How much will England pay for access to Coulport?

Originally uploaded by rojabro

The Telegraph are reporting today that the Westminster government after a Yes vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum will be willing to pay any price to keep Coulport, the navy base where the submarines are loaded with nuclear missiles:

MoD insiders believe that, after an independence vote, ministers in London would have no choice but to strike a deal with Scottish leaders allowing the Navy to go on using Coulport and Faslane until an alternative was ready.

That would give Scotland’s new government bargaining power over other issues like their share of the UK national debt and other financial liabilities.

“Maintaining the deterrent is the first priority for any UK government, so ministers in London would have to pay Salmond any price to ensure we kept access to [the Clyde bases],” said a source. “It would be an unbelievable nightmare.”

I’ve no doubt that an independent Scotland will want to get rid of the nuclear warheads eventually, but even just delaying the move by ten years might be worth quite a lot when the Scottish and RUK negotiation teams are discussing North Sea oil, the maritime border, ownership of the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and other contentious issues.

After the referendum

The Scottish Government today launched its consultation on the Independence referendendum. (The Westminster crowd have also started one [PDF], but I have a feeling the former will be more important to participate in.) You don’t need to live in Scotland to participate, so do tell them what you think!

The consultation document has this to say about what happens after a Yes vote:

4.1 Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Parliament and Government would carry forward the people’s will. This would involve negotiations with the UK Government. These negotiations would deal with the terms of independence as well as with the arrangements for the transition. The terms of independence would include agreement on the scope and arrangements for future cross-border bodies and cross-border co-operation, both transitional and ongoing.

4.2 Formal negotiations would also be opened on Scotland’s international responsibilities, in the European Union and more widely. Other bodies such as relevant international partners would be involved in such discussions as needed.

4.3 Agreement on the arrangements for transition would allow Scotland to move forward to independence. There would be a transitional period to allow for necessary legal and practical preparations. These preparations would ensure that systems and arrangements were in place to allow an independent Scottish Parliament and Government to fulfil the full range of their responsibilities from the moment of independence.

4.4 The final requirement for independence to have effect would be for both the Scottish and UK Parliaments to pass and bring into force independence legislation which would enact the negotiated settlement. In particular, the legislation would effect the transfer of the power to legislate for Scotland from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Parliament and would define the effective date of Scotland’s re-establishment as an independent, sovereign state.

4.5 May 2016 will see the election of the next Scottish Parliament which would become the Parliament of an independent Scotland. This election will give the people of Scotland the chance to decide the future policy direction of Scotland.

Frustratingly, but predictably, there are no time scales. I guess such negotiations can’t be rushed too much, and some of them will be hard.

However, to provide some kind of idea about the timescale we’re talking about here, I’ve tried to find some information on the dissolution of Czechoslovakia:

The Slovak parliament adopts the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation.
The Federal Assembly passes an act that dissolves Czechoslovakia on 31 December 1992.
Czechoslovakia is dissolved.
The Czech and Slovak Republics are admitted to the UN as new and separate states.
Separate currencies are introduced, at first at par.
.cz and .sk are introduced to replace .cs. (I’m not sure this was the exact date, as various sources disagree; however, it definitely happened in early 1993.)

The telephone country code +42 is replaced by two separate codes: +420 for the Czech Republic and +421 for Slovakia.

It should be clear from the above that the process can be quite fast if both sides work together constructively on the task.

Scotland in the EU

Originally uploaded by itmpa

Although some nationalists have at times hand-waved the problem away, I have for a long time been convinced that an independent Scotland might find it hard to be allowed membership of the EU (even though refusing it would be ludicrous, given that Scotland has been part of the EU for my entire life), simply because Spain is afraid that Catalonia and Euskadi might leave, and they want to make the independence option seem as unattractive as possible.

I was therefore extremely relieved to see this article in EUbusiness that states that majority voting will be sufficient to give Scotland a seat at the European table:

Lawyers for the EU said an independent Scotland could be treated as one of two successor states, and that a separate seat for Edinburgh would require only a majority vote among member states.

At the European Council, where leaders stage decisive summits, a deal could be “done by the Council, using qualified majority voting and with the required say-so of the European Parliament,” said one of those lawyers.


Standard procedure for external accession candidates such as Croatia, which enters in 2013, involves the unanimous backing of all EU governments.

I don’t see any reason why Scotland should fail to get a qualified majority backing its membership application, so this is excellent news!

A Scottish currency board

Several articles, such as this one in the Scotsman, have covered the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement that Scotland after independence won’t be able to use the pound:

The Treasury confirmed that, while it could not block Scotland from using the currency, it could be reduced to a situation where it had no say in fiscal policy, was prevented from printing its own money and was locked out of any valuation decisions.

Treasury officials confirmed this would mean Scottish banks, which are licensed by the Bank of England to print their own notes, would be barred from doing so in the event of independence.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Lloyds-owned Bank of Scotland are able to print bank notes with the faces of famous Scots, in a long tradition that has been symbolic of Scottish identity.

Whereas there’s nothing Scotland can do about being locked out from England’s fiscal policy – but to be honest, it currently tends to cater for the needs of the City of London anyway – an independent country can certainly make its own decisions about printing bank notes.

I would recommend creating a Scottish pound after independence, locking it to the English pound using a currency board. This basically means that the Central Bank of Scotland would store English pounds in its vaults and print Scottish pound notes and mint Scottish coins in the same amounts.

The advantage – apart from having distinctive Scottish money – would be that it would be easy to break the peg and link the Scottish pound to the euro instead if that was decided to be desirable. If English money was used directly, that would be much harder.

Lots of countries use currency boards, and they work really well, so it’s a no-brainer to use one at first, at least until Scotland has been seen to have a strong economy, after which it might even be desirable to let the Scottish pound float freely.

Autumn 2014

Today the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, was making an announcement in the UK Parliament about giving the Scottish Parliament the right to call a referendum on independence, so long as they do it the way Westminster wanted and do it soon, when Salmond went on Sky News to announce that the referendum will take place in the autumn of 2014.

Salmond usually wins in situations like this, so I’m 99% certain that the referendum will indeed take place then.

Here are a couple of interesting blog postings from today, one about Salmond running rings around Cameron, and another about why the SNP are outgunning the Coalition.

It will be interesting to see what will happen to the remaining UK after Scotland leaves. I wouldn’t be surprised if Northern Ireland will find it hard to cope without Scotland, so it’s entirely possible that Scottish independence will be followed by Irish unification. However, I’m very happy to be corrected by somebody with better knowledge of the politics of Northern Ireland.

However, if I’m right, perhaps Wikipedia will contain the following chart in twenty years’ time (based on this):

I might be getting ahead of myself, however. There’s a referendum to be won in the autumn of 2014, and I intend to do as much as I can to make it a resounding YES!