Britain steps up efforts to prevent Scotland’s independence
LONDON – The British government today intensified its campaign to stop Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, publishing a legal opinion saying it would forfeit its membership of international bodies such as the European Union if it chose independence.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party that runs Scotland’s devolved government plans to hold a referendum on the politically sensitive and emotionally charged subject next year, and has played down the impact of a “Yes” vote on Scotland’s international status.
But the 57-page legal opinion – drafted for the British government by two independent experts on international law – said the implications could be far-reaching, likening the situation to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union when Russia was declared the USSR’s legal successor but the 14 other Soviet states had to forge their international relations anew.
The overwhelming weight of international precedent suggested Scotland would be legally deemed a “new state”, it said – a scenario that would force it to re-apply to join international bodies such as the EU, the United Nations and NATO.
The government’s unusual decision to publish such an opinion reflects its concern that Scots may vote for independence, triggering the break-up of a United Kingdom comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“If Scotland became independent, only the ‘remainder of the UK’ would automatically continue to exercise the same rights, obligations and powers under international law as the UK currently does, and would not have to re-negotiate existing treaties or re-apply for membership of international organizations,” the government said.