This is the reality of separating Scotland from the UK

February 11, 2013 7:33 pm

The fight to keep Scotland as part of the United Kingdom is a battle of both the heart and the head. That’s why today’s publication from the UK Government is so important as we start to take this debate beyond vision and values into the territory that, for many Scots, will provide them with the information they need to make their decision in Autumn 2014. Today’s document doesn’t deal with all the important issues that will be at the front of people’s minds – what would separation mean for the economy, the welfare state or for our defence, for example – but it goes a long way to starting to properly inform the debate.

Professor James Crawford QC and Professor Alan Boyleargued this morning that the weight of international precedent and international law points to the remainder of the UK continuing as the successor state following an independence referendum and Scotland starting life as a new state. It’s a significant intervention and I believe it tells us three things.

Firstly, their opinion is conclusive. Over 40 pages, it makes clear what many of us already suspected: that the rest of the UK would inherit treaty obligations and would be the continuing state. This would mean that a newly formed Scottish state would go it alone on the global stage, renegotiating terms of entry into every international body. This isn’t scaremongering, or raising fear and anxiety among Scottish people, as the SNP want everyone to believe. This is the reality of separating from a partnership that has, over the centuries that Scotland has been part of it, become a powerful global player.

Secondly, today’s paper raises even more questions that will need to be answered in the future. We’ve already had the arguments about what renegotiation of EU membership would mean for Scotland (inclusion in the Schengen agreement, losing our rebate or being compelled to join the Euro are all possibilities). Today’s opinion goes further. Where would renegotiating our membership of the WTO leave Scotland’s food and drinks industry, a crucial sector of the economy which relies on international trade agreements? Or what would the terms of renegotiation of our membership of NATO be and what would that mean for our security?

Finally, the SNP’s response this morning tells us about how we should expect much of this debate to continue. In interviews this morning, Nicola Sturgeon accused the UK Government of doing nothing but raising fear and anxiety while accepting that Professor Crawford’s credentials cannot be called into question. She rubbished a 30 page, detailed legal opinion but there was no sign that the Scottish Government would publish their own legal advice. And she accused the UK Government of arrogance, while her Government seeks to pre-negotiate the terms of separation, without any mandate from the Scottish people.

Politicians on all sides, including the SNP, say that now is the time to start having the debate that Scots deserve about the future of our country. But the SNP are fast turning into the constitutional equivalent of climate change deniers. Faced with a wealth of evidence and reasoned judgement, they prefer to rely on historic opinions and to ignore international precedent. This is the opportunity for the SNP to stop the catcalls and relentless negativity we’re getting used to and instead respect the wishes of Scots who want a full and frank debate. Let’s see their legal advice, listen to their argument and take it from there.

Margaret Curran MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

  • robertcp

    All Scottish people need to know is that it is going to get very complicated if they vote for independence. A lot of big countries with minorities will have an incentive to make life difficult for a new independent country.

  • robertcp

    All Scottish people need to know is that it is going to get very complicated if they vote for independence. A lot of big countries with minorities will have an incentive to make life difficult for a new independent country.

    • JoeDM

      Very true.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Milligan/1609039245 David Milligan

      What a load of nonsense. So that means that the same could be said for Norway, Sweden or Denmark???

      Scotland will be a small, rich, European nation will some of the most plentiful natural resources in Europe. As a resident of that nation, we’ll enjoy opportunities due to increased economic activity, reduced costs by not having to pay for our next door neighbours demands to feed illegal wars and lavish luxuries on London and the South East.

      Nation building will be an enjoyable experience. I can live with that kind of “complicated” any day. We’ll use the money we save on the costly Trident Sub replacement to help our 170,000 children living in poverty which is the highest number for any country in Europe.

      Scotland will conquer the world, not with bullets, missiles and bombs, but with Scots know-how, genius and compassion. Scotland will be a guiding light in the world of independent nations.

      To sum up, on the contrary, all the Scottish people need to know is that when the UK loses it’s AAA credit rating and the chancellor George Osborne loses his ability to pay off the UK’s credit card with “cheap money” that he borrows, he’ll run the Bank of England’s printing presses 24/7 to produce fake money to ease the situation. The result will be a tumbling GB Pound and hyper inflation. Now that’s what I call “complicated”.

      Simply vote YES in 2014 for an uncomplicated, fairer, greener and more equal Scotland.

      Kindest regards,

      David Milligan – a very Sovereign Scot

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/E6IBVO2LKWXJETSEY7XJGN5QOQ Scott

      I don’t care what the cost anymore. To be told that Scotland is not a country and hasn’t been for 300 years – a view supported by Labour. I will never ever vote for another Labour Candidate that has taken the side of this colonial, empirical state called the UK. I would say England but that shouldn’t exist any more. Margret Curran and your other labour colleagues are you Scottish or English? I think you are English in diguise. I’m disgusted with labour and especially SCOTTISH Labour. You might as well be Jordie or Scouse Labour.

