OVER the last few weeks in this series we have debunked the biggest myths about Scottish independence, but we also understand that some complexities and issues do lead to genuine concerns. One complex issue is the question of the border arrangements between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) given that Scotland wants to rejoin the EU.

The concern comes from the fact that Brexit has been a disaster in terms of managing border and customs checks with the EU and on the island of Ireland. UK Government statistics for January suggested that Brexit led to a 63% fall in exports and that seafood exports, most of which come from Scotland, were down 83%.

The claim goes that if Brexit creates borders and it’s this bad, then how bad would a border between Scotland and England be? Well, it’s perfectly possible to have fairly seamless trade between an EU member and a non-member. The difficulties currently ravaging Scotland’s exports are caused by UK Government incompetence, the weaknesses in the last minute cobbled together trade deal, its lack of preparedness in terms of customs systems and the numbers of trained customs officers required.

It takes some nerve for the UK Government to say that having borders and customs controls are a price worth paying for the UK to have the ability to negotiate unilateral trade deals outside the EU but that those same borders which we are told will benefit the UK – and are only experiencing teething problems – would be disastrous for Scotland.

There is, as you might have guessed, a huge hole in the Unionist argument. Scotland won’t become independent for at least another four years. After an independence majority is elected in May, a bill will be passed to allow a new referendum. The SNP has sensibly declared that a referendum won’t take place till after the health crisis is over and so the earliest it could safely occur is May 2022 – and, given the Scottish council elections are that month, it’s more likely to be between September 2022 and September 2023 as the UK General Election will be held in May 2024. After a Yes vote, there would be negotiations, a transition period and Scotland would likely become independent in January 2026.

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To assume the UK would not have managed to sort the current border chaos and reach an accommodation on borders and customs controls with the EU by then is unthinkable. Not only would Northern Ireland have erupted again, as the Good Friday Agreement would have been irrevocably damaged, but the UK economy would have collapsed into an economic abyss and, if we were over reliant on trade with rUK, that would sink Scotland.

Even if Boris Johnson’s government was that incompetent and didn’t reach a new understanding with the EU, then the economic cost in jobs and growth and the resultant hyperinflation and harsh austerity would mean Scotland cannot afford to remain part of the self-destructing UK.

An independent Scotland, either having joined the EU during the transition period (not guaranteed but possible) or that had applied to rejoin the EU, would have the same trade deal with rUK that all the EU countries would have by then, plus far better access to the world’s largest single market. Thus Scottish exporters would enjoy significant commercial advantages over those in the rUK.

To be 100% clear, not sorting out the current border chaos would mean the UK economy would be in free-fall and, given that Scotland exports more than twice the amount of goods per head than rUK, our economy would be hardest hit.

Won’t there be tariffs on some goods going between Scotland and England? If so, there would also be tariffs between rUK and the rest of Europe/the world, so that would not disadvantage Scotland/rUK trade.

The SNP has stated they plan to trade in sterling for a currency transition period, and if the hard borders persist and the UK economy sinks then sterling will drop in value and make Scottish goods significantly cheaper to import to the rUK than goods made in countries that don’t trade in sterling. Assuming that sterling falls in value by about 10%, that will make Scottish exports 10% cheaper to the EU single market and that would start an exporting and manufacturing jobs boom.

WHAT about freedom of movement? New members of the EU have to sign up to the Schengen Agreement unless they have a pre-existing freedom of movement agreement with a nation that isn’t in Schengen (this is why Ireland isn’t in it – it has a long-standing free movement deal with the UK). It isn’t legally possible for the EU to refuse Scotland the same deal. So freedom of movement with rUK will be maintained despite being in the EU whilst also having the same freedom of movement of people, goods and finance we enjoyed as part of the EU before Brexit – but without Schengen.

Will there have to be border posts? No. With the right agreement border checks can be electronic, pretty seamless and not physical. Yes, there would be more paperwork, but to export to the EU the same paperwork would be required and so companies that trade outside of Scotland would be on top of that.

Norway is not in the EU but its major export markets are the UK, Germany, Netherlands, France and Sweden, which are all in the EU, with the recent exception of post-Brexit UK. Its major source of imports are Germany, Sweden, China, US and Denmark.

Guess what? The richest nation in the world per capita has border checks between itself and all of its major trading partners.

Norway and Sweden (a member of the EU) were united between 1814 and 1905. Even though this union was dissolved, the countries continued to co-operate and have some shared laws. Today, there are no formal passport checks for flights and ferries between the two countries and identity cards are normally not needed, but are advised for planes.

Most of the crossings on their massive 1630km-long border sit completely unattended. Border checks on goods are done electronically and often automatically. All Nordic citizens can freely live, study or work in any of the Nordic countries.

Neighbouring countries tend to trade more between themselves, even if there is not a political or economic union between them. However, cultural aspects such as using the same language or a common historical background are usually factors that increase trade between countries. A good example is the US and Canada: the US accounts for more than 70% of Canada’s exports and Canada would consider a suggestion to enter a political union with America to be utter madness.

By the time Scotland becomes independent, the confusion over borders will have been cleared up and an independent Scotland in the EU would have the same border arrangement with the rest of the UK as the rest of the EU, but not be required to join the full Schengen Agreement. Scotland would also have access to the EU single market and that would lead to an exporting jobs boom.

If the UK cannot sort out its Brexit border chaos by independence day, then the UK economy will be in free fall and Scotland will need to escape the UK to avoid economic collapse.

Trading in sterling for a transitional period would mean goods from Scotland will avoid currency exchange issues, and if the UK doesn’t sort its borders then the subsequent fall in the value of sterling should mean that trade with the rest of the UK increases, not decreases, as Scotland will be the only nation from which rUK can afford to import. Where else would the rUK get the oil, electricity and food it needs from if it was cheaper and just as easy to import from the country next door?