We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Europe and Foreign Affairs: Taking forward our National Conversation


5 Independence

5.1. It is only independence that allows unmediated access to full participation in international organisations and foreign policy. Alongside its representation in the EU, an independent Scotland would be able to represent its interests directly in the UN and other foreign policy arenas, without having its particular concerns and interests lost or diluted in the formulation of UK negotiating lines.

Overseas Representation

5.2. The building of alliances and smarter deployment of resources better focused on Scotland's needs, rather than the projection of power and status, would be key to representing Scottish interests internationally.

5.3. Scotland would develop relations with other countries solely based on Scottish security, political, social and economic interests. This would present opportunities for improved cooperation on security and political priorities, trade and inward investment and development.

5.4. A Scottish Foreign Service and embassy network could and should look very different from the FCO model. Scotland's approach would be much more likely to be similar in scale and proportion to those of other small nations, focussed on markets and nations of particular priority to Scotland, and seeking influence through expanded relationship building with the Scottish Diaspora and the creation of appropriate alliances, for example through closer co-operation with international organisations such as the Nordic Council.

5.5. As mentioned earlier, the Scottish Government already has officials working directly to represent Scottish interests overseas in Brussels, Washington and Beijing and, in Scottish Development International, Scotland has a direct presence in 21 overseas offices, working to attract inward investment and promote Scottish exports.

5.6. Under current arrangements, Scottish Government officials working on Scottish Affairs are accredited with UK diplomatic status and work alongside, or within, UK representations overseas. That reflects the fact that in many policy areas Scottish and UK interests coincide. Independence would not change that and there is no reason why close co-operation on policy and representation, up to and including shared services, should not continue where Scotland and the rUK agreed that was of mutual interest. A shared services approach with other countries could also be considered, as could a model of using a widespread network of Honorary Consuls supported and reinforced by the deployment of career diplomats where that was required. See Annex A. An independent Scottish foreign service would also allow for the development of a programme of international cultural engagement to allow for Scottish cultural exchange with other countries and societies.

International Organisations

5.7. An independent Scotland would be recognised as a state in its own right by the international community and would become a full member of the United Nations and other international bodies, such as the Commonwealth, the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organisation. Both in these arenas and generally it would be able to develop its own foreign policy to promote Scotland's interests internationally, and engage with other states as an equal partner.

5.8. Small countries can and do take lead roles in international organisations and policy development. Key positions within the United Nations including that of Secretary-General are often filled by individuals from smaller nations. Small countries such as Sweden, New Zealand, Switzerland and Finland have all made significant global contributions to security, peace and reconciliation initiatives. New Zealand, for example, hosted a major conference on cluster munitions as the part of the Oslo Process. Following this, in May 2008 the Oslo Process culminated in the successful conclusion of a new international treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, with New Zealand chairing the key discussions on the definitions of weapons to be banned. With the 'Edinburgh Conversations' in the 1980s, Scotland has already played host to efforts to promote dialogue and keep open channels of communication. Independence would offer a clearer opportunity for Scotland to make this kind of contribution.

International Development

5.9. Independence would offer Scotland the opportunity to act as a responsible nation, significantly increasing its contribution to international development and allowing it to develop more direct relationships on an international scale and thereby achieve greater influence and impact.

5.10. Scotland would develop a stronger and more influential international development programme, strengthening Scotland's contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and our reputation as a nation focused on building peace and prosperity in the world.

5.11. At a general level, with full fiscal autonomy and control of Scotland's budget, the Scottish Government could consider raising the International Development budget over time, allowing Scotland to meet the 0.7% of GDP commitment from the G8. Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg have all exceeded this target.

5.12. Scotland, taking on membership of appropriate organisations, would also be in a more direct position to lobby other countries who are not meeting these commitments and negotiate around the obstacles to economic growth for developing countries such as removing trade barriers, reflecting the interest in the fair trade agenda in Scotland.

Borders and Citizenship

5.13. It is important that people can identify with the community in which they live and that they feel valued and part of Scottish society. Citizenship in Scotland would be based on an inclusive model designed to support economic growth, integration and promotion of diversity. Given Scotland's close ties to the other parts of the British Isles a positive approach to dual citizenship would be essential; and given the existence of EU citizenship consideration could also be given to the creation of enhanced citizenship arrangements with the nations of the rUK.

5.14. An independent Scotland would manage immigration effectively to meet our own economic, social and demographic priorities and needs. An independent Scotland would be better placed to create the conditions for talented people to live, learn, visit, work and remain in Scotland. Scotland could have its own Green Card that would allow it to compete with other nations in the global market for non- EEA highly skilled workers and would encourage migrants to seek Scottish citizenship.

5.15. Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. An asylum system based on integration for asylum seekers and refugees from day one of their arrival and operated in line with international and European standards could be designed to reflect our tradition of offering refuge and our approach to the welfare and rights of children. A Scottish asylum system could be operated to allow asylum seekers to work in Scotland while awaiting results of their claim and, where appeal rights had been exhausted, claimants with scarce skills could be granted leave to remain if their employer undertakes to continue to employ them. Scotland would work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR) to operate a gateway protection programme that meets the needs of Scotland.

