Category Archives: diplomacy

Foreign policy priorities

As a rule of thumb, I reckon you can get a rough idea of a country's foreign policy priorities by drawing a circle around the capital, because this is where the parliamentarians, government ministers and the foreign office staff are based, so the capital is the centre of their universe.

On the following map, I've drawn a 500-mile radius around Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen and Berlin to illustrate this idea:

The foreign policy priorities of Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen and Berlin.

Copenhagen's circle includes significant parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. This perhaps explains why Denmark fought so hard for the independence of the Baltic countries and for their eventual membership of the EU when most other EU countries didn't think it was that important.

London's circle takes in most of the British Isles (but not Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides), France, the Low Countries and Germany, and bits of Denmark and Switzerland, which is probably a reasonable guide to how London-based media view Europe.

Berlin's circle takes in a lot on Central Europe, but the exact details need not concern us here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to do is to look at the difference between Edinburgh and London. Compared to the UK capital, the circle of Scotland's capital includes all of the Scottish islands, the Faeroes and significant parts of Norway, but excludes large parts of France and Germany. This means we can expect Scotland's foreign policies to focus much more on Scandinavia and the North Atlantic.

200-mile radiusWhen I posted the map above on Twitter, Statgeek posted a map showing a 200 mile radius for London and Edinburgh (reproduced on the right) as a reply, noting the connexion between this and the HS2 plans and lack of infrastructure in North, as well as the fact that Northern Ireland is included in the Edinburgh circle but not in the London one.

If my circle theory is right, we should not expect the rUK's foreign policy priorities to be significantly different from the UK's; on the other hand, Scotland's are likely to revert to the situation before the Union was created.

It will be fascinating to watch.

The most realistic answer

L'Assemblée Nationale Européenne
L'Assemblée Nationale Européenne, a photo by CedEm photographies on Flickr.
A short while ago, Yves Gounin (who is a high-ranking government official in France) wrote a very interesting article in the journal Politique étrangère.

The Catalan website VilaWeb has provided a useful summary, as has Wee Ginger Dug, and the article itself is here in PDF format.

It's an excellent article, and I highly recommend reading it if you have any French (Google Translate will help you to a certain extent, but it will get confused in some places).

I decided to provide a summary of my own, maintaining the author's section headings, and focusing on the bits that are most directly relevant for Scotland.

However, I very much hope somebody will soon provide a full translation into English -- it's an essential document in the Scottish independence debate.

Anyway, let's get started! After a short introduction the article is divided into the following sections:

Longing for independence and European integration [p. 12]
The independence movements in at least Scotland and Catalonia are united by their desire to remain in the EU, not least because doing so reassures the voters that the countries won't be internationally isolated after independence.

It's therefore important to explore whether these new states will become EU member states automatically, or whether they will be placed in the same situation as the applicant countries of Eastern Europe, obliged to follow the long and risky process of accession negotiations.

A political gamble [p. 12f]
The independence supporters are therefore keen to assert that continued membership of the EU is practically automatic, while opponents claim that independence would lead to applying for EU membership from scratch.
The answers from public international law: succession of states [p. 13ff]
The author briefly explains how states can succeed states. It's likely the remaning parts of the UK and Spain will try to claim continuing state status, whereas it's unlikely either Flanders or Wallonia could do this if Belgium is dissolved.
Succession of states and international treaties [p. 15f]
After looking at how the succession of states affects international treaties, the author concludes one has to look at the rules of each international organisation separately -- one cannot conclude anything about EU accession by looking solely at international law.
An unprecedented situation [p. 17]
Looking at the EU itself, it quickly becomes clear that there aren't any clear precedents.
A brief detour via the UN [p.17f]
While there are no precedents within the EU, that's not the case in the UN. Here the rules are clear: The new state has to apply for membership from scratch.
The EU hostile to the splitting of states [p. 18ff]
There are good reasons why the EU is against member states splitting up.

On the one hand, the EU promotes its own regional agenda but does not want to be accused of getting involved in the internal affairs of member states at the same time.

On the other hand, many member states are worried about their own independence movements and believe they can hold back these by obstructing the accession to the EU of new states forming from other EU member states.

Common sense arguments in support of automatic membership [p. 20f]
However, is it reasonable and realistic to expel parts of existing member states from the EU? Can one imagine border posts on the Catalan border? The reintroduction of a national currency in Flanders? Scots deprived of their rights derived from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?