      • Andrew McKay

        What rubbish – you are under the impression that only a nationalist can be a proud Scot, how insulting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677742204 Steven Syme

    “Let’s see their legal advice, listen to their argument and take it from there.”…lets also see Labour MP’s think about being apologists for Tory cuts too eh.

    Stop hating the SNP for moving further left than we are and let us fight to regain the confidence of the Scottish electorate. Did the last election not give you some pointers?? Lets see some commonsense from our Labour MSP’s and MP’s and have the debate on independence WITHIN OUR OWN PARTY.
    So far, we’ve been shoehorned somehow into being aligned with the Libdems and Tories in this Better Together campaign without so much as a discussion internally. No wonder the folks from Labour for Independence get more column inches than you do in newspapers and articles all over Scotland and abroad. They speak for the rank and file of the party, whilst you speak for your own self serving interests and the continued opportunity to keep the nose in the political trough.

  • rekrab

    Margaret, i/3 correct, 2/3 wrong, the debate shouldn’t be based on the negative views that Scotland is to wee and to little to trade with the rest of the world.

    Internal trade agreement with the trade union movement and the strength of a combined armed force is where you should be leading.

  • http://twitter.com/tristanpw1 TristanPriceWilliams

    Why oh why do they put us down

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Milligan/1609039245 David Milligan

      Because there’s large vested interests that wish the independence issue would just shrivel up and die.

      Scotland is a rich country, no matter what the tv and newspapers in Scotland try to make up. If Scotland was simply a drain on the UK, do you think for one moment Westminster would be so obstructive? No of course not.

      If we vote “no” to independence and as agreed on all sides we have another 40 years of oil and gas production in Scotland, when it runs out, Westminster will be reminding us about our wish for independence and offering us inducements to “go it alone” then. However. if we regain our independence at this stage, we’ll have time to get our fledgling renewables industry off the ground and sort out many of Scotland’s woes at the same time using the oil and gas revenues and asset value as seed capital.

      That’s why “they” put us down. They can’t afford to lose the money. It’s that simple.

      Kindest regards,

      David Milligan – a very Sovereign Scot

      • Andrew McKay

        Nobody argues that Scotland is a drain on the UK – that is a nationalist myth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allan.grogan Allan Grogan

    Im assuming that the U.K that is left behind would also take on all national debts too? What nonsense, in the business world if you dissolve a partnership everything would be split not just the debt. I assume that since Ms Curren takes these legal voices as conclusuve will she also take James Crawfords word that Scotland will negotiate EU membership from within?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbhunter James Bruce Hunter

    As a Labour voter in the past I am hopeful we can get back to basics after independence. Even David Cameron wants to renegotiate our position with EU. Seems sensible that Scotland does this too with the prospect of increasing our 6 MEPs to the 13 MEPs that Denmark ( with same population as Scotland ) has. We’ll double our european representation within europe with independence, Seems like a no brainer.

  • p2eaa@btinternet.com

    Not very wise putting so much faith in two peoples opinions! I think I will stick with the yes camp. Real courage and strong beliefs in our country backed with facts

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677742204 Steven Syme

    Lets have the debate too as to why Labour members have been denied a
    discussion on our stance on independence. We’ve had nothing or nobody
    ask us at any level whatsoever, and no wonder the Labour for
    Independence group grows the way it is. There is a distinct difference
    between the elected representatives and the members which is becoming
    harder to bridge. No wonder so many former party activists have defected to the Nats when they have policies further to the left than us.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/E6IBVO2LKWXJETSEY7XJGN5QOQ Scott

    What was in that report today disgusted me! how can you be ‘Shadow secretary of State for Scotland’ when Scotland hasn’t existed for 300 years. You might as well be Shadow Secretary of State for Yorkshire. Grow some and fight for your country and not to slither your way up the greasy pole. I now want independence no matter the cost. It’s now a matter of principal to me. Cost, re-negotiation, no matter what, I will fight to free SCOTLAND. Margret Curran you are spineless and I will NEVER vote for any politician that supports this colonial, empirical government. I am completely disgusted with Scottish Labour. SNP for me from now on!!

  • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

    Hey, that’s not fair, climate change deniers are far more level headed and informed than the ScotsNats, they even forced the BBC into a climbdown this week.

  • disqus_exRz5H2Q1Y

    Hi there i have noticed that quite a lot of people trying to debate this article are suggesting that their comments are not being passed through moderation. Can someone please assure both myself and the others concerned, that this is not the case. I am assuming this is just slow admin and has nothing to do with giving the impression that nobody in labour will vote for independence, or that the better together campaign do not want to risk debate.

  • fred56

    Why are you agreeing with this document, it discards the 1707 treaty, and the u.k government through this document imply that scotland does not exsist, and is really just part of england, yet you and your fellow m.p.s think this is o.k. well i for don’t. and niether do anyone who i have talked to about this. i am ashamed i ever ever voted labour, but never again.

