After A Yes Vote – The Negotiations

“If we want Radical Independence voices to be involved in this whole process
we need to start working out how this can be achieved. We need to do this
way before the referendum is held.”  Alister Rutherford takes an initial look at the process of negotiating independence.

As we begin the countdown to the referendum it is important to begin thinking
about what happens if there is a Yes vote. We will not suddenly wake up in
an independent country. At least 18 months of negotiations will lie ahead –
no doubt hard negotiations. If Radical Independence is to have any influence
over these negotiations we need to give some time to thinking about this post
referendum period. Here are some initial thoughts on the what, how and who
of this process.

What will be up for negotiation?

We can get some idea of what the big issues might be by looking at the experience of other newly independent countries. In Czechoslovakia for example, the big issues were:
1. the military
2. succession to international treaties
3. level of post separation economic integration
4. currency
5. citizenship
6. division of assets and liabilities
In the case of Scotland other issues may merit specific negotiation, for
example:
7. demarcation of maritime boundary in North Sea
8. state pension
9. welfare benefits

How will the issues be handled?

The Scottish government will clearly take the lead in these negotiations.
Perhaps a new, temporary Ministry will be set up to co-ordinate, plan and
oversee the negotiations and establish ways to report back to parliament and
the wider public. Whatever, the actual negotiations will almost certainly be
detailed and overlapping and conducted by sectoral committees eg defence,
economic, energy etc, themselves subdivided into specialised subcommittees
on eg the national debt, banking regulations, intellectual property rights etc.
Some general principles underpinning the negotiations will need to be
established. For example in the case of Czechoslovakia two principles were
agreed on early in the process. These were:
1.fixed property would be owned by the Republic in which it was located
2.movables would be divided on a per capita basis – this was agreed at 2:1 in
favour of the Czech Republic.

Czech Senate

Czech Senate

In practice there were important exemptions to the first principle, as most of the Federal buildings and property were in Prague, the Federal capital,
located in what was to become the Czech Republic. In recognition of this
imbalance Slovakia received financial compensation in lieu. Something
similar will probably be required here as the UK is one of the most centralized
states in the world and most UK government buildings and property are located in London. The second general principle was based on population.

Who will do the negotiating?

This is perhaps the question that may cause most worries for many people. I
anticipate that there will be three distinct, though interlocking levels of
involvement in the negotiations. In the first instance I expect that civil
servants will carry out most of the detailed preparatory work and some of the
negotiations. They are the ones familiar with most of the issues. It is worth
noting that some civil servants currently working for UK departments may well
decide, after a Yes vote, to work for the Scottish negotiating team. We should
welcome their expertise and inside knowledge of the Westminster approach
to negotiations.
However I do not though think we can rely on civil servants alone to carry
forward the negotiations. We will also want the help of outside experts in
each of the key issues. Some will come from Scotland, while others, from
countries outwith the UK, may be willing to offer their support and knowledge.
The parameters and guiding principles for the negotiations however will need
to set by the Scottish government. They have already indicated that they are
open to the participation of others in this task. This is where the recent
comments by Henry McLeish and Andrew Wilson come in. I donʼt think a
Council of State would be a good idea, nor do I think it is likely to happen.
However if people like Michael Moore, for example, are willing to work with
the Scottish government by offering their intimate, inside knowledge of how
Westminster will approach the negotiations, then this can only be a good
thing. The more broadly based the negotiation team is, the more likely they
are to negotiate a successful independence settlement.
If we want Radical Independence voices to be involved in this whole process
we need to start working out how this can be achieved. We need to do this
way before the referendum is held.

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