Scottish independence: Have your passports ready, warns Theresa May

Might Scotland be forced into border controls under independence?
Might Scotland be forced into border controls under independence?
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AN INDEPENDENT Scotland “could very well” be forced to have passport checks introduced at its border with England, the UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, has warned.

Ms May said she envisaged “some sort of border check” under independence.

Theresa May: view of risk contrary to judicial opinion. Picture: AP

Theresa May: view of risk contrary to judicial opinion. Picture: AP

She claimed that Scotland would not necessarily inherit the UK’s opt-out of a European Union agreement that permits freedom of movement around most of Europe and means that EU citizens are still subject to passport checks at UK borders.

The comments from Ms May came after another Tory minister, David Lidington, used a visit to Edinburgh to suggest that EU rules introduced following the signing of the Lisbon Treaty would compel an independent Scotland to enter a Europe-wide, border-free zone.

He said that, as the UK has opted out of this zone – known as the Schengen area – the Westminster government would be forced to establish passport controls at the Border unless Scotland also opted out if it became independent.

The latest warnings about border controls from a senior minister in the UK government were heavily criticised as “scaremongering Tory nonsense” in a statement from senior SNP MP Pete Wishart.

Ms May said that issues such as border controls needed to be addressed as part of the debate ahead of a referendum on independence, which the SNP wants to hold in the autumn of 2014.

She said: “The point I’m making is that these are exactly the sorts of issues that it is right to be discussing and should be part of the debate.

“If there was a separate Scotland, there could very well be some sort of border check, but what that would be, to what extent that would be necessary, would depend on the issues about whether Scotland was in Schengen, whether it wanted to be in the Common Travel Area, which they would have to negotiate, if that was what they wished to do.”

Ms May went on to say that it could not be assumed that an independent Scotland would be part of the European common travel area, which exists across the UK and Ireland.

She said: “There is an assumption that it would be, but we would need to be talking to Scotland about whether that would be right and about what that would entail.”

Ms May’s comments yesterday came after she used a speech at the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Troon the day before to warn that independence “could open Scotland’s Border up to mass immigration”.

However, Mr Wishart, the Nationalists Home Office spokesman, insisted that an independent Scotland would share the UK’s successor status and retain its opt-outs, as he attacked Ms May’s handling of a row last year about the relaxing of border checks.

He said: “This is rank hypocrisy from Theresa May, who presided over one of the biggest immigration fiascos in recent memory.

“Scotland needs no lessons from her on how to manage immigration,” he said.

“The reality is that an independent Scotland will be part of the common travel area, which already exists within and between the UK and Ireland, so talk of border checks are nothing more than scare- mongering Tory nonsense.” Mr Lidington, speaking at the Scottish Parliament last month, said that opt-outs, such as those on the Schengen agreement and the euro, “require not just a wwbilateral agreement between the UK and an independent Scotland – it would require the agreement of all of the other member states as well”.

Mr Lidington also said that Scotland’s membership of the EU was not “something that can simply be assumed”, and he repeated his warning that border controls with England would be a “clear problem” under independence.

The Europe minister, who is MP for Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said: “The fact the UK has an opt-out from Schengen means we are able to maintain the border controls that you don’t have on the borders between Schengen countries.”