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.



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  • Harry Flashman

    Salmond has said an “independent” Scotland will keep the pound, retain the queen as head of state and will be part of the EU.

    Do Scottish dictionaries define “independent” differently than those of the rest of us?

  • Brian Walker

    ..and Harry, what did the Free State do in 1921?

  • iainr

    Utter drivel published by the UK Government yesterday. It was sobering to read (point 35) that the UK Government is happy to make the suggestion that Scotland ceased to exist in 1707 having being incorporated into England. There you have it, there is no Union or partnership, we are simply a region of England. What do all the Scottish (?!?) Unionist have to say about that? At last we know now, as everybody else in the world has always assumed, that Britain == England and England == Britain. One thing for sure is I bet BBC Scotland won’t be reporting this line.

    It has been suggested that the British are happy to undermine the concept of Union in order to ensure that they are considered a continuation state and thus preserve their precious seat on the UN security council in the event of YES. So much for Cameron showing respect for ‘Scotchland’. Still if they want to push the line that Scotland shall be a new state, they it is is a bit ironic to demand that we take some of their debt with us.

  • iainr


    Ah let’s see, the ability to vote in our own Government, who can then work as an equal partner with our neighbours. Sounds about right to be me and a damn sight better than being out voted 10 to 1 and having no seat at any table – “Aye no worries lads we will take care of everything for you, just remember you are too wee, too poor and too stupid to manage it on your own.”

  • Harry Flashman

    No iainr, with an economy dependent on the whims of a “foreign” neighbour (if you retain their currency as your own you do not have an independent economic policy), an unelected head of state who lives in a foreign capital, and your laws determined by Brussels you are not independent.

    You have a glorified county council.

    Don’t be so gullible. Russia is an independent country, India is an independent country, Switzerland is an independent country, Norway is an independent country, Indonesia is an independent country.

    Salmond is proposing a devolved administration in Edinburgh, similar as Brian says to the Irish Free State, home rule is not independence no matter how much Salmond blusters.

    Real independence requires balls and grown up determination not hot air, therefore Scotland will not be independent in my lifetime.

  • OneNI

    UK Government’s ‘fightback’
    Last I saw it was all over bar the shouting.
    Salmond on a hiding to nothing

  • FDM

    I think Alex will be praying for more ‘foot in the mouth’ moments like this from Cameron.

    I am sure he is also metaphorically “rattling-the-rosary-beads” for our local PUL protagonists wadding into the debate on an independent Scotland.

    I can’t think of anything more effective than those two camps in convincing the Scots of the urgent need to rebulild Hadrians wall [from their side this time] and mining the shipping approaches to Stranraer, Cairnryan and Troon.

  • BarneyT

    I doubt Alex would want to remain tethered to England however he has to be Collins-esque in this approach so he doesnt scare the horses. Unlike Ireland, the horses in his case are internal.

  • Ruarai

    Brian, as you know, the case for the Union is on shaky ground when the best they can muster is why it would be hard to leave rather than better to stay… The tone suggests weakness in the Union camp

  • Teri

    The most significant part of this paper for Scots can be found in paragraphs lurking around the middle of the document which state that Scotland does not exist;
    34. One view is that the union created a new state, Great Britain, into which the international identities of Scotland and England merged and which was distinct from both. Lord McNair writes: ‘England and Scotland ceased to exist as international persons and become the unitary State of Great Britain.’ This view has been relied on in UK courts: MacCormick v Lord Advocate.

    35. An alternative view is that as a matter of international law England continued, albeit under a new name and regardless of the position in domestic law, and was simply enlarged to incorporate Scotland. In support of this view, among other things:

    3 5 .1 Scottish members joined Parliament at Westminster, but there was no new election of its English members. This was in accordance with the Acts of Union Article XXII.

    35.2 Treaties concluded by England appear to have survived to bind Great Britain. Parry and Hopkins cite the Treaty of Alliance with Portugal as the oldest ‘British’ treaty, and it is generally accepted as being such, even though it was concluded by England. They suggest that no treaty between Scotland and a third state survives (though Scotland concluded treaties, for example with France, the Pope and Scandinavian states).

