BY EFFIE DEANS
The British Government has been attempting to maintain friendly relations with the SNP and the Scottish Government just as we have attempted to maintain friendly relations with the EU. There is clearly no point falling out with anyone unnecessarily. But cooperation and friendly relations ultimately depend on a foundation of there being the alternative of unfriendly relations. At times the UK has been overly generous both with regard to the EU and with regard to the Scottish Government. The SNP, for instance, was given a free hand in conducting the 2014 referendum.
Sometimes it is necessary to reveal the consequences of a course of action and that these may be negative.
For the first time since 2016 the British Government has made it clear to the EU that we are willing to walk away from a deal and we are willing to do what is necessary to protect our territorial integrity and national interest even if that seriously angers the EU. The same point must be made, albeit quietly and perhaps behind the scenes to the Scottish Government.
In order to protect our territorial integrity and national interest we must clearly focus on doing what is necessary to prevent Scottish independence. Just as the British people clearly understood that leaving the EU involved giving up the rights of being EU citizens, so too the Scottish electorate must understand that leaving the UK would involve giving up the rights of being British citizens. At least it would involve a choice.
Clearly it would be wrong to strip Scots who wished to remain British of their British citizenship. But those Scots who wanted to become Scottish citizens must face a choice. If they chose to have a Scottish passport, they must relinquish their British passport.
The Government of the former UK in the event of Scottish independence would be at liberty to choose whatever citizenship rules it pleased with regard to Scotland. They need not be the same rules as apply to anywhere else. Scotland could be made a special case.
Too many independence supporters think they can break up the UK with no negative consequences for the relationship between the former UK and Scotland. They do this in part because of the historical precedent of Ireland. The British Government treated Irish citizens as if they were British citizens, established a Common Travel Area and Currency Union. Scottish independence supporters think they could have the same. It is crucial to disabuse them of this idea.
If Scotland were to leave the UK, then it would have no trade deal with the UK. The British Government must make clear that in the event of independence it would be primarily interested in demonstrating the negative consequences of independence, just as the EU has been interested primarily in demonstrating the negative consequences of Brexit.
Scottish citizens would not have the automatic right to live and work in the former UK, nor would they have the right to any benefits or free healthcare. This is no different from how the EU is treating Britain at present.
In order to work or study in the former UK Scottish citizens would have to apply for visas in the same way as people from anywhere else in the world.
The British Government should make clear that it would have no interest whatsoever in cooperating with regard to defence or broadcasting. Indeed, it would allow Scotland to have complete independence in respect to cooperation with the former UK, i.e. it would get as little cooperation as possible.
What would be the consequences of the former UK taking a hard line in the divorce negotiations with Scotland and specifically treating Scottish citizens as having no more rights than people from Iran?
The first consequence is that there would be two classes of resident in Scotland. There would be those who remained British who could take advantage of their British citizenship to move across the border in order to access benefits and healthcare if these happened to be better than in Scotland. These British Scots would be able to move if their job was taxed at a much higher rate in Scotland than in the former UK. The other class of Scottish resident, Scottish citizens, would be unable to do any of these things.
This is necessary because Scottish finances would likely be such that anyone who lost their job in Glasgow, or anyone who got sick in Aberdeen, would be tempted to escape over the border if they were able to retain dual Scottish/British citizenship. Why should the former UK look after people who voted to leave? The former UK would have to protect itself from the financial consequences of too many refugees from Scotland realising they have just voted for poverty and unemployment.
How many Scots would opt to retain British citizenship? It is likely that at least as many as would vote to remain in the UK. Perhaps some hypocritical independence supporters would opt to remain British too. The result would be that upwards of half of the residents in an independent Scotland would not be Scottish citizens. This would immediately make Scotland untenable as an independent country. No country can survive when so many citizens belong to another state. It would give that state a claim on those places where its citizens were in the majority. If on the other hand the SNP argued that residents in Scotland had to be Scottish citizens, what would it do to those who refused, drive them out?
Thus, during the independence/divorce negotiations and transition period the British Government could organise local plebiscites. If a majority of those who proposed to remain British citizens in any particular region wished to remain in the former UK, they could be given that option. This need not merely apply to those parts of Scotland that were geographically contiguous. After all Alaska is not geographically contiguous with the rest of the United States.
The British Government could argue that if Orkney, Shetland, Aberdeenshire and the Borders plus anywhere else that retained a majority of British citizens wished to remain in the UK then it should be allowed to do so.
This would make any referendum on independence rather interesting. Scots would not so much be voting for Scotland to be independent as would be voting for which parts would be partitioned and which parts would go it alone.
In 2014 Dundee and Glasgow would have ended up as a statelet rather like the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They might have called themselves Scotland, but the rest of Scotland would have had a better claim to the title.
If it were made clear, perhaps privately to the SNP, that the British Government would do all it could to undermine an independent Scotland including partitioning it, then the SNP would be very angry indeed, but they wouldn’t be able to do very much about it.
The key to defending the future of the UK is to make dual nationality illegal with regard to Scotland. This alone would have the consequence of making few Scots vote for independence, not least because it would make an independent Scotland untenable.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.