DESPITE everything, Brexit could provide a bonanza for Scotland. Not because it is a good thing, but because it is going to wreak havoc with Britain’s imported food and other supplies.

The harder the Brexit, the more intense the problems as goods are held up in transit. The greatest chaos will occur in the south-east of England at the ports where vehicles coming in and going out will be locked into massive queues. The task of supplying supermarkets is going to be particularly worrisome as the natural bottleneck of Kent becomes even more choked by the need for customs and regulatory checks.

Scotland, of course, is at the end of the supply chain, hundreds of miles from where foodstuffs make landfall, so we will undoubtedly bear the brunt not just of slow supplies, but frequently of no supplies. Under conditions of shortages, commercial retailers are not going to be sending their goods on long journeys when they can sell all of it in the populous markets of south-east England.

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However, in these circumstances, the case for creating entry points for goods further north becomes very attractive. And in the case of an independent Scotland within the EU, it presents a positively gleaming opportunity. If much of the existing trade which transits through Dover, Felixstowe and other south-east ports were to come in through expanded facilities at, say, Grangemouth or Rosyth, this would mean that Scotland would be at the start of the chain rather than the far end. Not only would this alleviate Scotland’s supply problems, it would also allow Scottish ports to handle goods bound for the north of England – places like Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle which would also find themselves playing second fiddle to the markets of the south-east as EU withdrawal slows everything down.

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There is no real reason why so much of Britain’s imports and exports should have to come through France and then Kent, except for history and an inbuilt bias towards the south-east because of its proximity to London. Overreliance on that route has created choke-points which, under Brexit, will become throttle-points. The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are considerably bigger than those at Calais and its neighbouring harbours, and are much better situated for many northern European suppliers, particularly Germany, Poland and the Netherlands. Equally the east coast of Scotland is better suited for receiving goods from these mega-ports than those in the south of England.

Furthermore, how attractive would it be for these European ports not to have to house all the customs and regulatory superstructure necessary for trading with a non-EU England? Such facilities would be on the Scotland-England border, where they would have to be anyway if we were independent and in the EU while England was not.

It’s time to see the concept of an actual tangible border between Scotland and England as something which is not to be abhorred or feared. Fences can make for good neighbours, and in this case it will make for very good business. The boost to the Scottish economy both in the increased trade and creating the necessary infrastructure might well be enormous.

Scotland’s infrastructure would require a great deal of investment and expansion, but we would not be starting from scratch. The landing ports would have to be expanded, but if we are talking about Grangemouth and Rosyth, these are already connected to the Central Belt’s substantial transport infrastructure, including the new Queensferry Crossing whose recent opening could not have been more timely should the scenario described here unfold. Both ports are ideally located for sending goods north and south. There would have to be expansion of the routes south if the glittering prospect of supplying the north of England were to be seized. Gaps would need to be spanned, notably expanding the existing railway line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank to send it on to Hawick and then Carlisle. This would be fed by the existing south-side railway loop through Edinburgh, which at present only carries goods trains but is greatly under-used. As for the investment costs, apart from the attraction of large profits which busy ports generate, there is also the prospect of EU support for projects which are directly beneficial to its member states. This is undoubtedly the case here, involving not just making trading easier with a fellow member state (ourselves) but also with the large and important non-EU English market which will have gummed up its own import-export infrastructure.

Change is coming whatever way Brexit pans out. It can appear that it offers nothing but negative prospects, and though this is highly likely in England, it does not have to be the case in Scotland. The scenario outlined here is not just a ray of light in the gloom of Brexit, it is a positive reason for embracing Scottish independence. We did not wish Brexit upon our neighbours, so we should have no moral qualms about taking advantage of the flux it will create. Indeed, it is more than arguable that by creating a backdoor supply route into the north of England from the EU, the people of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland and Cumbria will benefit from it as much as we will profit from it.

Dr David White