An independent Scotland would have to do a lot of negotiating – but not 14,000 treaties’ worth
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David Lidington, the Foreign Office minister, has been compelled to admit that “some of the 14,000 treaties are no longer in force.”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?’
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