5.16. Scotland would collaborate with our partners on these Islands and in the European Union to manage border controls and national security. Scotland would issue its own passports on the EU model. Scotland would maintain existing open border arrangements with the other nations on the British Isles. Like every other similar sized nation in Europe, an independent Scotland would ensure it had the appropriate defence capability and co-operation.

The European Union

5.17. An independent Scotland would continue membership of the European Union, fulfilling the responsibilities which membership brings.

5.18. The European Union provides a market for Scottish exports, and guarantees fairness and non discrimination for Scottish businesses in EU markets. Where such markets are highly regulated (such as energy, telecoms and financial services), an independent Scotland could work closely with regulatory bodies in other countries to ensure that the objectives of the EU single market were met. The Scottish Government could put mechanisms in place to ensure cross border cooperation, trade and investment, while removing some of the barriers which have hindered development of Scottish industry in the past.

5.19. We would continue to be bound by the laws of the EU, but would be on a level playing field with other Member States. European law, which Scotland already has a responsibility to transpose in devolved areas, would be made through a process in which Scotland had a full voice and we would be able to shape distinctive European policy and set priorities to maximise Scotland's interests and extend the greatest influence within the EU.

5.20. Scotland could be properly and fully represented in all the EU institutions, with the normal rights of representation for full Member States of the EU. An independent Scotland would be able to represent itself in all Council meetings, formal and informal, with Scottish Ministers negotiating on behalf of Scotland, with a position formulated to deliver the best results for Scotland. Scottish Ministers would be able to attend all Council meetings, and would be able to directly engage in key areas of decision making which only UK Ministers currently participate in, such as the future financing of the EU. We could prioritise issues for ourselves as a nation, and build alliances with other countries to negotiate to get the result which best serves our national interest.

Box 4: Case Study - Woodland Creation

The creation of areas of woodland delivers a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits. Trees play a significant role in fighting climate change; Scotland's forests currently lock up around 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, reducing the volume of this greenhouse gas in the environment. Increased areas of woodland also support local businesses and farm diversification, and provide recreation and conservation benefits.

The Scottish Government has recognised the benefits of creating areas of woodland, and has set an ambitious target of 25 per cent woodland cover in Scotland by 2050. It is therefore keen to use every lever possible to encourage woodland creation across Scotland. However, the latest Rural Development Regulation, implemented in 2007, capped the intervention rate for woodland creation. This limits the maximum amount of financial support the Scottish Government can give to woodland creation projects, making it harder to encourage landowners to undertake them.

When this regulation was being negotiated, the support of woodland creation was not as high a priority for the UK Government as it was for Scotland. Although our concerns were partially incorporated into the UK negotiating position, this was not adopted as a red-line issue for the UK government. If Scotland had been negotiating separately as an independent Member State, it would have been able to treat this issue with the importance the Scottish Government believed it deserved.

5.21. The Council of the EU has a rotating presidency, which gives every Member State the responsibility of holding the presidency for 6 months. At present, the presidency Member State chairs and decides the agenda for all Council meetings, and represents the Council to other EU institutions and external organisations. While implementation of the Lisbon Treaty would change some of these responsibilities, an independent Scotland would nevertheless hold the presidency of the Council of Ministers on rotation, and would be able to promote and take forward priority issues during this period.

5.22. The European Council meetings of the heads of government or state of each Member State in the EU are of critical importance for determining the strategic direction of the EU. At the moment, Scotland is represented by the Prime Minister of the UK. However, an independent Scotland would be able to send its own First Minister to these meetings, and could contribute directly to the discussions with its own distinct position.

5.23. An increase in the number of Scottish MEPs in the European Parliament would improve the representation of Scottish views in this forum. It would enable Scottish MEPs to be members of a broader range of Committees, which is where much of the crucial scrutiny of Commission proposals takes place. Denmark's 13 MEPs, for example, cover a total of 15 committees and subcommittees as full or substitute members. Scotland's 6 MEPs only cover 9 committees and subcommittees, and have no representation on important committees such as the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, the Transport and Tourism Committee and the Budgets Committee. An increase in the number of Scottish MEPs would also improve the opportunities for them to speak on matters of particular interest to Scotland in plenary meetings. Furthermore, an increase in the number of MEPs would improve their capacity to undertake effective constituency work.

5.24. Subject to implementation of the Lisbon treaty, an independent Scotland would be entitled to nominate its own Commissioner from Scotland. Although this Commissioner would not represent Scottish views to the Commission, he or she would bring their own awareness and experiences of the particular challenges faced by Scotland to the college of Commissioners. Scotland would also have direct access to the processes for the recruitment of staff in the Commission, in the same way as every other Member State.

5.25. An independent Scotland would be able to respond as a Member State to Commission proposals, and consequently its views would carry more weight.

5.26. An increase in Scottish representatives on the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee would enable Scotland's interests to be more effectively presented in these fora.

