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An independent Scotland would have to do a lot of negotiating – but not 14,000 treaties’ worth

Andy McSmith
scotland flag 300x225 An independent Scotland would have to do a lot of negotiating   but not 14,000 treaties worth

(Getty Images)

Much as it would pain many of us living south of Gretna Green to see Scotland leave the UK, it really does not help the case for the union if the government tries to undermine the SNP by talking bollocks.

That is what they did when Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, put out a statement last month claiming that an independent Scotland would have to renegotiate 14,000 treaties to which the UK is a party.

It is true that the Scots would have to do some serious negotiating. Recently, the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, became the latest European leader to warn that an independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership as a ‘new country’. His views matter because it will be Latvia’s turn to hold the EU presidency during the Scottish referendum.

But 14,000 treaties? That has prompted an avalanche of written questions to the Foreign Office from SNP politicians, inquiring about the up to date status of some of the treaties on that long list. Has the FCO checked that the UK is discharging its obligations under the Declaration between Great Britain and Prussia relative to Commerce and Navigation between the Ionian Islands and the States of the Zollverein, for example? And have there been any recent breaches of the Agreement between Great Britain and His Majesty King Leopold II, Sovereign of the Independent State of the Congo, relating to their agreed spheres of interest in East and central Africa?

David Lidington, the Foreign Office minister, has been compelled to admit that “some of the 14,000 treaties are no longer in force.” On the other, thousands still are.

Much interest yesterday in the identity of the journalist who once tried it on with The Financial Times columnist, Lucy Kellaway. At a time when he keep reading of “inappropriate” sexual advances, Ms Kellaway has branched out by calling her would-be seducer the “appropriate face of inappropriate conduct” because he asked politely and took no for an answer gracefully. What we know about him, from the article, is that he was a fairly senior journalist on the Financial Times in 1985 and still has “considerable access” to the mass media, which narrows it down a bit.

Every time MPs end their day’s work and the Commons chamber closes for business, two  doorkeepers, one stationed behind the Speaker’s Chair and the other in the Member’s Lobby, cry out simultaneously: “Who goes home?”

This custom arises from a previous century, when there was a real danger of MPs being mugged in the unlit fields between Westminster and the City. It is an invitation to them to band together for protection.

David Winnick, one of Parliament’s longest serving MPs, thinks it a ridiculous custom and has written to the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, suggesting that it be ended. Lansley fobbed him off by telling him to write to the chairman of the Procedure Committee,  Charles Walker.

“I probably will, but I don’t have much hope that anything will be done,” Winnick tells me. “The chairman of the Procedure Committee is usually a rather conservative figure or if he’s a moderniser, like the present chap, he takes the attitude ‘why bother about something that is not causing any controversy?’

  • alastair

    So, “the union of 1707, would not be disslolved, because it doesn’t exist” ? And, “that one part” of a “united Kingdom” which “doesn’t exist” would leave ? And the other “part that would be left”, which doesn’t exist, would continue to “still be a member of the EU” ? Wilsoan, get real. Moreover, Bavaria and Catalonia is a poor analogy, since neither is a “Country” within a “State”. Still, glad to know you are Scottish, and not “scottish”. Welcome back.

  • wilsoan

    I’m sorry that is confusing for you, but it isn’t really all that difficult.

    “the union of 1707, would not be disslolved, because it doesn’t exist”. The union of 1707 has been changed by the addition of Northern Ireland, so it no longer exists in the form it did in 1707.

    “that one part” of a “united Kingdom” which “doesn’t exist” would leave. No, that’s not what I wrote. The United Kingdom certainly does exist. What doesn’t exist any longer is the union only of England and Scotland.

    I don’t know how I can make it any simpler without using illustrations, but Disqus doesn’t allow that.

    By the way, your distinction between a country and a state is false.

  • alastair

    England is a “Kingdom”. Wales was already “incorporated” into England when the 1707 “Treaty of Union” between Scotland and England was signed, forming the “United Kingdom of Great Britain” and there is no “treaty between NI and England. Therefore, when Scotland leaves, then the UK of GB, presently “united”, would no longer exist. You cannot continue a “union” where there never was a treaty of union in the first place, to form such a “union”, can you ? Further, The 1707 “Treaty of Union” is internationally recognised, by international law. NI belongs to neither, or both parties, whichever you prefer, as neither Scotland nor England has the “right” to gain or retain, which the other does not already possess, in an “equal union”, as per the 1707 Treaty. So “dragging myself 300 years forward”, I find that the years and time does not negate Internationally recognised Law regarding Treaties entered into, and am somewhat alarmed that you think it should, or even would.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.mcintosh.5688 David McIntosh

    You do not pay for Scotlands medical prescriptions, or our education for that matter. We just spend our allocated money more wisely, taking care of matters that are important to real people. It sickens me that you are “fed up” of us taking care of our people’s needs just because England chooses not to.

    As stated, Scotland gets a set amount, what we prioritise is up to us.

    And the reason you do not get to vote in England? That should be obvious. If everyone in England voted for us to stay in, and everyone in Scotland voted for us to leave, then we would stay in. Just like in 2010 election, Conservatives got 1 seat out of 59 in Scotland and yet Cameron is in number 10 making changes that effect Scotland.


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