Also, a legal argument can be taken from Article 50 of the TEU, which outlines the procedure by which a member state can leave the EU. It could be argued that expelling these states and refusing to readmit them would be in breach of this explicit procedure.

Another argument stems from the EU's founding principles: freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. It would be ironic if the Union denied the populations of Scotland, Catalonia or Flanders the right to self-determination, and this would undoubtedly constitute a democratic regression.

Europe of the citizens [p. 21]
An even more powerful argument can be drawn from the link established over time between the European Union and its citizens. The EU constitutes "a new legal order of international law whose subjects are not only States but also their nationals". That means that unlike other international organisations, the EU is not only composed of states but also of citizens.

The question here is whether by losing their British, Spanish and Belgian nationality, the Scots, Catalans and Flemings will ipso facto also lose their EU citizenship.

A negotiation in good faith would be in everybody's interest [p. 22]
It's fair play for opponents of independence to raise obstacles to continued EU membership, but one might ask whether it's in the EU's own interest to complicate the (re-)admission of these states. Once the Rubicon of independence has been crossed, Europe would have everything to lose by putting these states into quarantine: its businesspeople couldn't invest there any more, nor could its young people study there, its travellers move there freely, its fishermen sail there, etc.

A practical solution must be found.

The most reasonable solution would be to negotiate independence and EU membership simultaneously. It would thus be neither automatic membership nor going through the full procedures of Article 49. The absence of relevant precedents, legal uncertainty and the magnitude of the challenge will require the parties to negotiate. This is not the most illuminating answer to the question, but without a doubt it is the most realistic.

Why Westminster will do anything to hold on to Scotland

Wings over Scotland recently published an interesting article which contained the following illuminating passage:

So why would the UK deliberately undermine the long-held view that the UK is a political union of different countries? The answer may be seen in a passage from the report stating that "Since the rUK (remainder of the UK) would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue", and that after independence, representatives of the UK Government would enter negotiations on the terms of independence "as representatives of the continuing state of the UK".

From these two snippets it appears that the repositioning of the Act of Union as merely an enlargement of England is an attempt to retain sole-successor status in the same manner as Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Westminster government is so desperate to keep hold of the permanent Security Council seat that they’re willing to undermine the constitutional arrangements of the UK in order to ensure they keep it in the event of a Yes vote.

I'm not an expert on UN membership rules, but I would have thought there was a decent chance the rUK will retain the UK's permanent seat on the Security Council. However, even a modest risk of losing that seat is probably enough to give the politicians and mandarins in the FCO and the rest of Westminster sleepless nights. Sacrificing the happiness and wellbeing of the Scots is a very small price to pay for maintaining a place amongst the great powers of the world.

Besides, the unionist politicians in Westminster are not the only ones who are worried. David Leask quotes Phillips O’Brien of Glasgow University for the following: "France’s place in the world would come under real pressure if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom[.] In the first place, it could lead to reform of the UN Security Council and the concurrent loss or reduction of French influence in the UN."

Personally I'm pretty relaxed about a reform of the Security Council, but I can understand that for a small group of politicians clinging to the remnants of the empire, it can seem like the end of the world as they know it, which explains why they attack Scottish independence so vociferously.

Scotland will get £172m to buy embassies



British Embassy
Originally uploaded by The Shifted Librarian

I just noticed that in 2010, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's global estate (i.e., embassies, consulates, etc.) was worth £2,042,480,000.

That's a lot of real estate!

Scotland makes up about 8.4% of the UK's population, and this is normally the basis for splitting up countries.

This means that Scotland will be entitled to global estate worth £171,568,320 after a Yes to independence.

This amount is of course subject to negotiation, and Scotland will probably be given a mix of buildings and money, rather than just a lump sum.

However, it does demonstrate that any fears that Scotland might not be able to afford embassies are completely unfounded.

Scotland’s foreign policy



Wales as part of Englanti
Originally uploaded by hugovk

Scotland hasn't had a foreign policy since the Act of Union in 1707, and to some extent not since the Unions of the Crowns in 1603. It is therefore interesting to have a look at what kind of international outlook an independent Scotland is likely to have.

