Dangerous model for unstable future

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David Lee purports to give a dispassionate account of the discussion event in the Royal Society of Edinburgh last Monday (Perspective, 31 May) but his assault on my ­contribution shows up his own prejudices; so readers should beware.

The debate, one in a commendable series on our constitutional future being hosted by Scotland’s National Academy, was entitled ­“Defence and international relations”.

Given that title it was relevant and indeed important to highlight the fact that the referendum has implications well beyond Scotland. Many of Scotland’s and the United Kingdom’s friends look on with dismay at the possible break-up of one of the most significant countries in a very unstable and unpredictable world. Their concerns should not be ignored.

The Scottish people also need to take into account, when casting their vote, the start-up costs of creating a Scottish Foreign Office, a whole new diplomatic network of embassies, consulates and diplomats as well as the huge costs of building a Scottish Defence Force with all its complications. Not easy, not cheap and certainly not instant.

There are others watching as well. As I said at the RSE, there are other separatist movements staring with intense interest at what happens in the UK; they see their ambitions becoming real if the Scottish domino were to fall.

In the light of that I cannot see why Scotland’s separatists recoil at the entirely appropriate use of the word separatism, and why the word “Balkanisation” is also too potent for them. The dictionary definition of Balkanise is “divide (a region or a body) into smaller mutually hostile states or groups”. That seems to say it all. If the break-up of Britain was to become the model for tomorrow’s ­Europe, then our future will be bleak indeed.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen

(Former Secretary General of Nato)

THE referendum debate is becoming bogged down in semantics. Few countries now have the freedom of action enjoyed by 19th century­­nation states.

The UK is certainly not independent in that sense – it has to comply with European directives, it cannot deport whom it wishes, and so on. In the field of economics, globalisation affects what even the largest states may do.

What the 2014 referendum is being held to decide is whether Holyrood should have the same level of powers as Westminster.

If the answer is Yes, it would then be up to the various parties and groupings to set out the sort of polity they would seek to create – and let the voters choose.

S BECK

Edinburgh