Posted on Foreign Policy today, the first of a three-part report from Tim Judah on whether Scotland could really choose to leave the UK? In terms of the effects on foreign policy if the Scottish people voted yes to independence, Tim argues:
Whatever happens on the military chessboard, the fate of Trident submarines will have the greatest ramifications. William Walker, a professor at St. Andrew’s University who has written about Trident, says that while the subs could move to the English Channel, nowhere in the Rest of the UK (RUK) is equipped to store the missiles. New bunkers would take years of wrangling to get planning permission and years to build. “If they insist on evicting the Navy from Scotland it would be the equivalent of forcing nuclear disarmament on the U.K.,” he says. Others disagree. A transitional agreement might be reached giving the RUK the several years needed to construct the new bunkers before the missiles were evicted, or the U.K. could switch to a different type of nuclear deterrent.
I, for one, would welcome this ‘forced’ nuclear disarmament. It would save England, Wales and Northern Ireland (will we need a new name for this union?) billions and present us in a much more positive light upon the world stage.
The issue of UN Security Council membership is also discussed.
As the debate heats up, Scots will keep being warned that both Scotland and the RUK, “would be weakened and enfeebled by such a schism and trauma,” says Rifkind. Britain, long a declining power, would come under further pressure after independence. While it would only lose 5.2 million people, less than 10 percent of its population, it could be viewed as further weakening. “A lot is to do with perception,” he says, especially in the face of the new order: The disintegration of the Soviet Union didn’t coincide with the rise of countries like India and Brazil. Why wouldn’t countries start publically wondering why the RUK still has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council?
I would not like to see this country lose its UN Security Council Seat, but at the same time what have we done recently to deserve our continued status? What have any of the sitting nations done to retain a seat, other than to have come out as the most powerful nations on the victorious side of World War II? The makeup of the UN and the Security Council is a debate for another day, but an empty seat where the UK once sat would not necessarily mean a diminished international role or influence. In some respects it could free the UK to act more broadly based upon our moral and real self-interest rather than in the broader and conflicting self-interests of the ‘western bloc’.
In regards to the question of Scottish Independence, I would support it if it is voted for by the majority of Scottish people in a proposed referendum in 2014. The SNP, under Alex Salmond, did extremely well to win a majority in the Scottish parliament in the 2010 general election and part of their mandate was to push for Scottish independence. Those who criticise it within Westminster village (most of the major three party MPs) are, as usual, out of touch. This is a legitimate aspiration for Scotland and its people, despite any possible negative outcomes for the United Kingdom as a whole.
Opinion polls of the support of the Scottish population on a move to full independence have shown mixed results. As recently as January this year a poll of Scottish people carried out by the Sunday Express found that 51% back independence. A New Statesman poll, also ran early this year following PM Cameron’s ‘intervention’ in to the debate, found that 44% support independence with 45% against
Clearly the polls taken as a barometer of support at this time point to a close call, but a lot could change within the next two years. However I would not be surprised if, by the end of 2014, we had a whole new makeup within these isles which would then seem to usher in a different role in the world for each country.
Jonathan Woodrow Martin