5.27. European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice ensures that the EU's institutions and Member States comply with the legal obligations of the EU treaties. The Court also judges cases involving the interpretation of Community law, as referred to it by the Commission, Member States and national courts.

5.28. There are currently 27 judges in the European Court of Justice, each nominated by a member state but acting independently of the governments of the Member States. Scotland's legal system and methods of training have been represented in the past in the UK nomination to the Court of Justice, through the appointment of Sir David Edward as Judge to this Court from 1992 to 2004. An independent Scotland would be able to ensure Scottish legal expertise was always represented in the Court of Justice.

5.29. Court of Auditors. The Court of Auditors is responsible for checking that the EU budget has been implemented correctly, and that EU funds have been spent legally and with proper management. The Court comprises one member from each EU state, and is supported by about 800 staff. An independent Scotland would be able to nominate someone to sit on the Court of Auditors, bringing their expertise and experience of audit in Scotland to this Court.

Box 5: Case Study - Energy Policy

Scotland is an energy rich country, with outstanding natural advantages for renewable electricity generation. While some aspects of energy policy are devolved, such as planning, the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and emergency planning, most responsibilities, including energy market regulation, are reserved.

There are three key aspects of any energy policy; competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. Under EU law, energy markets have to have an economic regulator who balances these three competing interests. Most responsibility for energy policy, including energy market regulation and the exploitation of oil and gas, is formally reserved to the UK Government, leading to Scottish interests being disadvantaged. For example, Scottish-based electricity generators pay a much higher transmission charge than those in the south of England. Scottish consumers are also disadvantaged as the schemes run by energy suppliers to promote energy efficiency in Britain's homes are not designed for Scottish conditions, despite the fact that heating bills are much higher in Scotland.

There are major constraints in the system for transmitting electricity within Scotland and between Scotland and England, which require major investment to promote renewable electricity generation. Furthermore, the system of locational transmission charging applied by OFGEM and the National Grid encourages generation in the southern part of Britain, and has created an inbuilt bias in the UK transmission regulatory system against all Scottish based generation, not only renewables.

An independent Scotland would be able to develop systems of energy regulation consistent with EU law that reflected the priorities of the Scottish Government and were tailored to the Scottish energy context. With full representation in the EU institutions, the Scottish Government would be able to push for the development of infrastructure to encourage renewable generation. The creation of a North Sea Grid, for example, linking energy producers around the North Sea, could encourage renewable energy generation and exports from Scotland, and also contribute significantly to future energy security in Europe.

Relations with the rUK

5.30. Highest quality relations between an independent Scotland and the rUK would be of clear benefit for both countries. Our common history and geography would mean that the nature of our relationship with the rUK would look and feel different from relationships with other EU Member States. Our economic, cultural and institutional links would still be very strong, and this is something which both nations would be able to use to their advantage. In many senses Scotland's relationship with the rest of the UK would be enhanced, not diminished by independence. As a full partner in the EU with full voting rights Scotland would want to work closely with the rest of the UK to ensure that common interests were reflected more accurately in EU decision making.

5.31. Relations would of course be conducted on an equal footing, as sovereign state to sovereign state, but the potential for partnership and collaboration - which is currently sometimes hampered by difficulties over the tensions between reserved and devolved responsibilities - would be very significant indeed. Inevitably existing intergovernmental mechanisms would need to be improved and updated - there would no longer be a need for the specific mechanisms supporting devolution, such as the Joint Ministerial Committee - so we would put in place other inter-governmental arrangements to maximise effective partnership. An independent Scotland would still take part in the British-Irish Council, which fosters positive collaboration between all the administrations of these islands.

Transitional Arrangements

5.32. Scotland already contributes to expenditure on international services through the UK. Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland ( GERS) figures disaggregate the Scottish share of expenditure on international services on a per capita basis, treating the value of such expenditure as accruing equally across the UK. Table 6.1 of GERS 2007-08 6 shows the overall share of expenditure on international services, including overseas representation and international aid, as £568 million, or 1.1 per cent of the Scottish total expenditure and revenue.

5.33. There would be negotiation around the division and reallocation of FCO, DFID and other government assets.

5.34. With a focused and more targeted expression of Scottish national interests, overseas representation could be grown from these existing resources, using partnership with other nations (see examples in Annex A) and, where appropriate, the opening of new embassies, consulates or trade offices. An independent Scotland could continue to administer its foreign affairs and development programmes from within one part of the Government and seek the economies that would come from not having separate Foreign and Commonwealth and International Development departments.

5.35. Foreign affairs jobs that are currently funded by taxes raised from Scotland but are located primarily in the FCO's London Offices would be located in Scotland. There would be additional economic benefit from the increased number and scale of diplomatic representation in Scotland that independence would bring. There are currently 62 consular offices, many of them honorary, around Scotland employing approximately 150 people; Ireland, by contrast has 56 embassies and a total of approximately 660 staff. The benefit to the Scottish economy of the creation of these jobs would be likely to run into tens of millions of pounds.