by Hazel Lewry
Rarely a day goes by without someone, somewhere raising the prospect of Scotland having border controls with England. ‘Passports will be required’ is a mantra that has been repeated in various forms and by different voices since the Scots again started rumblings over reclaiming our natural rights in the last century.
These voices existed even when the SNP were only polling around 1% or 2% in general elections. Then came membership of the EU by the UK, the gift to Europe of Scotland’s fishing grounds, a substantial EU membership fee and additional abrogation of Sovereign rights in return for fluid and ambiguous benefits over which we Scots have little to no direct say.
There is talk of being expelled from NATO, intimations of basically losing our place in the world, wandering in the international diplomatic wilderness so to speak.
Border controls: Naturally Scotland would have them, but it’s never been mentioned that they will exist between Scotland and England on the land border. More correctly it’s never been proposed as a policy by a potential future independent Scottish government.
It has been lauded as a potential/probable scenario by many Unionists/Union supporters and freely reported in scaremongering ways by the media. Often these stories have been written in such a way as to make the reader interpret that passports to get to England would be another fact of life.
The reality of the situation is rather different. The facts are the antithesis of the propaganda. Westminster may impose border controls, Scotland, it seems, would not initiate this. If Westminster did for some nefarious and petty reason elect to impose such controls, it would be childish and puerile. Initially at least both countries would be within the EU. The EU has an open border policy. Border controls between Scotland and the rump UK will not happen. Period.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be in central Europe, I drove from Switzerland to Germany to Austria to Germany and not one border post in sight. Any suggesting otherwise would be well advised to get a grip of international policy within the EU.
A secondary issue for the idiocy of such border statements stems from separate passport ideology. The reality is we’ll likely have a Scottish passport, issued under an EU or UK banner. This is important as England would have the same. It’s important because some passports carry more privileges than others. Some are visa exempt from many countries, or have holiday visa fees waived. Other passports can be very expensive over their life. This only applies if either or both nations choose that path.
EU or re-defined Scottish/UK would be immaterial; little would change in all practical areas.
England imposing border controls somewhere south of Berwick to north of Carlisle is very unlikely to happen. It would create a diplomatic and electoral furore within their own nation. While Westminster can, and frequently does, pay little more than lip service to the electorate, the politicians themselves would not dare to cross this particular bridge.
It’s acknowledged there are only a few road crossings, but unless Westminster plans to re-create Hadrian ’s Wall, there’s far too many places that anyone can literally just walk across the hills between the nations. Scrapping Trident might give Whitehall the money to rebuild the wall, but almost 2,000 years on it’s unlikely the political will is there. The compulsory land purchases might just be a wee bit more complicated than in Roman days.
In years to come Whitehall is well aware that much of its energy will come from Scotland. Much of its water may also require to be supplied from our nation. These are reasons enough to attempt to retain Scotland in subservience, but when that cycle is broken they are more than ample to ensure good and friendly relations are initiated. Border controls are not conducive to that. The SNP have stated time and again they would wish friendly relations with England.
There is also a strong border control agency within the UK presently. England/Wales and Scotland would simply have authority for the individual nations within the main Island. It would not be in Scotland’s interest to enact immediate changes, though such could happen in time.
Changes in time could come through differing immigration laws for Scotland, already under discussion. These visas would restrict the holder to Scotland, just like University visas restrict students. After a set period and they become de-facto “Scots”, they have the same freedom of movement as any other resident.
What can be predicted with reasonable certainty is the future need for completely separate DWP’s in each nation. English people moving to Scotland would only get the benefits agreed upon by the respective nations, be it health, education or retirement.
Already in health and education the two nations are separated by a vast gulf. With English residents moving for educational purposes already treated as foreign citizen’s minimal future adjustment is foreseen there. The health and aged care services have possibly wider differences; this social gulf has been steadily increasing as Scotland follows an innate social democratic path against England’s mostly private industry preferences, many of which appear modelled after the USA and to be purely profit driven.
There is no valid reason foreseen absent simple, blatant, strong propaganda that resumption of our nation’s inherent rights should change relationships with England in a negative way. Unless Westminster decides that to walk the foolish path of enmity is in the best interests of the UK rump.
The EU finds itself in similar situation. Scotland holds 60% of EU oil reserves and a vast proportion of EU fishing grounds. Scots have between 30% and 60% of currently identified EU green power capacity. Scots are a net exporter of food. Academia and research in Scotland are widely respected and remain in the forefront of world education.
When the time comes for renegotiation with the EU, and it should, Scotland will write her own ticket in many ways. She will do it honourably and fairly, first in protection of her own people and their rights, secondly in furthering free trade and removal of barriers.
If the EU is unprepared to accept this, Scotland can join the less inclusive trading group in Brussels, operating basically as the original EEC concept which is much more nationally inclusive but enhances retention of international sovereignty.
One thing is certain; with Europe knowing it needs Scotland and her myriad resources, the threat of forced expulsion is rather ludicrous. Effectively then this can also be consigned to Unionist fearmongering propaganda, or illogical governmental acts. That Scotland is already pencilled in as a primary energy contributor to the proposed pan-European super-grid would re-enforce this impression.
NATO: Does Scotland want it? Does Scotland need it? Is it just another unnecessary expense? That should be for the Scots to decide, all appearances are it will be for us to decide. Expulsion is not foreseeable. Scotland is simply too strategically valuable. From Rockall to Orkney and Shetland we control massive swathes of the North Atlantic within our borders. NATO is after all the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Giving up one-third of your reason d’être because Westminster is in a bad mood seems rather unlikely. NATO is unlikely to wish to change its acronym to clarify the fact that it no longer covers the North Atlantic, but “just a bit”.
We can reasonably project that our obligations to NATO would be limited to what our sovereign nation would decide, as would our financial burden.
The UN: The UN is an entirely different animal, the UK fears loss of a seat as a permanent Security Council member. It is certainly arguable it’s time this happened. Scotland doesn’t need it or desire it. Scotland doesn’t need or desire nuclear weapons, we have made that plain at the ballot box.
England and France, both could be removed from the UN permanent council and have their seats replaced by a Northern European confederation and Southern European confederation, or just an EU seat and suspend the other. Reduce the number of possible vetoes to four. That’s one less diplomat to support.
With due consideration into the above issues it’s difficult to observe a downside for Scotland, while many advantages are self evident. Remove the vitriol and fear that is often spread and we discover a Scottish nation once again in charge of its destiny. A Scottish nation once again able to revive a fishing industry. Scots will again be able to make or amend their own alliances and allegiances for the benefit of Scots. Scots military expenditures might well reduce while our personnel under arms could increase. Our unemployment should reduce as our voice in the world once more gains a prominence of old.
As Pope Martin V is reputed to have said, the Scots are the well known antidote to the English. Perhaps in our present day and age it is again time for the Scots to bring their unique brand of medicinal reason to the diplomatic stage.
Without a “poodle UK” many deaths in recent wars would, for the most part, not have happened. Without the “poodle UK” many US adventures may never come to pass. The Scots can eliminate the poodle UK. It is time for the Scots to again become the antidote.