Scotland’s border controls would be a “complete nightmare” after independence, with the prospect of minor roads and farm tracks being patrolled, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has claimed.
He warned the SNP’s plans for a “friendlier” approach to immigration than the rest of the UK would inevitably mean checks along the Border and could even lead to the patrol of minor roads and farm tracks.
Speaking to business leaders in Dunfermline yesterday, Mr Moore said the greater immigration levels Scotland wanted contrasted with a stricter approach south of the Border.
Some economists warn Scotland needs more immigrants to balance the strain of an ageing population – something Mr Moore said could lead to “a vastly divergent policy”.
But his claims were last night branded “silly scare stories” by the SNP, which insists there will be no passport checks between Scotland and England in the event of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.
The Scottish Government has also dismissed claims that Scotland would be forced to sign up to the Schengen passport-free travel area if it becomes an independent member of the European Union, which would mean checkpoints at the Border.
It has said it will negotiate to keep the opt-out of Schengen, pointing to a free-travel agreement between the UK and Republic of Ireland – something Mr Moore yesterday described as “a big ask” should Scotland become independent.
Mr Moore said: “In other parts of the world where you’ve got those kind of arrangements, you’ve got to work very closely together. You cannot reconcile a very different policy on the one hand with no border controls on the other.
“We don’t want to turn that into some policed border. The Scottish Government say they don’t either, but they can’t answer how they would keep out of Schengen, have a different immigration policy and not have some form of border control.”
The MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk also warned of more patrols, citing what he believed would happen in his own constituency: “It’s not just the main roads like the A68, the A697 and the A1 that you would have to be policing, it’s all the farm tracks that go into Northumberland.
“You can’t have a vastly divergent immigration policy without a strong border. That would be a complete nightmare.”
But Nationalist MSP Annabelle Ewing said: “Not only does the UK share a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, which sets its own immigration policy, it is actually deepening it by common visas.
“While Mr Moore is peddling silly scares at Scotland, his own government is pursuing the exact opposite policy towards Ireland.”