Category Archives: postindependence

Nobility in an independent Scotland

Passing of House of Lords Act 1999
Passing of House of Lords Act 1999, a photo by UK Parliament on Flickr.
The SNP and Yes Scotland don’t intend to abolish the monarchy immediately after independence. Hopefully a referendum on creating a republic will happen soon afterwards, but that’s a battle for another day.

However, a separate question is what will happen to the Scottish peers, both the hereditary ones and the life peers.

In general, republics tend to abolish all hereditary titles, and most monarchies tend to preserve the peerage. However, the Kingdom of Norway got rid of their nobility after independence, so there would be a precedent for abolishing it completely. However, my gut feeling is that this will have to wait until the Republic of Scotland is declared.

The life peers, on the other hand, are a unique UK invention (and a rather recent one, too), which basically came about because the House of Lords didn’t get replaced with something more democratic ages ago.

The main reason for making somebody a life peer is to allow them to sit in the House of Lords, so unless an independent Scotland creates a Hoose o Lairds — which I consider extremely improbable — their entire raison d’être disappears.

It therefore seems very unlikely that Scotland will be granting life peerages after independence.

However, what will happen to the UK’s current life peers from Scotland? This is not Scotland’s problem, of course, and I guess the rUK will have to make a decision on this in due course. The most likely scenario is that they’ll lose their seats, however, so I’m not surprised that many of the current Scottish life peers are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the union.

The Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The flag of the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The flag of the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
In an old blog post last year, I discussed the names the rUK might adapt after independence:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? It’s really not a good name when one half of Great Britain has just left.

The United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland? Although Wales was part of England prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain, I doubt they’d accept this.

The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? I’d say this is the most likely result.

However, @BrynTeilo then objected to the “United” bit on Twitter a few days ago:

I completely get his point, but what do you do then? If Northern Ireland wasn’t part of the new kingdom, I guess the Kingdom of South Britain would be a nifty option, but the Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Perhaps they’ll just go for brevity and call themselves the Kingdom of Britain, but I guess the most likely solution will be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, even though it sounds a bit odd without the “United” bit.

I just wonder what the demonym will be — Kewnian?

rUK passports for Scots

Scottish passport
Scottish passport, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.

Theresa May and Better Together are today talking about denying “British” passports to Scots after independence.

It’s a somewhat strange use of “British” (which is why I put it in quotation marks above) — surely Ms May means “rUK passports” or “EWNI passports”, given that it’d be a bit odd to use the word “British” to refer to somebody or something from the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, apart from her bizarre use of language, I think both sides are at fault here. Ms May and Better Together are making it sound as if people from Scotland — as the only country on Earth — will be denied British citizenship if they otherwise qualify, and some people on the Yes side seem to think that Scots should qualify for rUK passports in perpetuity, even if they have no connexions to the rUK whatsoever.

As is often the case, it’s wise to look at Ireland. According to Wikipedia, this is the current situation:

Irish citizens seeking to become British citizens are usually required to live in the UK and become naturalised after meeting the normal residence and other requirements, unless they can claim British citizenship by descent from a UK born or naturalised parent. An Irish citizen who naturalises as a British citizen does not automatically lose their Irish citizenship.

I therefore suspect the situation after independence will be as follows:

Scottish citizens seeking to become EWNI citizens are usually required to live in the EWNI and become naturalised after meeting the normal residence and other requirements, unless they can claim EWNI citizenship by descent from a EWNI born or naturalised parent. A Scottish citizen who naturalises as a citizen of EWNI does not automatically lose their Scottish citizenship.

Of course, just like people from the Republic of Ireland, Scots will most likely be allowed to live and vote in the rUK/EWNI without becoming citizens of that state:

The right of Commonwealth and Irish citizens to vote is a legacy of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which limited the vote to British subjects. At that time, “British subjects” included the people of Ireland — then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland — and all other parts of the British Empire. Though most of Ireland […] and the majority of the colonies became independent nations, their citizens have retained the right to vote if they live in the United Kingdom.

It’s also possible that there’ll be increased access to acquiring EWNI citizenship for a limited time, or for Scots born before a certain date. Looking again at Ireland, older people can claim British subject status, but the “facility for those born before 1949 to claim British subject status does not confer British citizenship, although it gives an entitlement to registration as such after 5 years in the UK.”


Closed Sign in Yellowstone
Closed Sign in Yellowstone, a photo by bmills on Flickr.
On 19th September 2014, a very large group of Scots will have to come to terms with the fact that their side lost.

If it’s a Yes, I expect most people from the No campaign to start fighting Scotland’s corner relatively quickly. This is because I don’t know of many countries that after independence have had a large group of people trying to undo the divorce. As far as I know, nobody is campaigning for reunification with the UK in the Republic of Ireland, the Slovaks don’t pine for the good old Czechoslovakian days, the Norwegians like their independence and have no desire to reunify with either Sweden or Denmark, etc., etc. I think there might be some people in Belarus who want to reunify with Russia, but that’s the only exception I can think of, and I do think Scotland is more like Ireland, Slovakia and Norway than Belarus.

