Border chaos

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IN TIMES of crisis, any nation with a claim to independence must have the right (and wherewithal) to close its borders.

I am still uncertain, however, about whether to support the views presented by Fiona MacGregor (Perspective, 9 August) or those attributed to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore (your report, 9 August) on whether autonomy for Scotland would lead to regular border checks in order to control immigration.

But I broadly agree with Ms MacGregor that, with goodwill and co-operation, day-to-day management of border control need not lead to major inconvenience. I cannot agree with her final point about liberal passport control throughout Europe. It depends on how she defines Europe, but my own experience is that it is not quite as relaxed as she makes out.

Just over four years ago I made a coach trip, starting at Edinburgh bus station, finishing at the Kremlin, and back again. It required passengers, over a period of three weeks, to cross borders (including the one between Scotland and England) 19 times.

Passports had to be produced to travel from England to France, through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Belarus.

For a whole variety of reasons, some of these passport checks were quite taxing on the nerves. Admittedly travel from Poland to Calais was undertaken almost as if you were travelling through one country.

There is still a lot of work to be done not just on the status of the borders of countries within the United Kingdom. The whole question of the status of existing UK passports has to be clarified by both the Wesminster and Holyrood governments – the sooner the better if travellers’ fears for the future are to be allayed.

Bob Taylor

Glenrothes, Fife

In her article (Perspective, 9 August) Fiona MacGregor writes that if passports had to be shown when crossing the border between an independent Scotland and England “it would be the only crossing in Europe where you would have to do it”. Well what happened to her when she returned from Scandinavia to Britain? She would still have been in Europe but would have had to show her passport on arrival in Britain!

The reason Ms MacGregor could travel between Denmark, Sweden and Norway without showing her passport is because all three countries are signatories to the Schengen Agreement, which allows free travel within most of mainland Europe. It is possible to drive from Paris to Munich to Vienna without once having to show a passport.

It appears to be the SNP position that on independence it would seek to opt out of Schengen. If it did not then there would definitely be border controls between a Schengen and non-Schengen country (i.e. Scotland and the rest of the UK).

Peter Lewis

Edinburgh