• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

We'd have a claim on percentage of UK security assets and services

Theresa May believes an independent Scotland would have to set up its own security services from scratch ("May criticises Nationalists over security plans after 2014 vote", The Herald, February 9).

The truth is not quite so simple. UK security assets and services are not exclusively English, and would be subject to division on a pro-rata population basis. Since assets such as the Vauxhall Bridge MI5 building and the Cheltenham GCHQ listening post are in England, an equivalency settlement proportionate to a Scottish claim on roughly 9% of total equity value would have to be negotiated. Likewise, all diplomatic representation overseas is British, by definition. All British embassies, consulates, trade missions and cultural organisations, such as the British Council, belong the United Kingdom as a whole. Thus Scotland has a claim, commensurate with its size, to its lawful share of the equity.

Regardless of our views on independence, the 1707 Union is a political entity in which Scotland and England were bound together in a type of marriage. It is customary, when a marriage is dissolved, to assign the assets under an agreed settlement which fairly reflects the due entitlement of each party. Where a stronger partner seeks to impose arbitrary terms which deprive the weaker partner of a due entitlement, we may be sure the courts would take a very dim view of the matter, and rightly so. This also applies when it comes to the division of assets arising from the democratically sanctioned unlinking of two states.

Similarly, when UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond maintains an independent Scotland will lose out in the allocation of defence expenditure he overlooks the fact that defence is not an exclusively English portfolio. By any competent legal analysis, defence assets would be apportioned on a pro-rata basis. A similar principle would apply in other areas.

In some cases Scotland already has its allocation. Both the V&A and the Royal Museum of Scotland were funded with the profits from the 1851 Great Exhibition, so no further division need apply. The British Library in London is offset by an equivalent institution in Edinburgh, The National Library of Scotland, while both countries have their own National Galleries. In the case of the Tate and the British Museum, however, it would be difficult to challenge a Scottish claim on a lawful pro-rata share of the assets of both institutions. They may be located in London, but the very fact they are British can only mean, ipso facto, that they are between 8% and 9% Scottish – and that includes their real estate value, as well as their collections.

Both David Cameron and Michael Moore have stated that there will be no pre-negotiations about any hypothetical separation of Scotland and England. The polls would certainly seem to favour the status quo, yet might it not make sense to have some kind of framework in place to cover the eventuality, however unlikely, that the Scots will vote for independence? They seem to be willing to pre-negotiate matters with Europe, after all.

There is no reason at all why our institutions should be prohibited from entering into preliminary discussions based on Scotland's hypothetical departure from the marriage which is the United Kingdom. One would hope any such discussions would be detached from political influence, and would seek to accentuate the more amicable aspects of any separation through concordats and negotiated agreements. The National Galleries of Scotland have already shown what can be achieved through the joint ownership of such artefacts as Canova's Three Graces and the Bridgewater Titians.

There should also be room for some tri-partite flexibility. The British Library, for example, might be persuaded to give up its ownership of the Romilly Allen drawing collection of Celtic and Pictish carved stones (many of which, rationally, ought to be in Scotland) if either the Tate or the British Museum could divert one or two interesting medieval manuscripts to Euston Road by way of compensation.

These are matters not simply of political opinion, but of fact and law, and they should be legally assessed by the competent authorities.

We could, perhaps, start by asking the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, what his thoughts might be on the matter. After all, he used to be an Edinburgh lawyer.

David J Black,

6 St Giles Street,

Edinburgh.

The UK Government's newly published legal advice appears to assert that, in 1707, when the Edinburgh and London parliaments signed a solemn treaty declaring that two kingdoms were equal partners in a new enterprise called the United Kingdom, what in fact happened was an English takeover ("Legal experts in warning over Scots independence", The Herald, February 11).

I realise most of the world outwith Scotland thinks that is what happened but I see no reason why the Scottish Government should just meekly accept such a thesis.

I am a Nationalist and inclined to side with the SNP against the Westminster Tories and Holyrood opposition parties but is it not obvious the promised "positive case for the Union" is never going to appear?

We regularly see Alex Salmond being monstered, not only by the London-controlled media but also at Holyrood. In addition, it now seems that because the No campaign has failed to drive a wedge between the First Minister and his deputy, the guns are now being turned on Nicola Sturgeon.

Even the Prime Minister admits that Scotland can successfully be an independent nation and that fact is central to the whole debate. Whatever snags and obstacles are put in the way of Scotland becoming a nation in its own right, there are none that cannot be overcome.

When they have been overcome, we will never wish to go back into a union that thinks so little of us and so regularly insults our intelligence.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,

Loanhead,

Midlothian.

If the Coalition's legal advice is correct and Scotland would be a "new state" and the Rest of the UK (rUK) a "continuing state" then surely Scotland would start with an entirely clean slate.

Yes, that would mean lots of treaties to sort out. It would also mean no national debt (the continuing state can keep that), no membership of Nato (which would probably rush to offer terms), no EU (again, keen to sort out fisheries and a rush to offer terms), and all property (ships, military equipment, nuclear subs, warheads, and so on) would immediately become the property of the new state being in its new territory with the rUK having to negotiate terms to get back any and all it might actually want.

It is also interesting that the legal experts seem to think the pre-1707 reality cannot exist presumably because, if a treaty is in place long enough, the parties entering into it cannot truly get out and return to their previous status.

How long must the UK be in Nato or the EU before there is no "get out" possible?

Professor William G Naphy,

1 Calsayseat Road,

Aberdeen.

Among the increasingly surreal claims made by experts about the problems to be overcome in achieving independence is the alleged requirement to renegotiate zillions of treaties in current force with the UK Government.

What is the actual evidence on how big a problem this really was for Norway (independence from Sweden in 1905), Iceland (independence from Denmark in 1946), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993) or countries such as Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia that were formerly Yugoslavia?

All are now happily members of the UN and became so pretty quickly after their independence.

J W Morrison,

Bryce Road,

Currie.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

140355