Claims by a leading university academic that an independent Scotland would need to introduce border controls have been dismissed.
The suggestion that a vote for Scottish independence next year could see other EU states insist Scotland join the passport-free so-called ‘Schengen’ area that covers most of the EU, came in an recent academic paper from Professor Robert Wright, of Strathclyde University.
Currently, the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement.
But Professor Wright says if Scotland was forced to join Schengen and leave the Common Travel Area (CTA) of the British Isles, then, taking a ‘strict interpretation’ of EU rules, would mean checkpoints, border guards, patrols, identity documents and even the possibility of a physical barrier.
That would mean border controls being set up on the A1 at Lamberton, at Coldstream Bridge and elsewhere.
The SNP government has indicated it would opt out of the Schengen Agreement, preferring to remain part of the CTA, but Professor Wright says it is difficult to think of the circumstances that would permit that.
Local Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont agrees. “This would be devastating not only to the many businesses that rely on easy cross-border trade, but also to many in the Borders who cross the border on a regular basis,” he said.
However, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, SNP councillor, Stuart Bell, disagrees.
“The No campaign claims any small independent nation within the EU will be forced to join the Schengen area, but this is just fantasy and fear,” he said. “Eire has an opt-out from Schengen because it already has a free movement and trade agreement with the UK.
“Scotland has the same pre-existing agreement with both the UK and Eire, and as there is a precedent in EU law, an independent Scotland will get the same automatic opt-out of Schengen.
“Personally I prefer to spend my time on constructive discussions on shared projects with neighbouring authorities, rather than chase after the silly scare stories of the No campaign.”