One of the results of a Yes will be a complete realignment of Scotland’s political system: The SNP will most likely break up (or at least lose many members to other parties), and the unionist parties will shed their links to the mother parties in London and reposition themselves to respond to the political views of the Scottish voters without any need to appeal to English swing voters. This realignment will mean that soon after independence, Scotland’s political parties will be as different from the rUK’s as Ireland’s currently are.

If the referendum ends in a No, I’m not so sure. Of course we’ll all accept the result and try to make the best of it at first, but having talked about how much Scotland will be able to achieve as an independent country, it will be very difficult to abandon the dream completely. The SNP might lose a few disillusioned voters, but on the whole I expect the party to survive and keep the flame alive. Also, given likely subsequent developments in the UK, such as leaving the EU and getting a Tory government supported by UKIP, I wouldn’t be surprised if large groups of Scots would soon bitterly regret their No vote in the referendum.

In other words, a Yes vote will bring closure to the independence questions and allow the nation to move forward together. I fear that a No vote will just lead to stagnation, confusion and regret.

Two options

NYC: National Debt Clock
NYC: National Debt Clock, a photo by wallyg on Flickr.
Better Together politicians have frequently argued that the rUK will be the successor state, inheriting the EU membership terms and the permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council as well as numerous other tangible and intangible assets, while Scotland will be a new state that will inherit very little apart from its population share of the national debt.

Now Matt Qvortrup has made a very interesting intervention in the debate:

Dr Qvortrup’s explosive findings are published in a report that looks at national divorces dating from 1830, when Belgium left the Netherlands, until the break-up of Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the Nineties.

His research found countries that split equally have historically shared the debts built up during their union. But if one partner continues as before as the ‘successor state’ — keeping its position on international bodies such as the United Nations — it shoulders the debts.


He said: “If Alex Salmond doesn’t want to share the debt and is happy to reapply to Europe, the default position in international law is that Scotland would not have to pick up the debt.


“If you want to be the EU successor state and be in the UN Security Council, you can. You take all the spoils — but you also take the baggage.”

This seems perfectly clear and straightforward to me. Although I have recently argued that there are very few questions that need answered at this stage, Westminster really need to tell the voters before the referendum which of these two options they will be opting for.

Using the pound sterling after independence

Lloyds Banking Group Archives - 'Oldest Surviving Scottish Banknote'
Lloyds Banking Group Archives – ‘Oldest Surviving Scottish Banknote’, a photo by Scottish Archives on Flickr.

Scotland currently has a very strange currency set-up — we’re technically speaking using the pound sterling, just as England, but three “Scottish” banks have got the right to issue their own banknotes in a currency board arrangement (I put Scottish in inverted commas because the Royal Bank of Scotland is owned by UK government, the Bank of Scotland is part of the Lloyds Banking Group, and Clydesdale Bank is part of the National Bank of Australia). I don’t know of any other modern countries where private banks issue bank notes in lieu of a devolved government.

After independence, there are several options available to Scotland.

As I’ve written before, my personal preference would be a currency board arrangement, where the National Bank of Scotland issues one Scottish crown (or pound or dollar or whatever) for each pound sterling in its vaults. In this way, it will still be very easy to do business with the rUK, but the coins and banknotes will all be issued by the NBS. The advantage of this system is that if the rUK economy collapses, the link could be broken and the Scottish crown could either be tied to the US dollar or the euro instead, or it could start to float freely, without the need to issue new notes or coins. During the independence negotiations, Scotland would of course be entitled to demand representation on the Bank of England’s monetary policy board in return for maintaining the currency board (which would be to the rUK’s advantage).

I think this policy would be more robust than trying to maintain the status quo exactly, where the Bank of England’s notes and coins are also circulating in Scotland, because it would be much harder to change the set-up if it becomes desirable to leave the sterling zone (who knows, the euro might be looking fantastically attractive again in ten years’ time).

What’s important to remember here is that changing a currency takes time. No matter what the outcome is, I’d expect the status quo to continue at least two or three years after independence day (until 1st January 2019 or so), which means that the actual way forward will be decided by the independent Scottish Parliament elected in May 2016, not by the current SNP government.

The fact that Scotland can decide to implement a currency board without the approval of the Bank of England shows that the unionists’ threat of the day (that there wouldn’t be Scottish banknotes after independence) is absurd. Even David Blanchflower said so today (“George Osborne would be better off revisiting his misguided and failing policies for growth rather than scaremongering to the people of Scotland”) and I don’t think anybody has ever accused him of being a Scottish nationalist.

PS: I’d recommend following Blanchflower on Twitter. For instance, he tweeted this today: