While I’m generally sceptical of most arguments about the consequences of a Yes vote, both negative and positive, Alan Trench raises a formidable point about the diffficulty of the negotiation. The key points to be negotiated, he suggests, are
- the physical border
- arrangements for the movement of persons
- the EU
- the National Debt
- assets and liabilities
- nuclear bases
- Benefits administration, and
- mechanisms for resolution of disputes.
That’s not the full list – others include community security, policing (are we going to have extradition proceedings?), energy, telecoms, information sharing, the Crown Estate and air traffic.
Trench goes on to make a telling point. The main thing that the UK wants of Scotland is simple: to remain in the UK. Once that point is decided, Scotland doesn’t have much to bargain with. So the negotiation will be an assymetric one, where Scotland asks for things and rUK says yea or nay. And all Scotland really has to set against its requests is the debt – despite what so many people are saying, it doesn’t have to accept responsibility for the debt if the UK keeps all the balancing assets, and it might yet have to walk away without either.
With good will, the negotiation could be done rapidly; but I see no reason to suppose that the good will is there. In other cases where countries have become independent – Slovakia comes to mind – many of the issues are unresolved years later. That’s one of the reasons, by the way, that I’m sceptical about the arguments on consequences. The weather will not change, Scotland will not be immediately invaded, and there won’t (with all respect to the Deutsche Bank spokesman) be a great depression. The most likely outcome is that not much will happen, and that (as happened in Ireland) people will be moaning how little was achieved fifty years on. That, yes or no, is what we need to avoid.