I spent last year ignoring the forthcoming vote on Scotland’s future, as the opinion polls showed strong support for no change to the current position. More recently I have taken an interest, as the polls have narrowed. I have also commented that the “Better together” campaign is a bit negative in some of its content and tone, and might be more successful if it was positive and sought to ally feelings to “facts” about economic matters.
So maybe today I should ask what will happen and what should happen, if the unlikely event occurs and the Yes campaign wins for splitting the UK.
The first thing that should happen is all MPs representing Scottish seats in the House of Commons should withdraw from all business relating to the rest of the UK, especially business relating to the negotiation between the rest of the UK and Scotland. The government should pass a Bill excluding Scottish MPs from rest of the UK business if there is no voluntary agreement to this
The second thing is a negotiating team of senior Ministers should equip themselves to negotiate on a wide range of matters that need settling between the two new countries. This will include splitting the state debts and assets, sorting out responsibility for banks and money, the transition to a new currency for Scotland, the transfer of benefits, pensions and other state liabilities to Scotland for their people, and the trade and border arrangements which will apply following the split.
The third thing is to notify the EU of the need to change our relationship with the EU. Our partners will probably deem the rest of the UK to be the successor state to the UK, but they will want to cut our number of MEPs and our votes around the table. The rest of the UK will need to cut our financial contribution, and may as well regard the exit of Scotland as triggering a much more fundamental renegotiation of our relationship. There will have to be Treaty changes anyway. It would accelerate the task Mr Cameron has set himself for a future Conservative government, and give rise to an IN/Out referendum on possible rest of the UK membership of the EU. Whilst as a Unionist I would prefer a willing Scotland to stay with us, as an Englishman I can see advantages in being able to sort out this wider EU relationship sooner and from a different bargaining position where England’s view is more central.