‘THERE is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland” – Boris Johnson, PMQs, July 1 2020.


LEGALLY, the Scotland Act uses the word “border” with the rest of the UK. And if the Border does not exist, why did Westminster change it to annex Scottish oil fields in 1999?


THE Prime Minister maintains there is “no such thing” as a border between England and Scotland. The Scottish Tory leader, Jackson Carlaw, made a similar point in April 2020, in a tweet criticising Nicola Sturgeon's lockdown exit strategy. However, Scotland is demonstrably a separate legal, political and security jurisdiction within the UK – not to mention the obvious road signs reminding drivers they are passing the border with England.

Specifically, Scotland is recognised and defined – legally, politically and geographically – in the 1998 Scotland Act. Indeed, the 1998 Act refers repeatedly to “cross-border” public authorities – see Part V of the legislation and paragraphs 88-90 in particular. For instance: “A Minister of the Crown shall consult the Scottish Ministers before he exercises, in relation to a cross-border public authority.”

WATCH: Boris Johnson claims there is no border between Scotland and England

In other words, a cornerstone piece of legislation passed by Westminster not only recognises a legal and political concept of the “border” between Scotland and the rest of the UK but uses that very word in framing the legislation. Possibly the Prime Minister is not familiar with the Scotland Act.

Also, there are very recent instances when Westminster governments have legislated specifically to change the legal border between Scotland and England, eg The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order of 1999. This statutory instrument (ministerial order) was used subsequent to the 1998 Scotland Act being passed, to alter Scotland’s territorial waters in favour of England. The order redrew the previous English/Scottish maritime boundary to annex some 6000 square miles of Scottish waters to English jurisdiction, including the Argyll and six other major oilfields. Here we have a case of Boris Johnson’s “non-existent” border being changed.


THERE are no passport checks or customs posts on the Scottish/English border. Possibly this was the PM’s intended reference. However, there is a long history of temporary controls on the internal movement of UK citizens during national emergencies, especially between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Also, contrary to earlier public pronouncements by Johnson, the inclusion of Northern Ireland in a free trade zone with the EU (following Brexit) will necessitate some form of customs procedures with the rest of the UK. So again, the PM’s blanket “no border” statement re Scotland requires qualification.

The National:

READ MORE: Fact Check: Is Nicola Sturgeon really getting 'nasty' over the Border question?

Passport and customs checks aside, there have always been recognised internal borders between the constituent UK nations, when it comes to animal and human health issues. With the advent of devolution, this legal divide has deepened. The Coronavirus Act 2020 (given royal assent on March 25) gives the Scottish Government widespread powers to deal with the current medical emergency, including the ability to quarantine visitors from the rest of the UK suspected of carrying the disease – a de facto right to “close” the Border.

This legal sanction has already been used. During the May bank holiday, Cumbrian police stopped and fined more than a hundred drivers on the English side of the Border attempting to travel into Scotland in defiance of Scottish Government lockdown rules. This was after lockdown regulations in England had been relaxed. Clearly Cumbrian police recognise that a de facto border exists.

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In this instance, the First Minister went out of her way to explain that these border health restrictions did not apply to individuals crossing from England for essential work reasons or to buy food. However, Scottish Conservative politicians have attempted to weaponise the issue by inferring that the SNP Government is deliberately manipulating the coronavirus emergency to heighten tensions with Westminster.

This unfounded accusation is given the lie by events in Wales, where the Labour administration has also enforced tougher lockdown rules leading to the exclusion of visitors from England. Police in Wales have enforced these rules stringently, turning back visitors from England trying to access Welsh beauty spots – another example that there are real “borders” inside the UK.


THE PM’s attempt to obscure the reality of different legal jurisdictions inside the UK is potentially hazardous. It has already confused people living in England as to what lockdown rules apply – and where. With Covid-19 clusters reappearing (eg Leicester), regional variations in lockdown rules are likely to increase, not diminish. In this situation, it is dangerous to undermine the legitimacy of the Scottish Government’s right to protect its citizens.

The PM’s “no border” claim is also contradictory given the constant Unionist refrain that Scottish independence would automatically lead to customs and travel checks between Scotland and England. In fact, Nicola Sturgeon has said on repeated occasions: "I don't want borders between Scotland and the rest of the UK. There is nothing in my proposition that necessitates that.” A hard border in the sense of customs barriers is only possible after independence if England wanted to scrap free trade with Scotland, its largest economic partner.


AS reliable as your average Boris statement – which is not at all.

The National: