IAIN Macwhirter raises some important points in his column ("The question now is: What will happen to the Union", January 30).
There has been too much ill-informed and misleading comment on the constitutional position of Scotland within the UK, mostly due to a lack of detailed knowledge of the terms of the 1707 Treaty of Union.
Its primary purpose was not to unite England and Scotland as one nation but to create a unified central parliament to govern the two independent countries. It was accepted that the two would continue as separate nations. Many of the 19 clauses in the Treaty specifically recognise and protect the continuance of Scotland's separate judicial and education systems, its religious freedom and its trading rights.
The only signatories to the treaty were England and Scotland, as the two former kingdoms that now shared one monarch. The name United Kingdom was introduced to recognise the linked monarchies but, despite its title, the Treaty of Union was emphatically not an incorporation of the two nations; nor was it a takeover of Scotland by England.
It therefore follows that, if Scotland votes for independence next year, it will not "break away" from the United Kingdom, leaving the remainder still extant. It will withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union and, as a result, the UK will cease to exist as a legal entity in international constitutional law. As the one remaining party to the treaty, England (incorporating Wales and Northern Ireland) cannot simply assume continued ownership of the title UK with all that entails.
This distinction between part-continuance or extinction of the UK is critical, since it is the UK that is officially a member of the European Union (and the United Nations). If it no longer exists it cannot continue to be a member of either institution. Nor can one half of the former partnership simply inherit and take over such memberships, leaving the other partner excluded. Instead it is likely that both England and Scotland would have to re-apply for membership, but probably as successor states rather than new nation states.
The foreign dignatories who have offered negative views recently cannot be expected to understand or appreciate these constitutional niceties and there is no precedent within the EU for the splitting up of a former member state. We must hope that there are international experts in constitutional law who can provide an authoritative opinion.
What is not helpful is the scaremongering by the No campaign that an independent Scotland would be shut out of everything as the poor relation.
Iain A D Mann,
7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow,
LIKE Iain Macwhirter, we should all welcome the Electoral Commission's recommended wording for the 2014 referendum. Its form of words is a suitable compromise.
It should not be impossible to present the citizens of Scotland with an accurate account of the consequences of a Yes vote. The simplest way to do so would be to set out those issues which are agreed between the two sides (for instance, retention of the Queen as head of state) and to admit to those areas where there is uncertainty (for instance, automatic membership of the EU, the euro and Schengen; representation on the Bank of England's policy machinery; Nato and Trident; and the division of resources, historic liabilities and debt).
Voters could then decide for themselves whether they believe the degree of uncertainty involved is a risk worth taking. This account could also be informed by the conflicting opinions supporting either side, and voters could then weigh up the relative authority of, for example, on the EU questions, the Deputy First Minster and the President of the European Commission.
Peter A Russell,
87 Munro Road,
THUMBS up are in order for the entire independence referendum process so far ("Thumbs up for the question", Herald leader, January 31). Both sides have, surprisingly, behaved as reasonable political adults. London of course has had substantial experience in managing the decolonising process. Across the globe there are more than 50 nation states formerly ruled from Whitehall that are independent and, by their association with the Commonwealth, have a healthy relationship with their former rulers.
Yet we have to remain cautious and vigilant. During the long anti-colonial decoupling process, history tells us that London often played with little regard for the unwritten rules of the game.
18 Needle Green, Carluke.
YOU report ("Poll question agreed but voters demand answers", The Herald, January 31) that voters are "unclear about the process ... should Scots vote Yes, or what would happen after a No vote". The SNP has been in existence for 80 years with the sole purpose of conducting this referendum. You would think it would have thought about these questions, and let us know the answers, long before now.
12 Phillips Avenue, Largs.