supported by 88% of Scottish Parliament MSPs.
SNP MSP Stuart McMillan has written to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, her deputy Anas Sarwar and No campaign leader Alistair Darling asking them whether they too agree with the claim that Scotland was extinguished. Mr McMillan has also challenged Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie to clarify his own position on the report.
Commenting, Mr McMillan who sits on the Referendum Bill Committee said:
“Anti-independence campaigners must own up to whether they endorse the UK government’s report which claims the Union in 1707 ‘extinguished’ Scotland. It is a claim that people in Scotland will find utterly bizarre and cannot pass without comment from the No camp.
“Time and time again senior anti-independence politicians have tried to paint the picture that government by Westminster is a ‘partnership’ of equals. The position in the UK Government’s paper completely undermines that argument and the No campaign must make clear whether it stands by these claims.
“How does the idea that Scotland no longer exists or has rights square with the Claim of Right declaration of the sovereign right of people in Scotland to determine the ‘form of government best suited to their needs’ which was signed by many politicians in the No camp?
“It seems that the danger of being in a Tory-led No campaign is that principles play second-fiddle to the kind of Conservative world-view people in Scotland have rejected time and time again.
“Perhaps it is because they apparently do not believe in Scotland that people in Scotland have consistently shown they do not believe in Tories.
“What this strange world-view where Scotland no longer exists makes clear is that the only way Scotland will genuinely be able to work as a full and equal partner with the other nations of these islands is with the powers of an independent Scotland which only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will secure.”
The report, compiled by two respected academics Professor James Crawford and Professor Alan Boyle was hailed by the pro-Union camp as further evidence that Scotland would not be an automatic EU member on independence and that the SNP’s 16 month transition period was too optimistic.
However, commenting on radio, Professor Crawford confounded the No campaign by describing the SNP timetable as “realistic”.
The academic also said that a newly independent Scotland could negotiate its EU membership from within the EU, also claiming that negotiations with other bodies such as the UN would not be difficult.