According to recent media reports an independent Scotland would inherit a proportional share of the British national debt, which, according to government figures currently stands at well over £1 trillion. Just what an “equitable share of British debt” amounts to has yet to be determined and would, in all likelihood. be determined by the size of Scotland’s population in relation to that of Britain as a whole. On that basis, it has been suggested, Scotland would begin its independence with a national debt in the region of £150 billion.
In addition recently published papers suggest, on the basis of expert legal opinion, that an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU, and re-negotiate thousands of treaties and other items of international legislation. Furthermore, should Scotland successfully apply for membership of the EU then it is thought quite likely that it would, like many southern and eastern European states, become a net recipient of EU largesse – a tax burden that would inevitably be picked up by “Britain”, Germany, The Netherlands and other wealthier EU partners.
Amazingly, the irony of Scotland becoming independent of Britain only to become a Brussels controlled dependency of the EU appears lost on the SNP.
Then, of course, there is NATO. Bearing in mind the left-of-centre orientation in Scottish politics there are many who would prefer Scotland not to participate in this extension of American corporate/military might, although the lure of dollars in return for bases could prove too tempting to a cash strapped Scotland to turn down.
Only a few days ago the Scottish Secretary, speaking in Edinburgh, said that there would have to be “an equitable distribution of the liabilities” should Scotland secede from the Union, in a development taken by many to be very much part of a growing Westminster government campaign against independence.
It is also reported that the the Advocate General, quoting learned legal opinion, has “rubbished” SNP claims that independence for Scotland would be relatively painless by claiming: “The legal advice is clear. In the event of independence, the remainder of the UK would continue as before, and Scotland would form a new, separate state.”
He went on to dismiss SNP claims that there was international precedent to support the view that the remainder of the UK and Scotland could both become “continuator” states and retain membership of the same institutions, quoting the example of the break up of the Soviet Union. Then the Russian federation was the largest single unit and therefore was regarded as the “continuing legal personality”, retaining its seat on the UN Security Council and membership of the UN. Not so for other former Soviet states who had to “make their own arrangements”.
On balance it would appear that the Advocate General is correct as a further precedent, the formation of the Irish Free State, was treated internationally as a change in Britain’s territory – not as a break in the continuation of Britain itself. In actual fact the only way both Scotland and the remaining “rump” of Britain could be regarded in international law as new states would be if the Westminster parliament was given a mandate from the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to dissolve the UK by voting “Britain” out of existence and creating a completely new state.
A spokesman for the Scottish Tories, who are, of course, opposed to Scottish independence, added that these disclosures “shattered the myth pedalled by Alex Salmond that independence would be a smooth process without any major upheaval for the people of Scotland”. They could also have added, for good measure, the crushing debt that the people of Scotland would acquire arising directly out of independence.
As British nationalists we believe in the Union and, consequently, believe that Scottish independence would not only be bad for Britain but bad for Scotland as well.