Referendum: Border controls can’t be ruled out

A general view at the border between Scotland and England just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
A general view at the border between Scotland and England just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

We are only a week away from a decision which could have profound consequences for Berwick and the Borders. Only those on the Scottish side of the border have a vote in that decision, but it affects all of us.

My fervent hope is that they will vote for us to stay together. There are many reasons to say No to independence.

LOCAL MP SIR ALAN BEITH PLEDGES TO IMPROVE BREAST CANCER SURVIVAL RATES

LOCAL MP SIR ALAN BEITH PLEDGES TO IMPROVE BREAST CANCER SURVIVAL RATES

The fact that Scotland could survive as a constitutionally independent country does not mean that it is sensible to throw away the advantages Scotland enjoys from being part of a much larger nation.

Running an independent government with embassies across the world costs a lot of money. Building up the resources needed to cope with future crises like the one which nearly destroyed the two biggest Scottish banks will be very different without being part of the United Kingdom.

But there are issues which may particularly affect daily life across the Borders. One is the currency. Most of the change you get for a £20 note in a Berwick shop will be in Scottish notes.

That reflects the fact that so much of our trade is across the border. Those banknotes are backed by deposits made by the Scottish banks to the Bank of England.

There will not be a common currency in the event of independence. The Euro crisis has proved that it is not safe to have a common currency when countries can pursue different economic policies.

There might be Scottish pounds after independence, but their value would fluctuate below or above that of the English pound. It really would be like changing holiday money, but on an everyday basis. People cope with it, but is it really what we want? A lot of the enthusiasm for originally joining the Euro came from businesses which know the extra cost of constantly changing currencies.

Then there is the border itself. Even if you accept that a Scottish government would not want to put customs and passport officers at Lamberton, Coldstream Bridge, Carham and Mordington, the only guarantee against this ever happening is to keep the United Kingdom.

If one of our two nations was in the EU and the other was not, border control would be necessary.

If the UK government had no confidence in the Scottish government’s immigration or security policy, border controls could become necessary. For those of us who cross the border several times a week, that is not a good idea.

And thirdly, I think that independence would greatly increase the difficulties people face in making use of their nearest public services – the nearest doctor, hospital or FE college, for example - when they happen to be on the other side of the border.

It is quite difficult to overcome cross-border bureaucratic obstacles within a single state, but I believe it would be a lot more difficult across a boundary between two sovereign states.

There are a lot of good and appealing things about living in the Borders and enjoying the differing features of two nations.

Until next Thursday’s vote is over and counted I will not be able to pass the border signs without worrying about the price we could pay if we do not stay together.