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Scotland could not withdraw from the 1707 Act of Union

May I reply to Iain AD Mann's argument that Scottish independence means the automatic dissolution of the United Kingdom (Letters, January 30)?

First, the 1707 Act of Union is not the basis of the title United Kingdom. The title used for the new state then was the Kingdom of Great-Britain. It was the 1801 Act of Union with Ireland that introduced the title United Kingdom. That Act, as amended in 1922 and 1927, is still on the statute book. You would have to repeal it through the Westminster Parliament to invalidate use of the title.

Secondly, Iain Mann talks of "withdrawal" from the 1707 Act. You cannot withdraw from an Act. You can repeal it or you can amend it. It would be unwise in the extreme to effect Scottish independence by repealing the 1707 Act of Union. The problem is that if you repeal a piece of authorising legislation, all legislation depending on that authorisation falls unless it has been amended piece by piece.

The 1707 Act is the ultimate authorising legislation – it is the authority for the Westminster Parliament. So if you repeal the Act, you stand to risk losing 300 years of laws, treaties, statutory regulations, and so on, creating legal chaos.

It would take many years to wade through these so the only practical legal mechanism to effect independence would be to retain the Act of Union and amend it to enable a treaty to be negotiated. This was exactly the issue faced by the Irish negotiators in 1921. Thus, the 1801 Act of Union was retained, albeit in a notional form, while the mass of subsidiary laws were sorted out. This last of this task was achieved in the State Law Revision Act of 1983 and the Act of Union was finally removed from the Republic's statute book 61 years after independence was secured.

Thirdly, international courts and other bodies may consider national laws and internal agreements among other factors but are not bound by them. They would look at historical precedents: the United States did not cease to exist because some states seceded in 1861, the Kingdom of Denmark did not cease to exist because Iceland left it in 1944, and so on. They would look at practical realities: the UK would retain 92% of the population and even without Scotland would be the fourth biggest country in Europe.

These and other factors would be weighed against constitutionalist arguments of both sides.

It is hard to imagine any circumstances in which bodies such as the EU, the UN, the World Bank or the European Court would rule that the residual UK had ceased to exist or that Scotland was anything other than a state seceding from the UK, no matter how passionately some here might feel to the contrary.

Russell Vallance,

4 West Douglas Drive,

Helensburgh.

I enjoyed the contribution to the Scottish constitutional debate from David Gardiner (Letters, February 4).

I agree Westminster has the power to dissolve the political aspect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which we recognise as the state.

The present Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh is only a satellite parliament with delegated functions.

I consider the logic which follows is that if Scotland voted Yes in the independence referendum, the Westminster Parliament would be disaggregated and an albeit interim Scottish Parliament could then be legally formed by the current 59 Scottish Westminster MPs.

The MSPs sitting in Holyrood would be jobless as that Parliament would require to be dissolved. Clearly Westminster could not have a Parliament in a foreign country.

MSPs would all have to wait until the first independent Scottish General Elections and fight for a seat – as indeed would the Westminster MPs.

Bill Brown,

46 Breadie Drive,

Milngavie.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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