Following the release of Scotland’s Future, it seems that the only argument remaining to unionists is the threat of expulsion from the EU and the sterling zone. However, it is overwhelmingly likely that Scotland will remain in both once Scots vote for independence. These threats will ultimately be seen for what they are: fear-mongering bluster.
None who have issued these dire warnings have presented a credible scenario as to how Scottish citizens would be deprived of the rights conferred on them as EU citizens. At what point would this occur? After voting yes? Sometime during the negotiations over the terms of separation, but while Scotland remains a member of the UK? Or upon independence day in 2016? Would EU fisherman no longer have the right to fish in Scottish waters ‘at the midnight hour’? Would all EU citizens living in Scotland have to move back to their native countries, and vice-versa? Would EU extradition treaties with Scotland be cancelled? These are but a few of a litany of logistically nightmarish consequences of Scotland being expelled.
Under EU treaties, the only way that a member state can leave is voluntarily, through the democratic process, after which there is at least a 2-year period of negotiation over the terms of separation and the new relationship with the EU. In this conference on Catalonian independence, Sir David Edward makes an irrefutable case that in the case of Scottish independence, Scottish citizens could not be involuntarily expelled from the EU. All parties are bound by treaty to negotiate in good faith in order to assure continuity and minimize disruption.
If, out of spite, Spain and the UK somehow manage to keep Scotland and Catalonia from becoming member states, this would totally delegitimize the union. A likely consequence would be that Scotland and Catalonia, both viable and economically productive members, would no longer seek admission.
Is that how the EU club punishes legitimate independence movements for having the temerity to seek self-determination? Hasn’t Brussels got more pressing concerns than cancelling the rights of EU citizens, like staving off the insolvency of states such as Spain? The legitimacy and democratic nature of the EU would rightly be obliterated. In the worst case, this could lead to its demise.
Unionists make much of the uncertainty over negotiations, how ‘tough’ they will be for such a ‘small’ country. They are sceptical that Scotland could get as good a ‘deal’ they have as part of the UK. The facts suggest otherwise: Scotland will be negotiating from within; they are already citizens of good standing; they conform to all relevant treaties; and they have great material and human resources.
Another well-worn scare story is that other countries, Spain for example, would veto EU membership for Scotland and Catalonia, and make them get in the queue behind Kosovo. However, history has shown that membership can be changed without a change in treaties and unanimous consent, as with East Germany in 1990. This will have to remain the case in the future. Imagine if after a UK ‘yes’ vote to leave the EU in 2017, Romania could veto a UK withdrawal. The EU needs to devise a way to allow for seamless accession with negotiation, or risk being ripped apart.
Expulsion from the sterling zone is equally problematic. Once Scotland votes ‘yes’ and negotiations begin, will the UK really make it a condition that Scotland end use of the pound? Would UK banks operating in England and Scotland be in favour of paying exchange fees on transactions between mutually significant trading partners? Will business confidence be increased if there are exchange rate fluctuations between the pound and a separate Scottish currency?
Despite the bluster we hear from Ed Balls, Alistair Carmichael, and others, it is the Bank of England that will make the ultimate decision. Expelling Scotland from the sterling zone would be disastrous. The financial industry overlords will never allow their Westminster minions to break up the currency.
Even if somehow Westminster was stupid and spiteful enough to wilfully undermine their balance of payments, Scotland could pursue a petroleum-backed currency union with Norway, which could be much more attractive to investors than the pound.
If Scotland can’t keep the pound, unionist logic dictates that there is no way that Scotland could keep the Monarchy either. Scots would be deprived of the honour of seeing Charles on their currency notes when they buy a pint at the pub.
As yet more unionist scare-stories crumble to dust, Scotland’s Future has provided a real vision of what an independent Scotland will look like. If the rest of the independence debate goes anything like Alistair Carmichael’s train-wreck debate with Nicola Sturgeon, ‘Better Together’ is doomed.
The debate has now definitively shifted to what Scotland can do, rather than what it can’t. The Scottish dependence on Westminster, giving them bread and begging for crumbs, is being replaced by a growing self-confidence.
In addition to becoming a prosperous, oil-rich country, Scots will seamlessly remain EU citizens during negotiations after a ‘yes’ vote. Scotland will then become a member state in its own right upon independence. The Bank of England, not Westminster, will set the terms with the Scottish government of a currency union. In each case, they are bound by treaty to work in the interests of all. There is no other credible scenario.
First published on Newsnet.scot on 18 February 2014 as part of a series of articles on constitutional issues published between July 2012 and Sept 2014.