AS YOU reported (29 January), the Scottish Select Committee of the House of Commons expressed doubts about Scotland’s ability to set up an adequate diplomatic service, and security system. This is not surprising. The committee represents parties linked to the No campaign.
Nonetheless, their points need and will get serious consideration. The rest of the UK will expect Scotland to accept a share of UK liabilities, and so we must also get a share of UK assets.
This seems likely to be around our share of the population, and of GDP, both about 8 to 8.5 per cent. In the days of Empire, when most of the UK embassies and so on were acquired, Scotland had about 13 per cent of the population, and of the economy (so much for “better together”?) and thus paid that share of the costs. Eight per cent of the present value of the UK’s diplomatic estate would more than meet our needs, and the balance could come off our share of national debt.
In some capitals, it may be possible to use a distinct part of the existing UK embassy, or consulate. In others, the UK may have another building which we could accept and the present use of that building could be moved into the embassy. Where we buy or lease a building, it need not be so palatial as the historic UK one.
The critics say we would have less “clout”. That depends on the subject. On many issues, Scotland and the rest of the UK will agree, and their representations will reinforce each other. Where we disagree, the UK pushes England’s line (as in their long campaign to preserve the Three Mile Limit). With our own institutions, we will be able to voice our own views when they differ.
As for security, Nato has several listening posts etc in Scotland, and will want to keep them. There is ground for negotiation.