Foreign policy considerations for the UK and Scotland in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  On 18 September 2014, people in Scotland will decide whether they wish Scotland to be an independent country. Such a move, if it comes to pass, would have wide-ranging international consequences not just for Scotland but for the UK too. Although vibrant public and political debate has taken place on many facets of independence, foreign policy issues have received less attention, and those discussions which have taken place have tended to focus heavily on Scotland's potential relationship with the European Union. While there is no doubting the importance of the EU issue, other foreign affairs questions also merit scrutiny. With this in mind, we launched our inquiry in July 2012 and invited evidence on whether, and it what ways, Scotland becoming independent could affect both Scotland and the UK's future international standing, influence and foreign policy priorities; their membership of, and standing in, key international bodies; their relations with key allies; and the likely shape of Scotland's future foreign policy.[1]

2.  As a Westminster-based Committee our aim was to help inform the foreign policy debate on both sides of the border, to approach with an open mind the issues under consideration, to listen carefully to the Scottish Government's views, and to work, in the best select committee tradition, on a non-partisan basis. Two of our members represent Scottish constituencies, while another covers the border area abutting Scotland.

3.  In addition to receiving a wide range of written evidence from individuals and organisations, we took oral testimony from legal and constitutional experts, academics, and former senior diplomats. We were also pleased that Ministers from both the UK and Scottish Governments agreed to give oral evidence to us in Edinburgh. A full list of those we heard from can be found at the end of this Report. We would like to place on record our thanks to all those who have contributed to this inquiry and helped to inform it by offering their views either orally or in writing.

4.  Our work has also been informed by the wide range of select committee inquiries which are taking place in both the House of Commons and House of Lords on related aspects of Scottish independence. These include inquiries by the Defence Committee, the Scottish Affairs Committee, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, and the House of Lords EU Committee. Where it has been pertinent, we have drawn upon evidence provided to these Committees whilst also seeking to avoid duplicating their work.

5.  This report is split into three main chapters, plus one concluding section containing some general observations and remarks, and covers the main topics outlined in our terms of reference. We have focused on subjects that appeared, on the basis of the evidence we received, to be most pertinent. This is necessarily selective, not just because the foreign policy implications for both Scotland and the UK are so numerous, but also because many international implications would be dependent on the wider negotiating process that would take place in the event of independence, and would involve subjects and policy areas that extend well beyond our remit.[2] We were also constrained by a lack of published detail about the Scottish Government's proposed foreign policy, which has made it difficult to discern its policy positions on a number of issues. While we are grateful to the Scottish Deputy First Minister for providing oral evidence on certain topics, we nevertheless look forward to the publication of its detailed views on the foreign policy implications of independence in the coming months. We hope this will allow additional scrutiny of a much wider range of relevant international issues.

A note on terminology

6.  Originally, the title of this inquiry was 'Foreign policy implications of, and for, a separate Scotland'. However, in the period since we announced our terms of reference, official agreement was reached on the wording of the 2014 referendum question. As such, the title of our report has been changed to reflect this agreed form of words. Also throughout this Report and for the sake of convenience we use 'RUK' as a shorthand way of referring to the 'Rest of the UK', the state which, in the event of Scottish independence, would comprise the UK minus Scotland (England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

1   The full terms of reference can be found at Back

2   For example, the issue of the allocation of public assets, debts and liabilities. Back

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Prepared 1 May 2013