COMMONS

Serious gaps in an independent Scotland's future foreign policy

01 May 2013

With just over sixteen months to go before the Scottish referendum there are still significant gaps in the Scottish Government's proposed foreign policy, according to a report published today by the Foreign Affairs Committee. There is an urgent need for clarity and candour on the international challenges an independent Scotland would face. 

There has not been enough analysis on what sort of overseas diplomatic network and external security and intelligence provision Scotland would have to set up. There needs to be a more realistic assessment of the extent to which Scotland could expect the rest of the UK (RUK) to co-operate with, and support it, on security and intelligence.
 
A number of policies seem to be underpinned by a belief that where problems emerge, goodwill for Scotland will trump difficulties. But there is a pressing need for official legal advice on a wide range of international legal issues including EU accession, EU opt-outs and membership of international organisations.
 
The Report says that the overwhelming body of law, evidence, practice and precedent supports the view that the RUK would inherit the vast majority of the UK’s international rights and obligations whereas Scotland would start anew internationally if it became independent. Having two co-equal states could lead to a level of legal and political insecurity that would not be tolerated by other states. If there was a difference of views between the RUK and Scotland as to who would inherit what, it is these states, not politicians in Scotland or the RUK, that would ultimately influence the outcome.
                                                                              
The report disputes the view that Scotland’s journey towards membership of the EU and NATO would be straightforward. Evidence suggests that the Scottish Government is largely alone in arguing that Scotland’s accession would automatically take place from within the EU. It is for the EU itself to determine in accordance with its regulations whether and how Scotland would become a member.
 
Although there may be pragmatic reasons for supporting some form of fast track accession process, this does not mean it would be straightforward and Scotland may have to make trade-offs to secure the unanimous support it would need from within the EU. 

Committee Chairman Richard Ottaway MP said:

“Scottish independence is something which rightly excites people of all political persuasions and the loss of Scotland would be keenly felt by the UK. At the moment, there are some quite worrying gaps in the Scottish Government’s foreign policy vision and certain assumptions are being made which don’t seem to be based on concrete evidence.

“No-one is doubting that Scotland could be a fully-fledged member of the international community but there is a real and urgent need for more information about the risks and costs involved.

“It is not enough to hope and assert that things will go in Scotland’s favour at an international level and that goodwill will be forthcoming. A full and candid debate on the international implications of Scottish independence is now needed so that Scottish voters have the full facts before them when they vote in the referendum.

“We have raised a number of issues that we think deserve further scrutiny and which the Scottish and UK Governments must engage with in the coming months.”

Further information

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