  • markfergusonuk

    It’s spelt “Geordie”…

  • Chilbaldi

    No, it does not. It states that in 1707 one of two things happened:

    1) Scotland and England both ceased to exist, and a new country was born.

    2) Old Scotland and Old England ceased to exist, and a new “England” was born (in terms of its legal personality). Of course this new “England”, despite taking on all of old England’s international obligations was a new country, the UK.

    So stop twisting it you bitter, thin skinned nationalist.

  • Chilbaldi

    the key word being “negotiate”.

    • http://twitter.com/cath426 Cath Ferguson

      A word that’s been in Scottish government documents about the EU post independence for years now. It would come as no surprise to anyone who’d been following the debate. Re-nagotiating ourposition as a soveriegn state, on our own terms, is something we would want to do in any case.

  • Chilbaldi

    You have some inferiority complex if you think the UK is “colonial” or imperial.

    You know full well Scotland hasn’t been an independent country for 300 years, and hasn’t had legal personality as a separate country for 300 years.

    Typical nationalist, calling any Scottish supporter of the Union “English”. You discredited yourself completely there.

  • Chilbaldi

    Rather an “empirical” government than an ideological one! badoom-tish!

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    I now want independence no matter the cost

    It’s going to be very expensive for you, and you’ll probably find that the whole set of currently “free” social policies you enjoy – prescriptions, tertiary education, etc, will suddenly become very unaffordable. The oil will last no more than 20 years at the current rate of extraction, the wind power prove too expensive to export given the loss of power in long distance transmission lines, and most of your children will leave for the border when they are 18.

    But, apart from that…

  • http://twitter.com/witchlet Marjory Smith

    Rights and responsibilities go together, that’s a basic and Michael Moore spinning his head around like the Exorcist won’t change it.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Goodness, that sounds hopeful, if also completely deluded and “away with the fairies”.

    Have you managed to solve the physics of power drain over lengthy transmission lines (Ohm’s Law)? Because the rest of the world has not, and without such a miraculous solution, your dreams of selling cheap power to the rest of Europe are not really going to happen. You can have as much free electricity as you wish, but it is not going further away than about 50 miles before it gets more expensive than it costs to produce, which is about to Newcastle.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Goodness, that sounds hopeful, if also completely deluded and “away with the fairies”.

    Have you managed to solve the engineering problems and physics of power drain over lengthy transmission lines (Ohm’s Law)? Because the rest of the world has not, and without such a miraculous solution, your dreams of selling cheap power to the rest of Europe are not really going to happen. You’d also not want to think about imposed taxes by the foul English on using english transmission lines to sell your electricity in Holland. Perhaps the Scots should consider the geo-political realities of being a small isolated nation in the north east Atlantic, with a bigger and more financially robust country next to them and not very friendly. If that is too depressing, you can always cheer yourself up with the “Scots Wha’Hae” nonsense and colour yourself with blue paint. Mel Gibson would love to make a film of it.

    You can have as much free electricity as you wish, but it is not going further away than about 50 miles before it gets more expensive than it costs to produce, which is about to Newcastle.

    And I am a Scot, and not English at all, with a Scottish father as well as my Chilean mother. A Scot who is not deluded.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Goodness, that sounds hopeful, if also completely deluded and “away with the fairies”.

    Have you managed to solve the engineering problems and physics of power drain over lengthy transmission lines (Ohm’s Law)? Because the rest of the world has not, and without such a miraculous solution, your dreams of selling cheap power to the rest of Europe are not really going to happen. You’d also not want to think about imposed taxes by the foul English on using english transmission lines to sell your electricity in Holland. Perhaps the Scots should consider the geo-political realities of being a small isolated nation in the north east Atlantic, with a bigger and more financially robust country next to them and not very friendly. If that is too depressing, you can always cheer yourself up with the “Scots Wha’Hae” nonsense and colour yourself with blue paint. Mel Gibson would love to make a film of it.

    You can have as much free electricity as you wish, but it is not going further away than about 50 miles before it gets more expensive than it costs to produce, which is about to Newcastle.

    And I am a Scot, and not English at all, with a Scottish father as well as my Chilean mother. A Scot who is not deluded.

  • Alexwilliamz

    So hang on, if someone in Scotland wants to remain part of the union they are spineless, righto. Although you are right about why there should be a secretary of state for scotland and not for yorkshire.

    ps I doubt this gvt could be described as empirical, since hard evidence is often a long way from their decision making.

  • Alexwilliamz

    Well England hasn’t been a country in 300 years either. Is this idea of Union, so abhorrent to you that you cannot even bring yourself to understand what it means?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000222335179 Maureen Luby

    Ok great :)! Scotland starts as a new country which means we do not take any of the debt! Bring it on lol!

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.stark.77 Peter Stark

    “Scotland starting life as a new state” would mean that Scotland would not inherited any of the old states debts. Sounds good to me.

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