    35.3 England’s diplomatic representation in the rest of Europe continued uninterrupted. The Acts of Union Article XXIV appears to acknowledge this in retaining the Great Seal of England for transitional purposes.

    36. We note that the incorporation of Wales under laws culminating in the Laws in Wales Act 1536 (England) and of Ireland, previously a colony, under the Union with Ireland Act 1801 (GB) and the Act of Union 1800 (Ireland) did not affect state continuity. Despite its similarity to the union of 1707, Scottish and English writers unite in seeing the incorporation of Ireland not as the creation of a new state but as an accretion without any consequences in international law.

    3 7. For the purpose of this advice, it is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state.

    38. It is therefore misleading to speak of Scotland (or similarly of England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the isle of Great Britain) as if it were an entity already possessing international personality in its own right or some other relevant international status, regardless of what status it may have as a matter of UK domestic law.

    39. It may also be misleading to speak of dissolving the ‘union’ effected by the incorporation of those territories: whatever the position historically or politically or in domestic law, in international law the position of the UK does not necessarily differ from that of a state formed in some way other than by a ‘union’.

    I cannot see this helping the Better Together campaign to any great extent.

  • Brian Walker

    Ruarai and others…
    Plenty more to look forward from the Cabinet Office.

    Future publications this year and next will look at Scotland as part of the UK’s economy, Scotland’s and the UK’s place in the world, and Scotland’s future economic performance.

    Technical arguments will surely have a bearing two ways:
    to put some people off independence and act as rebuttal to SNP arguments.

    Not clinchers though I agree. I doubt if any one factor will be decisive. And Union cause needs more positive, attractive arguments.

    Maybe it’s also the familiar problem of defending the status quo against the idea of change?

  • Dewi

    So Brian I’m paying taxes for the Government to spend on a “rebuttal to SNP arguments”….can I give half to the SNP to make the opposite case?

  • JH

    Harry Flashman:

    “No iainr, with an economy dependent on the whims of a “foreign” neighbour (if you retain their currency as your own you do not have an independent economic policy), an unelected head of state who lives in a foreign capital, and your laws determined by Brussels you are not independent.”

    Just a couple of points Harry.

    Sterling was pegged to the DM in ’88 and then went into the ERM in 1990. So I take it Britain didn’t have economic independence then.

    The Irish punt was similarly pegged to Sterling until the 70’s.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Sterling was pegged to the DM in ’88 and then went into the ERM in 1990. So I take it Britain didn’t have economic independence then.”

    Not entirely but it was a voluntary decision and they were free to stop doing so at any time, so in that regard the economic policy was still set in London.

    “The Irish punt was similarly pegged to Sterling until the 70′s.”

    And during that time Ireland did not have an independent economic policy, it was set by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Bank of England. Ireland still does not have an independent economic policy as she has found out so painfully to her cost in recent years.

  • JH

    Whether it was voluntary or not doesn’t really make a difference.

    My point is that your perception of economic independence seems to be long out of date.

    No single nation has complete economic independence. Some could claim to be self-sustaining if they had to be, but in reality all economic sovereignty has been volunteered to the free market in the developed West, and by proxy to the East as well.

    So asserting that Scotland wouldn’t truly be independent because their interest rates will be set by England is a non-argument. Both would be relatively open economies, subject to the machinations of the market and hugely sensitive to changes within their main trading partners, the US and the Eurozone.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    So, if I understand correctly, Alba would become like a British Overseas Territory like Montserrat or South Georgia? Although it ain’t overseas.

  • grandimarkey

    Today’s Times has an Ipsos MORI poll which shows support for an independent Scotland to have increased by 4 points to 34%.

    The most encouraging aspect of this poll is the increase in support amongst 18-24 year old Scots, up from 27% four months ago to 58%. Are they fickle? Or are they increasingly disillusioned with a disastrous No campaign and straining Union?

    I’ve said it many, many times before on this site. The real push for independence hasn’t even begun. The media campaign is to begin closer to the referendum date, along with every other form of politicking, door-knocking and general buzz creating, That is when the polls get interesting.