First of all, every country is to a large extent focused on its neighbours. Whereas from London the neighbours listed by a combination of closeness and size are France, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the list of the neighbours as seen from Edinburgh goes something like England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, France, Netherlands and Belgium. In other words, Scotland is likely to pay much more attention to especially Norway, Denmark and Iceland than the UK; on the other hand, Scotland will probably not be as preoccupied with France, although I'd expect the relationship to be very friendly, perhaps even to some extent reviving the Auld Alliance.

Secondly, Scotland is likely to have a very close relationship to Canada, the US and other countries with significant numbers of citizens of Scottish descent. According to Wikipedia, there are almost 10m Americans and almost 5m Canadians of Scottish descent, which is likely to make these countries close partners. Other countries with significant numbers include Australia (1.5m) and Argentina (100k).

Last but not least, the UK's foreign policy is to a very large degree defined by be effects of the British Empire. Scotland would be much less tainted by this (although of course Scots played a full part in the Empire). So whereas the UK has a difficult relationship with Argentina because of the Falklands and with Spain because of Gibraltar, there is no reason why an independent Scotland shouldn't enjoy cordial relations with both Argentina and Spain. Scotland would also be a normal member of the UN without a veto in the Security Council and without nuclear weapons, so there would be less of an incentive to formulate a policy vis-à-vis all the countries of the World.

To sum up, I expect Scotland's foreign policy to be focused on Scandinavia and North America, and to be friendlier and less global than the UK's.

The jobs created by independence

Independence sceptics are often worrying endlessly about the jobs that might disappear as a result of Scottish Independence.

However, many jobs will be created as a result of independence. Here are a few areas that spring to mind, but I'm sure there will be many more.

  • A lot of countries will open embassies in Edinburgh -- we can't be sure of the number, but there are about 60 embassies in Dublin, and about 75 in Copenhagen, so one would expect a similar number. Some of these will be small, but others will be huge, and there will be lots of local jobs needed to set them up and keep them running, on top of the money created by embassy employees finding places to live and spending money in local shops and restaurants. Of course Scotland will need to finance a similar number of embassies abroad, but we're already paying about 10% of what the UK are spending on representations abroad, so I reckon there'll be a net gain.
  • There will be ministries created for the previously devolved areas. Using Denmark as a basis (it's probably a better guide than using 10% of the UK), there might for instance be about 850 employees in the Scottish Foreign Office in Edinburgh and about 150 in the Scottish Ministry of Defence.
  • Even if the SNP at the moment claim it won't be needed, I think it's likely there will be a Central Bank of Scotland, even if it's just to administer a currency board. Using Denmark as a guide again, there might be more than 500 people working there.
  • There are other government offices of various kinds. For instance, the DVLA in Swansea almost 7000 employees -- a Scottish DVLA would therefore probably have at least 700 employees. On the other hand, there are UK government offices in Scotland -- for instance, the HMRC accounts office in Cumbernauld AFAIK covers an area larger than Scotland -- so it's somewhat complicated to work out exactly the net number of jobs created in Scotland.
  • Some companies would need to create separate Scottish subsidiaries. For instance, mobile phone companies would presumably need completely separate organisations in Scotland. I've no idea how many companies we're talking about here, or how large their Scottish operations are, but we must be talking about thousands of jobs moving to Scotland. Of course there will also be companies based here that will need to create English subsidiaries in the same way, but I have a feeling the net effect will still be very positive for Scotland.

Of course there won't be a perfect match between the jobs that will disappear and those that will be created -- you can't retrain a nuclear weapons worker to become a Foreign Office employee overnight -- but I think on the whole it seems likely that independence will be very good for Scottish employment figures.

Nobody will stand up for Scotland abroad



Sam's Boys
Originally uploaded by acidrabbi

Joan McAlpine has an important point about the al-Megrahi affair (hat-tip: SNP Tactical Voting), namely that both the UK and the US are saying Scotland's government were wrong to release him, but there's nobody on the international stage to fight Scotland's corner:

Since foreign affairs are not devolved to Edinburgh, David Cameron officially speaks for us. On this occasion he trashed us in front of the world. Where were we? We should have had a right to reply at least. After all, Scottish troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as they did in Iraq, to support America. Would Obama and Cameron have condemned a friendly, independent sovereign nation like this?

Even those who disagreed with the decision to free al-Megrahi should agree that this situation is untenable – the US government should be discussing this issue with Alex Salmond, not with David Cameron, and only independence will resolve this issue.