Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the publication of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Report on foreign policy considerations for an independent Scotland. The Foreign Affairs Committee announced its inquiry into ‘the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland’ on 18 July 2012.
The report concludes that an independent Scotland’s foreign policy may be similar to that currently pursued by the UK but without access to the many benefits that derive from being part of the UK and no obligation on the part of the UK Government to negotiate on their behalf as is the case currently.
Foreign Secretary Hague said that the Scottish Government has yet to present the facts of what independence would mean in practice for the people of Scotland, including the costs of establishing diplomatic and other networks.
He anticipated that his office will consider the report fully, including the two recommendations for the FCO, and “we will respond comprehensively in due course”.
“I very much welcome the report by the Foreign Affairs Committee. It has reached a conclusion similar to that of the independent legal advice commissioned and published by the UK Government on 11 February, namely that in the event of Scottish independence the remainder of the UK continues in its membership of international organizations, including the EU, NATO and the UN and that Scotland, as a new state, would have to apply for membership of key international organizations it wished to join, pointed out Hague.
“He added that the Committee’s report highlights that “the Scottish Government has yet to present the facts of what Scottish independence would mean in practice for the people of Scotland, including the costs of establishing diplomatic and other networks. The Scottish Government continues to present unfounded assertions as incontrovertible facts and conclusions, when the truth of the matter is very different.
“The UK Government’s position is clear – Scotland benefits from being part of the UK, and the UK benefits from having Scotland within it. The UK Government’s Scotland analysis program has already begun to set out the basis for that position, through a series of papers being published this year and next. It is robust, comprehensive and scrutinized by independent experts – something that others have also called for as part of the debate about Scotland’s future.
“Unlike the Scottish Government, the UK Government has commissioned and published independent legal opinion on the constitutional and legal aspects of Scottish independence on 11 February. This paper was the first in a series of evidential and analytical papers to be published this year and next, to inform the debate ahead of next year’s referendum.
“However, as the Foreign Affairs Committee report notes, it is for those advocating independence to set out a clear and well evidenced case to people in Scotland about what the implications of leaving the UK would mean for them – including some of the unavoidable choices that will have to be made”.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore also pointed out that the report has identified further missing pieces in the independence jigsaw.
“Scotland’s businesses and citizens already benefit significantly from the UK’s extensive consular, diplomatic, intelligence and trade networks around the globe. The FCO overseas network of 14,000 staff in 170 countries and the UKTI’s network of 162 offices in 96 countries, combine global influence with local connections and knowledge to promote and protect Scotland’s interests.
“The Scottish Government has set the clock ticking on the independence referendum. On issues such as the costs for establishing a diplomatic network, EU Membership, a currency union and on pensions the unanswered questions are mounting up and they are running out of time – they need to come clean on costs and implications of such a huge change, and meet the Committee’s demand for clarity”, concluded Secretary Moore.
The Committee took evidence from 26 witnesses, with EU and international expertise. Minister for Europe Lidington gave evidence to the Committee in Edinburgh on 28 January 2013.
The referendum will take place in Scotland on 18 September 2014.
The report contains two recommendations for the FCO which are: ahead of the referendum, the Foreign Office should do more, where appropriate, to engage with international partners in order to highlight the UK’s commitment to a consensual and broad-based engagement on the Scottish referendum, with a view to minimizing the risk of damage to the UK’s reputation.
The FCO in its response to the FAC report should outline its view on Scottish interests being given a more direct voice on certain EU issues, within the parameter of the current devolution settlement.