The Foreign Affairs Select Committee today published evidence submitted by the UK Government to its inquiry into the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland. Commenting on the publication, the Foreign Secretary said:
“As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from a place at the top table exercising influence in international organisations, including the EU, NATO and the G8. We have one of the most extensive, well-respected diplomatic and consular networks in the world, supporting thousands of UK citizens overseas and providing the essential infrastructure to support our foreign policy objectives. This network, along with targeted assistance from UK Trade and Investment, delivers world-class support to UK businesses.
“Our global presence means we are in a strong position as a country to protect our citizens at home and overseas, to help our businesses in an increasingly competitive world, and to offer the strongest possible basis to promote our foreign policy objectives.
“The UK is one of the most successful and long-standing political, social and economic unions in history. The close ties and our shared history mean we can project significant influence in the world and face global challenges and risks by pooling our talents and resources. The UK Government’s position is clear: Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having Scotland within the UK”.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said:
“Now that we have resolved the questions surrounding the process, the UK Government is eager to get into the real substance of this debate. Since agreement was reached on the process on Monday, the UK Government has released information on the benefits of the UK for the economy, defence and now foreign affairs.
“The economy, foreign policy and defence are some of the most fundamental responsibilities of any sovereign state, so it is fitting that the real debate should begin with discussion of these issues. Within the United Kingdom, Scotland’s voice around the world is stronger and more influential, and this delivers real benefits to Scottish people and businesses at home and overseas.
“The UK Government has always said that it would provide evidence and analysis to inform the decision facing the people of Scotland which we will publish during the course of 2013, drawing on a wide range of viewpoints. The Advocate General’s Legal Forum will be meeting again to consider the legal issues in more depth. We want to engage seriously with the arguments and set out the facts of what independence would mean. The Scottish Government must do the same.”
The evidence outlined the scope of the UK’s global network worldwide:
“The FCO’s global diplomatic network of around 270 posts [in 170 countries, employing 14,000 staff is the essential infrastructure for our foreign policy and our influence overseas. This enables the UK to deliver a distinctive foreign policy that extends its global reach and influence on bilateral and multilateral issues such as climate change, human rights and global security, as well as assisting UK nationals overseas.”
“Consular assistance overseas remains a very high priority - during 2010/11, there were over 55 million trips overseas by British nationals and over 43,400 British nationals needed some form of consular assistance. During the various national disasters and political unrest in early 2011, the FCO helped over 6,300 people with assisted departures or evacuations.”
The evidence also highlighted the UK’s efforts to support businesses overseas:
“UKTI [UK Trade & Investment] assists thousands of businesses to exploit trade opportunities annually, helping them to deliver billions of pounds of additional profit, and supporting hundreds of high value inward investments projects.”
”As part of the UK, SDI [Scottish Development International]’s own offices in 13 countries are complemented by the extensive UKTI network of 162 offices in 96 countries, and can draw on the UK’s diplomatic representation in the rest of the world. Independence would mean that Scottish companies and potential foreign investors in Scotland would lose access to that global network, and risk missing out on investment in the form of jobs, skills, capital and tax revenue from all over the world.”
The evidence stated the UK Government’s views on the issue of EU membership:
“To date, the Scottish Government has made a number of claims about the status of an independent Scotland, including its membership of international bodies. Notably it has asserted that Scotland would continue to be a member of the EU in the event of independence, and would not have to negotiate the terms of its membership as a new Member State. It is not clear on what basis this assertion is made and no evidence has yet been supplied to support this claim.”
“It is, however, evident that this issue is not straightforward, and that the Scottish Government cannot take for granted the idea that Scotland would secede from the UK but automatically stay in the EU. Decisions about EU membership need the unanimous agreement of all Member States.”
“The UK Government is carrying out further detailed analysis on the benefits of the UK’s international position and its membership of the EU and other international institutions, and these important issues of international law, including with the assistance of external experts. These findings will be published in due course.”
The evidence went on to outline the significance of the questions surrounding EU membership:
“The question of an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU is of fundamental importance because this would involve detailed negotiation with the remainder of the UK and other existing Member States on the terms of Scotland’s membership, including complex areas such as fisheries quotas and Scotland’s financial contributions. Such negotiations would have far-reaching implications for Scotland and the rest of the UK as they would also need to address Scotland’s position in relation to the European single currency and the Schengen free movement area, which every new Member State since 2004 has committed to joining when they meet the criteria.”
The FCO evidence can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmfaff/writev/643/m08.htm