On Monday Scottish conservatives launched the pro-union group Friends of the Union in an attempt to stop Scotland from breaking away from the wider United Kingdom. On an issue that would seem so far removed from international politics, Scottish independence is actually quite a pressing issue with international interest. Scottish independence is not only a massive constitutional issue, but can also have implications with the UK’s position on the United Nations Security Council, within the European Union and NATO, and even with the special relationship with the U.S.
The idea of independence is incredibly romantic in a time where people are now more willing to challenge authority and are now thinking about what it means to be Scottish. However, not only could it lead to the breakup of an ancient union, but independence could make both Scotland and the new UK weaker players on the international stage.
Alex Salmond has argued that Scotland will benefit economically from breaking away from the UK. Under current arrangements Scotland is allowed to legislate on domestic policies but it has no control over foreign, defense, and economic policies, meaning that it can’t enter trade deals with other countries and has no tax-setting powers.Scottish independence would, of course, change this.
However the economic argument doesn’t suffice, because Scotland also uses Pound Sterling and should they reapply to join the EU they may have to consider joining up with the euro, though Scotland has suggested setting up a new currency. But economic times are tough in the UK and it would seem far from wise to be experimenting with new currency.
The EU has made it clear that should Scotland break away from the UK, then Scotland would have to apply as a new member. But that has raised questions over whether or not the new UK post-independence would have to reapply for membership as well.
Should Scotland become a member of the EU they will get to rub shoulders with other European leaders in representing Scottish interests. However it may be difficult for them to be heard. Scotland has a population of around five million meaning that it at most would get seven votes in the European Council where voting is weighted on population size. The UK would as a result lose two council votes (to 27 from 29) meaning Scotland could be better off staying in the Union on matters EU-related if they want to be heard.
On that note, the critics contend that the UK may find it difficult to retain their permanent seat in the UN Security Council and they may find it difficult to retain their position on the international stage.
Scotland does seem to be making attempts at international networking, with the most prominent example being China as two panda bears being flown over to Edinburgh last year. However Scotland still needs to cultivate relationship with other international heavyweights like Russia, Brazil, India and so on and those relationships take years even decades to forge.
The question is will the UK still stand by an independent Scotland?
Photo Credit: The Laird of Oldham