The BBC has reported that an independent analysis compiled by former Labour first minister Henry McLeish ‘concluded that there were “no obvious barriers” to Scotland competing at the Games in the Rio Olympics’ in the summer of 2016. The obligatory bit of scaremongering was provided by the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Sir Craig Reedie:
He said an independent Scotland would first need to gain membership of the United Nations.
Responding to the report Sir Craig said: “I really don’t know how long it takes an independent nation to get membership.
“Gaining membership of the United Nations, historically and politically, is not always an easy thing but there must be a process and it must take some time.”
UN membership is important in many contexts — as discussed previously, it is for instance also a requirement for participating in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Anyway, you would have thought that the BBC would have had the resources to check Wikipedia for details about the time it takes to gain membership of the UN rather than just reporting Sir Craig’s vacillations. However, this is easily remedied.
Let’s have a look at two recent cases:
- The dissolution of Czechoslovakia: On 17 July 1992, the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation. On 25 November, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as of 31 December 1992 was agreed. In a letter dated 10 December 1992, the Secretary-General of the UN was informed that the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic would cease to exist on 31 December 1992. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were admitted to the UN on 19 January 1993.
- Montenegro: The status of the union between Montenegro and Serbia was decided by the referendum on Montenegrin independence on 21 May 2006. On 3 June 2006, the Montenegrin Parliament declared the independence of Montenegro. Montenegro was admitted to the UN on 28 June 2006.
This shows that when the independence declaration is not contested, it normally takes the UN about a month to process the paperwork. In other words, if Scotland becomes independent on 24 March 2016 (as suggested by the Scottish Government), Scotland should become a member of the United Nations by May 2016. (Of course things look very different if the independence declaration isn’t accepted by the parent country — Kosovo springs to mind — but the Edinburgh Agreement commits Westminster to accept the result of the referendum, so this shouldn’t become a problem for Scotland.)
May 2016 will probably be too late to allow Scotland to compete in Eurovision that year, but it should make participation in the Summer Olympics quite feasible, as concluded by Henry McLeish.