  • Mc Slaggart


    I was wondering if the Irish “McKenna (No.2) judgment” could be used to stop the “British” government propaganda war against Scottish independence?

    David Cameron can do what he likes with his own money.

  • Reader

    Dewi: So Brian I’m paying taxes for the Government to spend on a “rebuttal to SNP arguments”….can I give half to the SNP to make the opposite case?
    Maybe not half. How many MPs have you got?
    But it does seem strange. It’s sort of like an Irish Government spending money campaigning for a United Ireland.

  • Harry Flashman

    “My point is that your perception of economic independence seems to be long out of date.”

    Er, no. Not remotely. Some basic fundamentals do not change no matter how you might wish them to do so.

    Economic independence is when a country sets its own economic policy, a policy that it is free to change should global economic circumstances then change.

    If you are not allowed to alter your nation’s economic policy because that policy is determined by some other extra-national institution then your nation is not economically independent.

    Ireland was not economically independent when it was tied to sterling, it is not economically independent today.

    It’s really quite simple you know.

  • JH

    “Economic independence is when a country sets its own economic policy, a policy that it is free to change should global economic circumstances then change.”

    Uh, no it isn’t.

    You’re confusing a lot of things. Primarily the ability of a national central bank to set interest rates and of a government to have an economic policy. Neither indicate economic independence. Which is practically impossible in this world.

    Maybe what you’re debating is closer to ‘economic sovereignty’ but even that wouldn’t explain your two contradictory statements. The first, that Britain was still ‘economically independent’ when shadowing the DM or in the ERM because they could leave at any time. The second that Scotland wouldn’t be economically independent if it retained Sterling, even though it could leave that at any time.

    There are ample examples of times when the British Government was completely powerless to control its economy despite having the political levers of control you described. My favourite is Black Wednesday, when all policy went out the window and one Hungarian-American man held more power than the Government and Bank of England combined.

    So I think, as I suspect you already know, it’s really not that simple.

    “Some basic fundamentals do not change no matter how you might wish them to do so.”

    I don’t *want* anything, it’s completely irrelevant to me. I just don’t like misunderstandings being put across as “basic fundamentals”. 🙂

  • Alias

    Black Wednesday is a good example of the utter stupidity of governments derogating sovereignty to supranational regimes.

    The UK was hoodwinked into ERM by its leading Europhiles (Howe, Helseltine, Clarke, etc) as part of their on-going agenda as bit-part players in engineering “ever-closer union” between EU member states and the price of their treason cost UK taxpayers and the UK economy dearly.

    It was only when they regained their sovereignty and came out of the dismal arrangement that they were able to come out of the recession that Europhilia launched them into.

  • Harry Flashman

    Black Wednesday proved that the UK retained economic independence because in the face of changing global economic circumstances it was able to change its economic policy.

    Financial speculators saw that Britain’s economic policy was a failure and bet against it, Britain then changed its policy because it had the independence to do so. That does not mean that George Soros was somehow in control of British economic policy.

    Ireland is unable to change its economic policy in the face of changed economic circumstances even though it might very much like to do so because its economic policy is decided by an extra-national institution outside the control of the democratically elected government of Ireland.

    If Salmond chose to adopt sterling as Scotland’s currency Scotland would not have an independent economic policy, it would have an economic policy determined in London.

    If Scotland chose to have its own currency, it would have an independent economic policy which it would be free to manipulate in changing global economic circumstances.

    Hey, ho, so simple really, one wonders why one should have to explain such basic stuff.

  • JH

    “Britain then changed its policy because it had the independence to do so. That does not mean that George Soros was somehow in control of British economic policy.”

    Pretty creative at least. They changed policy and raised interest rates three times to thwart Soros. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference, in fact it had the opposite effect. The Pound still crashed out of the ERM.

    “Ireland is unable to change its economic policy”

    It’s unable to change a few important aspects of its economic policy because it has volunteered its currency to the Euro, which in theory it could leave if it wanted. Government budgets, spending, asset management is all still done in Dublin.

    Please, you must understand the terms you’re using. ‘Economic independence’ and ‘economic policy’ both have very specific definitions.