The SNP Scottish government has rolled out its latest paper on independence, this time focused on citizenship. Like others in the series (this is the fifth paper on secession in twelve months) it offers nothing new, goes big on fantasising about a future that won’t happen, and is completely removed from the day-to-day needs of Scots.
The paper works off the assumption that an independent Scotland will be a member of the European Union. Yet it ignores the obvious economic and potential political impediments to this happening, at least in any reasonable timeframe.
It also assumes that an independent Scotland will be in the EU but with an opt-out from the Schengen Agreement, which provides for completely unrestricted movement of people between member states. With this opt-out secure, an independent Scotland will continue to be part of the UK/Ireland common travel area, the paper again assumes.
It might be the case that all of this could happen, but to assume it definitively will is a stretch. Particularly so when respected figures like Professor Gavin McCrone, former chief economic advisor to the Scottish Office, are sceptical. In his book from last year, After Brexit, The Economics of Scottish Independence, McCrone pointed out that under an independent-Scotland-in-the-EU scenario some control over population movement between Scotland and England would ‘seem inevitable’.
So let’s not rush to assume that those new Scottish passports the SNP are fantasising about won’t be needed at Gretna. The possibility of having a highly antagonistic government in power in Edinburgh or London in the immediate aftermath of secession alone puts the assumption of free movement on shaky ground.
There was a time when the SNP was the group that put its time and resources into producing papers aimed at imagining the possibilities for an independent Scotland.