Conjuring up dragons

Photo by Vlad Zaytsev on Unsplash

By Molly Pollock

Following on from our last article on Tory seats in Scotland Molly Pollock challenges John Lamont’s recent scare stories about a border between Scotland and England after independence. Three of Scotland’s Conservative seats run the length of the border. The MPs in these seats are all of the same ilk telling us we will be poorer just as they told India which has now pushed the UK down from fifth largest economy in the world to sixth place.

Scottish independence would mean a border across the south of Scotland.
Not something to get in a fankle about. There need be little change as long as
Scotland is out of the EU. But once we rejoin then we will have a regulated
border with England but regain our freedom to trade with, travel around and
live in 27 and more EU countries.

Judging by social media there are a few petulant folk in England, determined
to cut themselves off from all outside contact, who are unhappy about that
prospect and who insist England would never trade with an independent
Scotland. The message to them is to start stockpiling candles or to buy their
own wind turbine.This isolationist argument is in stark contrast with most
other independent countries that want to retain and increase close, mutually
beneficial contact with their neighbours.

It used to be that when idling in an airport queue you could easily tell the
seasoned and cosmopolitan traveller by the way their passport was held and
casually waved about, allowing those around them to gawp at the pages of
entry and exit stamps. That became a mere memory with membership of the
EU when we were able to roam around, occasionally having to show a
passport but its pages remaining pristinely blank, unless of course we
ventured beyond EU boundaries.

Now with Brexit we are back to long queues and passport checks. Even
without our leaving the EU, a changing world, population movements, the
potential for terrorism and sophisticated crime on an international scale has
meant ID checks are becoming increasingly prevalent and not just when
crossing borders.

MP John Lamont was recently sounding off at Westminster about borders – a
favourite topic of his – and how a regulated border between England and
Scotland would have businesses and thousands of jobs moving south, disadvantaging his
constituents. It’s actually more likely that businesses would move north to
take advantage of help provided by the Scottish government as well as the
many social perks such as free prescriptions and a well educated workforce
due to free university education. Lamont is insulting his constituents’
intelligence with this drivel.

“Scotland has outpaced both the UK and Europe by securing a record 126
inward investment projects for the second year in a row, according to EY’s
latest Scotland Attractiveness Survey
.” Scotland is the most attractive place in
the UK to invest after London.

A record high 19.2% of investors – the highest figure for any UK location
outside London – plan to establish or expand operations in Scotland.
Scotland’s share of UK FDI has increased to 13.6% with the recognition of
Scotland’s expertise in areas such as digital and IT, and energy transition –
areas where Scotland has a very distinctive package to offer. Scotland’s
largest sector is the digital tech industry – one of the largest in Europe.

So why with this bonanza would any business see the desirability of
relocating to somewhere in the poorer north-east of England, within travelling
distance of the Borders, when investment in the industries of the future is
pouring into Scotland, and Scotland includes the Borders.

Besides, there would only be a hard border for goods if that’s what
Westminster determines for England. It managed to engineer a much softer
border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The UK and Ireland have a
common travel agreement for people, and presumably Scotland would
continue to be part of that. Even if we didn’t, we would have the prospect of
unhindered trade with and travel within EU countries – something taken away
from us by pro-Brexit voters.

Every country in the world (195 of them) has a border, some more than one.
Some are land borders, some sea, some have both. They don’t stop people
moving around for work or pleasure. Cars, trains, lorries, planes cross
borders thousands of times a day. Some are easier to cross than others.
Many years ago when on a tourist bus at the border between the former
Yugoslavia and Albania, an armed Albanian soldier, holding what I believed to
be a Kalashnikov rifle at our throats, shot out his hand for our passports whilst
the bus sat in the midday sun. We later had to get out whilst the bus was
searched inside and underneath. Thankfully there are few borders like that
today and Albania is now one of nine current EU candidate countries.
Changes happen.

Many countries are now finding ways of increasing their links with other
nations. A good example of this is the Øresund Bridge (combining a 16 km
long double-track railway and a four-lane motorway plus a tunnel) between
Denmark and Sweden (two countries that don’t even speak the same
language). The stretch of water between the two countries never deterred
travellers or hindered businesses in either country. But now the bridge
actually promotes co-operation and collaboration. It even has a dedicated
commuter lane and special deals for businesses. It now carries over 20,000
vehicles a day (despite a fairly hefty toll). Overall traffic is expected to
increase by between 2.1 and 2.5 per cent per year.

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

And then there are the train passengers. In 2017, the number of train
journeys was 11.6 million. Trains are mainly used by people in the region who
live on one side and work on the other. Around 40 per cent of passengers
across Øresund are commuters. Three out of four train passengers live in
Sweden. One out of four lives in Denmark.

The borders between some countries even come with time differences. When
in Southern Portugal we took a boat across the river into Spain and on arrival
we saw a large clock depicting Spanish Time – one hour difference from
Portuguese time. Did that worry folk, confuse them, or stop them crossing to
work, shop, visit relatives and friends? Not at all. So why should a border
concern folk in the Borders?

In the south of Scotland areas nearest the border there need, if wanted, be
little change in routine. All folk would have to do is get in their car or on to a
bus for the usual short journey. Would we have to show ID? Well, perhaps,
but with common sense and good will there are ways round that for local
people. Besides, what’s the problem with showing ID? To travel by plane or
international ferry, to open a bank account and for numerous other actions a
passport must now be shown. If you want to vote in the coming general
election you’ll have to show a passport or approved ID or you won’t be able to put a cross
against your candidate on a ballot paper. Changes happen.

So, to suit his own unionist policies and position John Lamont with his
rants on borders is merely trying to conjure up dragons. Don’t be fooled.