Borders in the mind

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Boris Johnson famously doesn’t do his homework, so it’s hardly a surprise to discover that he hasn’t done his homework on the scare stories and threats which he hopes will keep Scotland a part of the UK. Mind you, neither has anyone else in the Better Together MkII campaign. As well as Boris Johnson’s scare stories which he spouted at a Conservative leadership campaign hustings meeting in Carlisle, last week we also saw former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell being given free rein on BBC2 Newsnight to repeat some hoary old scare stories of his own.

Jack McConnell insisted that there could be no independence referendum until the question of the border was settled. “We trade four times as much with the rest of the UK as we do with the EU!” he asserted. Now, it’s certainly true that Scotland’s largest single trading partner is the rest of the UK, however the four times as much figure that is frequently bandied about is based on some self-selecting estimates. There are no accurate figures.

But let’s take it for granted that the figures so beloved of anti-independence campaigners are correct. Life’s too short for graphs. The answer to the question is – that trade will continue. There are a couple of reasons why it will continue.

Firstly it will continue because even though an independent Scotland will have to go through an accession process in order to rejoin the EU, there is absolutely no reason why Scotland cannot become a part of the EU single market and common customs area on day one of independence. Opponents of independence would like people to confuse EU membership with membership of the single market and customs union. The two are not the same. Negotiations for Scottish membership of the customs union and single market can take place during the process of negotiation between Edinburgh and London following a yes vote in an independence referendum, before Scotland has become an independent country.

Since Scotland has not yet left the EU, and since an independence referendum will most likely take place either before or shortly after the UK leaves the EU, there will not have been much time for the UK to have diverged significantly from EU standards. That means that the process of ensuring that Scotland is in compliance with EU regulations will be relatively simple, since we are already in compliance with them. On day one of independence, Scotland can be a member of the single market and the customs area. This will facilitate full Scottish membership of the EU should the people of an independent Scotland vote for it.

Scottish membership of the single market and common customs area means that all the terms and conditions applying to trade between the rest of the UK and the EU will also apply to trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK. The rUK cannot selectively apply one set of rules to one part of the European single market, and another set of rules to a different part of it. Otherwise it’s not a single market.

The entire point of Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU is to ensure the free and easy continuance of trade between the two parties. Those talks have not been going well. However even should the UK crash out of the EU at the end of October with no deal, the immediate priority for the UK will be to ensure the restoration of that free and easy trade as quickly as possible, only then it will be doing so from a position of extreme weakness as lorries queue up on Kent’s motorways and manufacturing supply chains break down. Under those circumstances, the EU will dictate the terms, and the EU has already made it abundantly clear that the continuation of an invisible border on the island of Ireland is non-negotiable. What happens in Ireland can just as easily happen along the Scottish-English border, in fact it would be unthinkable for that not to be the case, given that Scotland will be a part of the European single market exactly as the Irish Republic is.

Given that following Brexit, the rUK will be keen to ensure that it has trade deals in place with everyone and anyone, in order to minimise the damage that Brexit will cause to its economy, it is would be insane for Westminster to impose trade restrictions on Scotland – even if it could. It’s not just that England is Scotland’s largest single trading partner, Scotland is also one of England’s most important trading partners. Imposing restrictions on trade with Scotland would cause thousands of job losses and a massive hit to the economy of the rest of the UK, precisely at a time when it’s desperately trying to negotiate trade deals with Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. However, as already noted, if Scotland is a member of the European single market and customs union on day one of independence, the rUK could not impose trade restrictions on Scotland which would not also apply to all of the trade between the rUK and the entire European single market.

Despite the claims of Boris Johnson and others, an independent Scotland would not be forced to join the Schengen Zone, which permits passport free travel between most EU states. Ireland is not a member of the Schengen Zone, instead being a member of the Common Travel Area of the British Isles along with the UK, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Ireland will continue to be a member of the Common Travel Area following Brexit. So would an independent Scotland. You won’t be asked for your passport at Gretna or Berwick or Carter’s Bar.

The Schengen agreement between EU states was all about removing barriers to travel. It would be a gross perversion of the spirit of the Schengen Treaty to use it to impose barriers to travel where none currently exist. Scotland’s only land border is with England, which means that travel between Scotland and EU states necessarily involves either a flight or a ferry journey, trips which for security reasons demand the production of photographic ID in order to travel. Forcing Scotland to join the Schengen Zone would produce a net gain of zero, while introducing the need for passport checks on Scotland’s only land border. It’s not going to happen, and anyone who suggests that it would is indulging in ridiculous scaremongering.

