Once again we are treated with demands from Unionists for clear answers to all kinds of spurious questions about an independent Scotland. All are based on the erroneous assumption that everything will remain just as it is in the rest of the UK. This of course is arrant nonsense. So as a first attempt to look at how Scottish independence will affect the rest of the UK, this post is devoted to asking some very specific questions for the UK government to answer. I have begun with Theresa May as she recently raised the issue of “British” passports for Scots after independence. But as I have pointed out elsewhere, Scottish independence will not change things just for Scots. For example the rest of the UK will become on Scottish independence a new state. As such it will need a new name. While it can and probably will want continue to use UK as a shorthand, it will still need a full name and one that is internationally recognised and accepted. I will not begin to offer advice to the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland on what this name should or could be, but for the purposes of this post the new state will be referred to as Newstate. The questions below are about what will happen to people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who live elsewhere, but would want to become citizens of this Newstate. So how about some clarity from the UK.
1. What will happen to “British” passports in the period between a yes vote in September 2014 and April 2015, when Scotland actually becomes independent and when Newstate comes into being. If someone from England needs to renew their passport in this period or someone applies for a first passport in this period, what passport will they be given? During this period the current UK continues to exist, so the current “British” passport could still be issued. But of course this just raises the question of what happens after April 2015. Will this Newstate not want to issue their own new passports during this period?
2. What happens to “British” passports which are not due to be renewed until some time after April 2015. A “British” passport issued in August 2014 would normally remain valid until 2024. Can they continue to be used, even though the issuing state – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – no longer exists? Will Newstate require all “British” passports to be returned to be re-issued in the name of this Newstate? Or will holders of “British” passports be required to take them to their local Post Office to get them overstamped with the name of Newstate?
3. What will people write under nationality in passports for Newstate? “British” passports currently use the term British citizen under this heading. It would seem unlikely that Newstate will be able to continue to use that term. After all Scotland even after independence will still remain physically and geographically part of the island of Great Britain. Surely Newstate would not be so arrogant as to assume as its nationality a name that belongs to all of Great Britain and not just its southern two thirds?
4. Has the current UK government undertaken any advance planning for the above questions? Or is the current UK government’s position one of keeping its head buried in the sand until reality comes upon them?
There are of course many other questions to be answered in relation to passports in the light of Scottish independence. Some will be of direct interest to people living in Scotland. But in this post I simply wanted to demonstrate that Scottish independence will have significant effects on the people living in Newstate. Even on something as relatively simple and everyday as having a passport. As I will not be living in this Newstate, it is not for me to press Theresa May on these questions, but some residents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland just might want to know what planning if any, their government has made for Scottish independence.