BY EFFIE DEANS
It’s 2025 and I’m about to begin my latest journey to Berwick upon Tweed. Every month or so since independence I’ve had to get up early so that I can get to a giant hypermarket that has been built just over the border. But it would be unfair to suggest that the hard border between England and Scotland has only created jobs in England. Scotland has gained jobs too. Emma Harper though much ridiculed in 2021 was right. A hard border does create jobs.
It turned out not to be possible for Scotland to use Pound Sterling unofficially. The only way that we could be economically viable was for us to have our own central bank that could print our own currency. At this point Zimbabwe born Scottish Green politician Maggie Chapman after campaigning for Scottish independence decided that it was safer to return to the land of her birth as did her colleague and co-leader Lorna Slater who was careful to transfer all her British pounds to Canadian dollars prior to separation occurring. When asked if she would be campaigning for Ontario to be independent, she declined to comment. Environmentalism apparently only requires independence for Scotland, not that the Scottish Greens are hypocrites or opportunists of course.
The problem for those of us who remained in Scotland however was not merely that the Scottish pound fell in value against Sterling, but that the supply chain that had up to now kept our supermarkets economically viable was disrupted to the extent that Tesco etc decided that it was not worth trying to continue running supermarkets in Scotland.
Each and every product except haggis, whiskey and white puddings came to us via an English port or an English road. Unfortunately divorce negotiations with the former UK went rather badly. They got off to a bad start when the SNP negotiators refused to accept a population share of UK debts and talks continued to deteriorate as the former UK decided to imitate how the EU negotiated after Brexit. The result was a no deal Scexit.
During the immediate period after the referendum many Scots and much Scottish money had fled south of the border. The former UK decided that it would not allow Scots to be dual British Scottish citizens, not least because the considerable cost of paying benefits and healthcare to Scottish refugees. The result was that people like me who chose to remain British citizens had to apply for leave to remain in Scotland. All those EU citizens who voted for the SNP likewise had to apply for leave to remain too. Just as in 2014 Nicola Sturgeon threatened that they might lose the right to live in Scotland if the EU did not cooperate with Scotland’s membership application. Only then did these EU citizens realise that their present leave to remain was given by the UK, for which reason voting for the SNP was rather foolish.
As I approached the border at Berwick, I saw numerous offices advertising how they would help Scottish citizens to obtain a visa to the former UK. It was complex and rather expensive, but at least it had created some jobs in Scotland. I also saw various shops that had been established for those Scots who were unable like me to make the run to Berwick. Scottish entrepreneurs had bought goods in Berwick and transported them to Scotland and with a slight markup were able to deliver them to those Scots who were unable to make the crossing.
There was usually a long queue at the border. It was hard to predict where it would be worst. Sometimes the former UK authorities were particularly careful in checking cars and lorries to make sure that they fulfilled every requirement. Sometimes the border was simply closed for no apparent reason. Some facilities had developed where we could have some coffee, something to eat or even sleep. Someone could be paid to watch your place in the queue. In fact, the job creation opportunities of the queue were almost limitless. Whenever there was a gap in the market that could make the experience of queuing just a bit more pleasant, some clever businessmen set up shop by the side of the road.
The guards at the border were particularly grateful on both sides for the job opportunity that the SNP had given to them. The job satisfaction they obtained from looking for the slightest error in a visa or in the forms required to be filled so that shopping or freight could be transported was obvious. Not one unauthorized haggis was going to get through if they could help it.
But Emma Harper’s job creation scheme turned out not merely to beneficial to the border region, the whole of Scotland gained in multiple ways. More petrol stations had to be created for all those Scots who had to make the long journey to Berwick or Carlisle. Unfortunately, we polluted rather more too, but the Scottish Greens reflected that it was worth it so long as we were independent. All those cars making the run to England wore out more quickly, so we needed more car dealers. Unemployed Scots used the opportunity to offer to clean the windscreens with squeegees of car drivers stuck in traffic jams, which not only provided them with a steady income but gave them the chance to be in the fresh air, so long as they kept away from the exhaust pipes.
Poor Emma had been ridiculed about currency and then ridiculed about her border job creation scheme, but she was right. I could pay for my goods with Scottish pounds in Berwick by giving the same piece of plastic that I had used prior to independence. It may have cost me ten Scottish pounds to buy one English pound, but I felt a warm glow that it was Scottish. It may have meant that my house valued in pound Sterling could no longer be used to buy a house of a similar size anywhere else in the world except perhaps Zimbabwe (I could be Maggie’s neighbour), but who would want to leave an independent Scotland anyway when the border queue was not merely a source of jobs but also a source of wealth.
Emma Harper’s job creation scheme in fact was working so well that she argued that Scotland should create borders between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. It would make up for the decline in North Sea oil. Who needs oil when we can create borders?
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.