Since the EU is happy for Ireland to remain a member of the Common Travel Area of the British Isles, it will also extend the same concession to Scotland. However, at some point in the future, should the rUK decide that it wishes to rejoin the EU, then Scotland and Ireland would be in a position to insist that it can only do so if it signs up to the Schengen Accords, which Scotland and Ireland could then also join allowing us passport free travel to everywhere in the British Isles as well as most of Europe. Then Scotland will be able to dictate terms to Westminster. Ha. And indeed. Ha. Ha.

There will be no hard border between Scotland and the rest of the UK following independence. Private travellers will continue to journey unimpeded between Scotland and the rUK. Trade between Scotland and the rUK will continue. Even in the worst case scenario, there would only be electronic checks on commercial vehicles, but even that worst case scenario is vanishingly unlikely. If there is no need for infrastructure on the Irish border, there is no need for any on the Scottish border either. The rUK can’t have it both ways. It just wants people in Scotland to think it can in order to scare, threaten, and intimidate us into voting against independence.

But there’s another consideration here. An independent Scotland will be able to do what Ireland does. When Ireland became independent its trade was overwhelmingly with the rest of the UK. Ireland was impoverished, poor, and its economy was weak. As an independent state and a member of the EU, Ireland has been able to develop its trading ties with other EU states, which has benefited the Irish economy enormously. An independent Scotland would be able to do the same. Independence opens up vast opportunities for Scotland. It would permit the development of direct exports to other countries, exports which currently go through England. Scotland could develop container ports and terminals, and see a massive growth in its direct trade with other nations. And all the while, the border with England will remain open.

The biggest border is the one in the minds of Scottish people, the wall of fear and insecurity built up by British nationalists which prevents us from recognising Scotland’s full potential. As an independence referendum approaches, as the UK destroys itself with Brexit, as the Westminster establishment itself has torn down all the arguments deployed against Scotland in 2014, they grow increasingly hysterical, their scaremongering borders on madness. A hard border between Berwick and Gretna exists only in the minds of opponents of independence desperate to scare Scotland into submission.

But brick by brick, the wall of fear is coming down to reveal the opportunities and potential which await Scotland when it rejoins the family of independent states as an equal partner. The only border that restricts an independent Scotland is the border of our imaginations.

38 comments on “Borders in the mind

  1. Craig P says:

    >>When Ireland became independent its trade was overwhelmingly with the rest of the UK. Ireland was impoverished, poor, and its economy was weak.

    This is the bit we need to keep hammering home until we are sick of it, and then keep doing so because undecideds will have only just started to pay attention.

    Our trade is mainly with England because our economy is run from Westminster, to a model that suits the City of London.

    If it wasn’t for the example of Ireland I would still think England would be our biggest trade partner, but Ireland exports 11% (last I looked it was 14%!) to UK, down from 17% ten years ago.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      Do not ignore the cause and effect re Ireland, often forgotten post-Empire. Ireland was threatened with and ultimately blockaded by the Navy etc., they went through hell for decades, and HMG have never been nor rightly should be forgiven for what was a Siege. In this modern age such a tactic would attract universal condemnation and rightly so. The EU has many imperfections, but none so severe as the UQ.
      Our trade arrangements are whatever Whitehall and Westminster portray it to be, GERS being the perfect example of avoiding publishing data which it is unconscionable they do not have, otherwise it would be published. Only on Independence can a commission examine the actualities, and I hazard a guess that it is Westminster in deep doo-doo not the Scots.
      The bluster will continue as that is all they know, but in this day and age it is the meaningless drivel of assumed and presumed power, and as Paul rightly highlights some north of the border need to give themselves a good shake out of their lethargy.
      Excellent article again…

  2. […] Wee Ginger Dug Borders in the mind The usual blog article begins after this message while the annual crowdfunder is […]

  3. Bob Lamont says:

    Watercooled keyboard “can take place can occur” 4th para

  4. There is nothing these hunts would like better than a hard border surrounding Scotland, a bit like a siege, so they could laugh as we starved to death, isolated from all trade and commerce. Just as the blockades of the Darien adventure were able to bankrupt the Scottish imperial pretensions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they would love it they could employ their traditional diplomacy at the start of the twenty-first to bankrupt us again. They must be very very angry with Europe now.

