Prospect of passport controls raises alarm

Referendum 2014'Last week Scotland's 1st Minister, Alex Salmond MSP announced that the SNP Government will hold a referendum on independence in 2014, signaling the beginning of the possible breakup of the United Kingdom.'Border crossings between Scotland & England including the Union Bridge which spans the River Tweed connecting Scotland & England. When the Bridge was built in 1820, it was the longest iron suspension bridge in the world and is currently the oldest iron suspension bridge still carrying traffic in Britain.'Pic Neil Hanna
Referendum 2014'Last week Scotland's 1st Minister, Alex Salmond MSP announced that the SNP Government will hold a referendum on independence in 2014, signaling the beginning of the possible breakup of the United Kingdom.'Border crossings between Scotland & England including the Union Bridge which spans the River Tweed connecting Scotland & England. When the Bridge was built in 1820, it was the longest iron suspension bridge in the world and is currently the oldest iron suspension bridge still carrying traffic in Britain.'Pic Neil Hanna

ALARM was sounded this week in Berwickshire and north Northumberland over the prospect of passport controls at the Scotland-England border.

The spectre of tight controls over movement if Scotland becomes independent was raised by one of the UK’s most influential ministers.

If controls are introduced - as top Tory David Liddington has claimed may be necessary - they could result in serious complications for people in Northumberland and Berwickshire who work or have family across the border.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond immediately dismissed the claim as “scaremongering and “demonstrably untrue” but local politicians said the prospect raised a “serious question mark” about the issue.

Any passsport control would have a “massive impact” on the area, said Tory Berwickshire MSP John Lamont.

“This is another serious question mark over the prospect of Scotland separating from the UK,” he said.

“Border controls between England and Scotland would have a massive impact on Berwickshire and north Northumberland and severely restrict the ability of local residents to travel to England for work or to shop.

“This is clearly not acceptable and the people here deserve to know the full consequences of the SNP’s plans for separation. It is time that Alex Salmond started providing the truth on these issues instead of trying to gloss over the facts.”

At a meeting in Edinburgh on Monday, Mr Lidington, who is the UK’s Minister for Europe, said EU rules would force an independent Scotland to enter a Europe-wide, border-free zone.

As the UK has opted out of this zone – known as the Schengen area – the Westminster government would be forced to establish passport controls between Scotland and England.

MP for Berwickshire Michael Moore agreed there could be a problem.

“Scotland’s membership of the EU cannot simply be assumed as it requires the agreement of the other member states and a careful negotiation of accession arrangements such as currency and Schengen,” he said.

“These arrangements could have important implications for the English-Scottish border and here in Berwickshire, where the border is a mere stone’s throw away on the A1 down from Eyemouth and across the bridge between Coldstream and Cornhill, this is an extremely important issue. Our ability to cross the border freely is absolutely essential for our local economy and our everyday lives so it is vital that the Scottish Government set out their plans and begin to answer these important questions.”

However South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse said it was all “scaremongering”.

“The lies being churned out by the Tories over independence just proves how much they are struggling to come up with a positive case for the Union,” he said. “I even heard for myself Mr Lamont briefing pupils of Berwickshire High School that they would no longer be able to shop at Morrison’s in Berwick, when we met them on their visit to Parliament.

“We have legal, constitutional and European experts confirming that Scotland is part of the territory of the European Union, as the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU this will not change upon independence – the rest of the UK will be in the same position. We will both be successor states with the same legal status within the EU. An independent Scotland will inherit the Common Travel Area that exists between the UK and Ireland.”