Serious concerns over an independent Scotland from expert MPs

Below are the key extracts from today’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on ‘UK and Scotland in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country’. Serious concerns are raised about an independent Scotland’s international standing.

The full report can be found here.

• Scotland would start anew at an international level, losing many of the benefits that derive from being part of the UK. Evidence suggests that the Scottish Government is largely alone in arguing that Scotland’s accession would automatically take place from within the EU. It is for the EU itself to determine in accordance with its regulations whether and how Scotland would become a member.

• While the RUK would continue to be a member of NATO, Scotland could expect to face robust negotiations and would not necessarily be in a position unilaterally to shape its membership terms in line with its domestic political commitments on nuclear weapons.

• The idea that Scotland would inherit automatically NATO membership in the event of independence, with access to its collective security umbrella, is an overly optimistic assertion which does not fully take account of international law or NATO’s membership rules. We conclude that while the RUK would continue to be a member of NATO, Scotland could expect to face robust negotiations and would not necessarily be in a position unilaterally to shape its membership terms in line with its domestic political commitments on nuclear weapons.

• By the Scottish Government’s own assessment, in the event of independence Scotland would need both internal and external security and intelligence capabilities to deal with the many diverse potential threats it believes it could face. Yet Scotland has no external intelligence infrastructure to build upon. With just over a year to go before the referendum takes place, it is not at all clear that the Scottish Government has a costed and coherent vision of the security and intelligence infrastructure it needs to put in place to protect Scottish citizens, businesses and economic interests.

• In the event of independence, it is likely that the RUK would argue strenuously that it would retain the intelligence and security capacities and infrastructure outlined above. If this was the case, it would be, according to Professor Sir David Omand, the former UK Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and head of GCHQ, “perfectly capable of looking after itself”. In contrast, unless it succeeded in negotiating otherwise, Scotland, it’s Government, and its law enforcement agencies would be cut out of the intelligence loop upon independence. Support would become discretionary on the part of the RUK and other international partners. In such a situation, Professor Omand warned that “problems could arise in respect of counter-terrorism or cyber security where a lack of appropriate investment resulted in Scotland becoming “a weak link”. He added “if that is the easy way into the United Kingdom, you have a net loss of security on both sides of the border”.

• The costs of setting up a new security and intelligence infrastructure afresh which would command the confidence of Scotland’s allies would be, according to Mr Lidington, “enormous”.

• When we asked whether an external intelligence service would be created to provide information to help tackle the threats from cybercrime, international terrorism, failed states and organised crime, Ms Sturgeon was unable to provide a response.

• Over the course of our inquiry it became evident that little over a year before the referendum, much detail and clarity on key aspects of a future Scottish foreign policy remains absent. For instance, the Scottish Government has not produced estimates for the costs involved in setting up a Scottish overseas diplomatic presence or detailed how many embassies it would seek to have and in what countries. On the crucial issue of security and intelligence provision, there is a lack of information about the infrastructure that would be put in place and how start up costs might be funded.

• Much more needs to be done to articulate Scotland’s future foreign policy as well as the risks involved, particularly when it comes to security and intelligence provision, and more generally, what Scotland could realistically expect from the RUK in terms of cooperation on a wide range of issues.

• We also have concerns about the extent to which seemingly unfounded assertions and what are essentially initial negotiating positions are being presented as incontrovertible facts and conclusions.

Advertisements

Comment or ask a question here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s