Scottish independence divorce negotiations ‘would be tougher than Brexit’

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Scottish independence divorce negotiations over the share of assets and liabilities would be “different and much tougher than Brexit”, a report published today has found.

But the “extraordinary failure” of UK politics in the aftermath of the EU referendum may act as a cautionary tale for Scotland to avoid the mistakes of recent years in the event of independence.

Independence campaigners congreate in Glasgow city centre in July 2018. Picture: John Devlin

Independence campaigners congreate in Glasgow city centre in July 2018. Picture: John Devlin

The paper by Dr Kirsty Hughes of the SCER (Scottish Centre on European Relations) says there are more differences than similarities between independence and Brexit.

READ MORE: Kenny McAskill: Silence from SNP on second Scottish independence referendum

It examines nine key issues and compares leaving the EU with a deal, including an indefinite customs union, with Scotland leaving the UK and being in/acceding to the EU.

Dr Hughes said: “There are, unsurprisingly, similarities and differences between the Brexit process and a likely future independence process. But overall the two are more different than similar.

“This is not surprising given that the UK is a sovereign state (whether in or outside the EU) while Scotland today is not a state but would become one on independence.”

On the divorce talks, the paper says there would be some similarities between independence and Brexit when discussing money.

But it adds: “Independence talks over splitting assets and liabilities would be different and much tougher.

“There would be no equivalent of the Northern Ireland backstop.”

But the Brexit turmoil of the past two years could provide the pro-independence campaign with an example to avoid.

“There are surely lessons to learn from 2014 and 2016 but the extraordinary failure of UK politics in the face of the Brexit result is more a cautionary tale than something likely to be directly replicated in future Scottish politics,” it adds.

“Nor are Scottish independence talks likely to be led by a politician who campaigned for the ‘no’ side during the referendum – where in the UK, Brexit talks are led by a formerly remain prime minister.

If Scotland gets back into the EU there is also likely to be some “border frictions”, the report adds.

“ How severe these will be, and their economic impact, will depend both on the future UK-EU relationship and the future UK-Scotland relationship,” the report adds.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This report spells out in black and white that an independent Scotland would lead to a border between our friends, family and neighbours in England.

“As well as the devastating impact of dividing people, this would have a catastrophic impact on our economy, with 60 per cent of our trade with the rest of the UK.

“The Brexit negotiations have proved just how difficult it is to break up unions, and our relationship with the rest of the UK is far more entwined than with the EU, so the divorce talks would be lengthy and costly.”

A spokesperson for Constitutional Relations Secretary, Michael Russell, said: “The chaotic and broken Westminster system demonstrates more than ever why decisions about Scotland should be taken by people here and not Westminster.

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU but is being ignored by the UK Government which is taking us ever closer to a catastrophic No Deal Brexit and out of the European Single Market, which is eight times the size of the UK alone.

“This paper makes clear the benefits for people in Scotland from being an independent member of the EU, such as extra foreign investment and escaping the huge Brexit uncertainty which the paper says is driving growth and investment down in the UK and plaguing its politics.

“It also says ‘the huge uncertainty that haunts the UK over its future relationship with the EU would not hang over accession talks for Scotland’ and draws attention to the fact that the Scottish Parliament has been ignored and overruled by the UK Government during the Brexit process.”