  5. wm says:

    It is not so long ago that people in the South of Ireland had to spend 150 Euros for £100 worth of groceries in the North, now it only costs around 100 Euros for the same groceries, does that not mean something, or am I wrong in thinking they will get the same groceries for £80 pound soon, when the effect of Brexit really hits the pound.

    • wm says:

      Wee mistake as I men’t 80 Euros in the last sentence, sorry

    • Bob Lamont says:

      It simply means that the myth of GBP being “strong and stable” continues to vapourise as the myth meets reality. Were it to drop below parity the UK would be sunk…

  6. Anne Martin says:

    This is all very true, but as long as the unionists are allowed to keep making these false statements completely uncontested, the undecided will continue to believe them.

    • weegingerdug says:

      That’s why we need to do the contesting.

      • Anne Martin says:

        I realise that, but the contesting has to occur on ‘news’ type programmes and MSM, which at the moment it doesn’t.

        • Legerwood says:

          Below the line comments facility on newspapers give people access to the print media and the opportunity to rebut, correct and add information to newspaper stories. Like most online sites more people read the comments than actually comment so it gives independence supporters an opportunity to reach these people and, just as importantly, by correcting and adding to the stories demonstrate to a wider public the shortcomings of the MSM.

          It is no accident that the BBC has stopped allowing comments on Scottish stories. The below the line comments particularly on political/SNPBad stories gave people an opportunity to correct the omissions and commissions in the reports as well as add in a lot of useful info that would otherwise not see the light of day. First they started to heavily moderate the sites then they closed down opportunities to comment at all as soon as the first indyref was called.

          • Bob Lamont says:

            “It is no accident that the BBC has stopped allowing comments on Scottish stories..”+”soon as the first indyref was called”
            Strange, I’d been monitoring their pieces and watching the (usually anti-SNP/SG) hordes descend on HYS within seconds until within the last week when HYS suddenly stopped, or at least thus far.
            As you said, most people read the comments but don’t join in, hence my curiosity as it all seemed a little too well coordinated negativity on HYS, many clearly NOT Scottish…

            • Alasdair Macdonald says:

              There does not seem to be any discernible principle that applies to when the BBC permit a ‘Have Your Say’.

              I also wonder if they alert unionist and/or Brexit trolls in advance so that they can pile on a lot of bile and mark each other up.

            • Bob Lamont says:

              Curiously hadn’t noticed but Beeb allowed a HYS on two articles 1/7/19 only one of which got deluged by the anti-mob as it was about devolution…

  7. bringiton says:

    BoJo’s latest idiotic outburst:
    If Scotland joins the EU it would have to implement all the EU rules and regulations.
    News for BoJo,we already do and by and large,Scots are quite happy with this arrangement,certain NE fishermen excepted.
    They really are scraping the bottom of the barrel now looking for reasons to support England’s Union.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      “News for BoJo,we already do and by and large,Scots are quite happy with this arrangement,certain NE fishermen excepted.” – The 6 families who own fishing rights are most responsible for decimation of the traditional Scottish fishing industry, ably abetted by the UK Government who blessed it.. Bigger=Better?

  8. Son of Perth says:

    Brilliant Paul. Bit by bit the unionist scare stories are falling apart. I love it. What I most look forward to, come independence day, is the British media’s shock, followed closely by Lord McConman, Broon, McDougall and all the other shockers saying they are not sure if they can live in Scotland ever again. Can you imagine, a Scotland without these clowns? Utterly brilliant.

  9. Legerwood says:

    Data on Scotland’s exports
    From 2017 export data (excluding oil and gas)

    In 2017 Scotland’s total exports excluding oil and gas were £81.4 billion (+5.2%)

    The largest increase, 13.3%, was in exports to the EU valued at £14.9 bn. Other international exports totalled £17.6 bn (+0.8%).

    Total International exports £32.4 bn (+6.2%).

    Exports to rest of the UK were £48.9bn (+4.6%)

    So not too much of a gap between our International exports, EU and non-EU, and the rest of the UK

    From December 2018
    The figures come from HMRC and figures for oil and gas are quoted.

    Ireland some data here. As you can see Ireland has been running an annual trade surplus since 1990

    I think Ireland are also taking steps to establish direct ferry links to France to carry its exports directly to EU

  10. I commented earlier on Wark and McConnell’s Punch and Judy routine during the Newsnight Scotish ‘Special’ last Thursday.

