Opening shots muffled in UK government’s fightback against Scottish independence campaign

Significantly as PM and not as Conservative leader David Cameron launched on Sunday a “heart and head” campaign against Scottish “separation” as unionists like to call it, with a upbeat image of four happy partners.

Britain is admired around the world as a source of prosperity, power and security. Those glorious Olympics last summer reminded us just what we were capable of when we pull together: Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish, all in the same boat – sometimes literally

Dave’s blog was backed by a cabinet office paper using academic analyses to establish the case that the road to independence would be far more complicated and lengthy than the SNP admits. This was hailed by the pro-Union cheerleader Alan Cochrane as a “ comprehensive rebuttal”.

What this observer finds especially gratifying about the current fightback by the Coalition is the thoroughness with which the evidence has been assembled.

But all too predictably one of the two academics who contributed to the cabinet office paper appeared to break ranks.

Yet the first of a series of such papers published by the UK Government was branded an “own goal” after one of the authors of the legal opinion, Professor James Crawford of Cambridge University, said the SNP Government’s 18-month transition for independence – dismissed as fanciful by Coalition sources – was “realistic”. He also said the application for membership of international bodies by a newly independent Scottish state would not be difficult in most cases.

Clearly the learned professor will be  highjacked by both sides. BBC Scotland gives a rather fuller extract from his  Good Morning Scotland interview on international  precedents of state formation.

Prof Crawford told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “In all but one or two cases, the remaining state has continued – the existence of the predecessor – the new state has broken away and has had to start with negotiations from scratch.”

He said Serbia and Montenegro; Pakistan and India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and the Soviet Union were all examples of the existing state “maintaining continuity” following change.

Mr Crawford added that membership of international organisations would not come automatically for the new state.

He explained: “The cases of separation since 1994 have followed the same pattern – South Sudan and Sudan to take one example; Eritrea and Ethiopia to take another. So the dominant pattern is the breakaway state has to begin by applying for admission to the UN and in the case of the EU it would be the EU as well.”

The legal expert from Cambridge University insisted he was not suggesting that the negotiations would be difficult, in most cases.

He explained: “EU membership will come as a matter of negotiation, UN membership will be straight forward but in the case of the EU there will be things to negotiate such as the British opt-out and so on, financial contributions, and they are not automatic.”

The SNP’s response to London’s initiative was just as predictable.

Ms Sturgeon branded the Coalition’s position hugely arrogant, which betrayed a “near colonial attitude”. She said: “A legal opinion is just that. There are opinions from other legal experts that say the opposite – that Scotland would be a co-equal successor state. These matters would be settled by negotiations.”

At Westminster these opening shots were immediately overshadowed by Dave’s alleged triumph over cutting the EU budget and then wiped off the map by the Popes’ resignation. Just as well perhaps, when there was not a peep from Dave over where he stands on devo more.



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London