Scottish Election 2021: Scotland-England border after independence could work as well as Norway-Sweden one – Kenny MacAskill MP

“Borders” have been an issue in the election. What’s been surprising is that the SNP seem to have been surprised by it, failing to formulate lines for candidates or even providing more in-depth thinking on the consequences of their demanding an immediate return to EU membership.

Of course, a border already exists between England and Scotland, as shown in jurisdictional terms, whether law or governance. They were specifically protected by the Act of Union along with distinctive church and education systems.

Borders are inanimate and can do good and bad. Holding your people prisoner, as with the Iron Curtain, is the latter, while offering sanctuary to refugees the former. They can be intimidating as the military pill boxes that once stood on the border with the Irish Republic were during the height of the Troubles, or virtually non-existent as they are there now.

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They can be a huge encumbrance to business as Scotland’s experiencing with this Brexit trade deal, but equally they can offer security when seeking to stop the transmission of a virus or provide protection from harmful products. What nations need to do is maximise the positives and minimise the downsides.

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Scotland can achieve that through independence and European Free Trade Area (Efta) membership. Business would welcome access to the EU Single Market and it would afford the ability to strike a customs deal across the border with England.

Fast and largely free trade could be achieved so that goods were able to be moved simply and swiftly. But unpalatable aspects coming down the line that may come from a trade deal with the USA could equally be rejected and excluded from it.

A common travel area already exists between the UK and the Republic of Ireland which could be replicated allowing for simple border crossing. Albeit that, in extremis, as we’ve seen with coronavirus, there’s the ability to close it for public protection.

Customs officers and police check car drivers at the border between Norway and Sweden in Swinesund in March last year after the Covid outbreak began (Picture: Vidar Ruud/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

Borders therefore offer opportunities as well as challenges. Where there’s a will there’s a way as the Irish border shows and anyone crossing from Norway to Sweden knows how simple it can be – and the benefits it offers to Norway.

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