    What really gets on my goat is that these two know that they are deliberately lying, and menacingly threatening their fellow Scots with some imaginary vengeance by their English Paymasters if we Scots do, what we are without doubt certainly going to do, within weeks, months, not years, assert our internationally recognised Right to Self Determination.

    From now on in, every time Brewer sits and lets the Ghosts of Labour Past, Curran, Harris, or Brown, repeat this 4 times the trade nonsense, we should very loudly, very publicly, condemn their treachery on every media platform and broadcast outlet available to us.

    Same goes for Jackson Carhire, Mundell the Hirsute, Supermom Ruth, and WATP Follow Follow Two Jobs Professor Anniesland Reject Adam Formerly Republican Socialist Tomkins, when they utter the threat that there will never be a second Independence plebiscite.
    They don’t do democracy.
    They are the Iron Heel Oligarchy’s puppets.

    In my eyes, they are agents of a foreign government now, and would happily see their fellow citizens dragged out of the biggest Market in the Free World because they think that we will bow down to the Imperial Might of their ‘English’ Parliament.

    I ask no ‘foreigner’s’ permission to return to the status quo; that of Scotland as an Independent Nation, governed by the people, elected by the people, serving the people, and accountable to the people of Scotland, not a colony of the Parliament of another nation.

    No more.
    So be warned BBC/STV/ SKY/ The Herald hacks/ the Scotsman Digital Warriors.
    No more sitting back and letting the lies and threats dominate the debate.
    I am minded to build a fifty foot high wall between Scotland and Little Britain at the moment.

    We are at war; a war of words which we shall win.
    Great article, Paul.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      “We are at war; a war of words which we shall win.”
      Perhaps might be worth cleaning down the chainmail and pikestaff as a fallback ?
      They know they are losing after the 2014 debacle, but with and a fast approaching Turd+Brexit a sharp intake of breath and a stiff upper lip is all they have left, the game is up… 😉

      • I have my pruning fork and pumice stone aye ready, Bob.

        { ; o )

      • Alasdair Macdonald says:

        Just as in 2014 Labour, the Tories and the LibDems are all saying exactly the same lines word for word. This caused a mass loss of Labour support to the independence cause and, it also made the Colonel the champion of the union, so, since many Labour voters are conservative (small ‘c’) some of them have no difficulty in voting for the big ‘C’s – perhaps that rhymes with Jeremy Hunt.

  11. Ruth Ritchie says:

    It is precisely all their scaremongering which seeks to arm Yes campaigners against. See us at Ayr on Saturday. Every penny is going to debunk the unionist myths.

  12. Terry callachan says:

    Once Scotland is independent we will export our goods directly from Scotland to the EU and elsewhere in the world and many many more people will travel directly to and from Scotland by sea and air .
    England will lose a huge amount of exports from their order books because at present they include Scottish exports in their figures simply because goods leave Scotland on the back of a lorry and go overseas from a port in England.
    English ports will lose that business.
    Scottish ports will grow and prosper.
    New ferry links from Scottish ports to Europe including ferries to English ports will be introduced or should I say reintroduced because we had them in the past.
    Flights from Edinburgh Glasgow Prestwick Dundee direct to every country in the world will be introduced no longer will we have to travel from an English airport no longer will we have to pay higher fares for a flight from London that flies up over Scotland to its destination.
    Hey england if you want to offer Scotland a good price we might add some of our goods to those you are exporting overseas, we will decide if the terms suit us.
    Hey england ,if you want a hard border with Scotland just remember the electricity and water we send you will be included in those border checks along with all the other stuff you get from us.
    We will be happy to source what we need from the dozens of European countries eager to trade with us if you don’t.
    Hey england, you have nothing to give us that we cannot get elsewhere , like all business trade be nice and reasonable or we go elsewhere.

  13. Anne says:

    Thanks for the clear explanation of how the EU single market and customs union would work for Scotland after independence . I needed the clarity.

  14. Daisy Walker says:

    I really appreciate your well thought out article.

    And if we’re dealing with hard core unionists who will not listen and will disrupt the conversation, a quick fall back line to ‘Scotland trades 4 times as much with England as with the EU’, is, ‘Aye, and one of the things we export to England is electricity… what’re they gonnae do, sit round a candle.’

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