THE UK Government should be planning to have the “closest possible” links with an independent Scotland, according to an Emeritus Professor of Law at Oxford University.

Writing in the London School of Economics blog, Derrick Wyatt QC argues that a “New UK” following a Yes vote should seek to be “the best friend and ally” of the country.

Close links should include a “customs union, a comprehensive free-trade agreement, a common travel area, a pact on defence, and, possibly, a pact on sterling and a banking union”, the former barrister wrote.

The National:

This would offset independence’s “damaging” impact on the rest of the UK, says Wyatt, which he believes could see Britain’s image and influence “eroded”, result in a customs border and lead to security challenges on both sides of the Border.

Scholar Wyatt penned the article as he noted that another referendum on Scotland’s future is likely over the next few years.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to hold indyref2 by the end of 2023, depending on the Covid-19 situation. Polling in recent months suggests the electorate is roughly split on whether Scotland should leave the Union.

“If the Scots vote for independence, then emerging NUK should aspire to be the best friend and ally of an independent Scotland, and seek close links with it,” Wyatt wrote for the blog. “Geography, common values and self-interest would demand no less.”

The professor argues that like Brexit, securing independence for Scotland would be likely to involve “complicated negotiations” – but says there may be a different way forward for the nation.

Wyatt suggests a customs union and free trade agreement between Scotland and the “New UK”, as well as a common travel area to allow Scots and Brits to live and work across the Border.

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He calls for a defence pact, noting that after independence Scotland would be in charge of surveilling and defending a third of the land and waters currently under the UK Government’s control.

Co-operating on defence would be beneficial to Scotland, the UK and “broader Nato operations”, says the professor. Lossiemouth could be used as a home for Scotland’s Air Force, and “waters could continue to be patrolled by NUK’s nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines … pending Scotland’s acquisition of its own fleet”, he suggests.

On Trident, Wyatt says the UK Government has to accept that Scotland is committed to removing the nuclear deterrent – which means a new site for the weapons needs to be identified in England or Wales, and this could take up to a decade.

The National:

Wyatt’s final suggestion for close links between the “New UK” and Scotland is a pact on sterling and a banking union. He notes that polls suggest most Scots want to keep the pound, and a currency union would be feasible.

“Scotland could continue to use the pound sterling, while the Bank of England would continue to exercise its present role in respect of both countries, including its key role as lender of last resort,” the professor writes.

“This option could be challenging if a newly independent Scotland had to move at short notice to financing a high public sector deficit without the support hitherto provided by UK central government. This problem could be mitigated by a transition period in which UK central government support was gradually phased out.”

The SNP’s official policy is to use the pound “for as long as necessary” after securing independence, only bringing in a new currency when the “economic conditions” are right to do so.

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However the Scottish Greens, with whom Sturgeon shares a co-operation agreement in government, described the idea of keeping the pound as “catastrophic” prior to the May election.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie told a leaders’ debate prior to the vote that the point of independence would be about having a “different economic course than the unfair, unequal broken economy that came before Covid that’s been managed by the UK Government”.

A spokesperson for Harvie's party told The National: “The Scottish Greens see independence for Scotland as an opportunity to do things differently and become a positive and progressive force in the world.

"While this means continuing a great relationship, trade and culture with our neighbours on the British Isles, it should also mean moving away from an aggressive foreign policy, racist immigration laws and a financial system which plunges far too many into poverty.

“The ‘image and influence’ of the UK as a nuclear-power obsessed with reliving its imperial past is not something the Scottish Greens are interested in retaining.”

The SNP and UK Government have been contacted for comment.