Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Yes vote would have repercussions on border control

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ed Miliband's warning that a vote for Scottish independence could mean border controls may well backfire, but it does raise an important issue. Of all the myriad problems arising from a 'Yes' vote, that of immigration is one of the thorniest.

Most Scots seem to want to retain membership of the EU, yet this will not be automatic. Scotland would have to apply for membership, which would be resisted by Belgium and Spain because of the pressure they are under from separatist movements.

If rejected – unless the Scottish government promised to adopt the immigration policies of the remainder of the UK – there would be massive border problems. Yet First Minister Alex Salmond insists Scotland would be more liberal.

Even if, as is likely, Scotland was allowed to join, it would have no chance of avoiding the automatic requirement to join the Schengen Area, which has common visas and no internal border controls.

This is a binding requirement for all EU countries under the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. The two exceptions are the UK and Ireland, for the UK insisted on an opt-out, and to maintain the Common Travel Area which is so vital for Ireland, she had to follow suit and has to tailor her immigration policies accordingly.

Under Schengen, Scotland would not be free to do that. Though there would be demands for border controls on the English side, as we know from bitter experience in Ireland, a long border (95 miles in the case of Scotland) is impossible to police. People-traffickers – like those who are dumping unfortunate and desperate people at Calais – and smugglers would be licking their lips. Gretna Green could expect an influx of the desperate.

It's a sign of the superficiality of the independence debate that until now, neither the 'Yes' nor the 'No' side seem to have given such a vital issue any proper consideration.

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