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

3  International influence in the event of independence: more or less?



65.  As part of our inquiry, we sought to understand the extent to which independence could affect the FCO's ability to discharge its foreign policy goals. In terms of certain key indicators, the RUK would retain many of its current attributes. For instance its population would only reduce from approximately 63 million to 58 million, making it the world's 23rd largest country (down from 21st now), and although it would lose just under a tenth of the UK's total GDP, it would remain the world's eighth largest economy.[92] Within international institutions the FCO maintained that, as the continuing state, the emergence of Scotland as an independent country would not affect the RUK's "strong network of alliances and relationships" and its "leading position in the major international institutions and organisations", even allowing for necessary adjustments to its institutional position consequent to its reduced population.[93] Professor Chalmers has stated that the RUK would most likely retain a defence budget comparable to that of France, and an aid budget amongst the largest in the world. He concluded that "if measured purely in such material terms, therefore, Scottish independence would have no more impact on the UK's ability to operate internationally than did the 2010 Spending Review's decision to cut the defence budget by 8 per cent over the four years to 2014/15. As with that review, the impact would be uncomfortable and serious; but it would not be catastrophic".[94] Professor Chalmers told us that provided that the RUK could secure agreement on Trident basing and post separation budgets, "it could credibly argue that the RUK had military 'hard power' that was almost comparable to what the UK would have had in the event of the maintenance of the Union".[95]

66.  The UK Government has adopted a firm position that the emergence of Scotland as an independent country would not result in the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the UK.[96] The Minister of State told us that the "strategic nuclear deterrent would be maintained" with the RUK taking "whatever measures [...] were necessary in order to do that".[97] The Scottish Government, however, has been clear that it would not allow permanent Trident basing. Ms Sturgeon said that:

the position that we would want Trident to be removed from Scotland is not negotiable. [...] We have clearly said, because we would be a responsible Government and a responsible partner, that that has to be done in the speediest safe way possible.[98]

Other witnesses did not share the UK Government's confidence. They were clear that it would be prohibitively difficult and costly to find any other site for Trident outside Scotland. This would call into question the UK's nuclear defences. Professor Omand stated that, "my fear, and it is a genuine fear, is that that would precipitate the UK out of the nuclear business".[99] The consequences of such a hard power loss from a defence perspective are being examined by the Defence Committee.

67.  From a foreign policy perspective, witnesses did not think that it would necessarily affect the RUK's short-term ability to retain key international positions such as a permanent seat on the Security Council.[100] Sir Jeremy Greenstock observed that the RUK would still be "a really quite powerful and capable state working in the international institutions and in bilateral relations". He added that it "will not look terribly good that we have lost bits and pieces of our federation. [...] But there would be very real capabilities left, and London, as a capital city, has a huge cosmopolitan power and reputation [...]".[101] Written evidence from Dr Daniel Kenealy, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh, stated that in the short term "it is hard to envision why Scotland's independence would play any causal role" in changes to the RUK's foreign policy. He added that the "RUK would, in essence, be slightly smaller, slightly less populous, and with a smaller GDP than the former UK".[102]

68.  The situation may differ over the longer term, if the RUK did not maintain, in Lord Jay's words, the "strong foreign policy and armed forces that enabled us to work with others".[103] There would also be a greater chance that the RUK's relationship with its key allies and traditional defence partners, including its privileged relationship with the US, which is at least partly sustained by nuclear and security co-operation, would come under scrutiny and review if it did not retain its nuclear deterrent, which of itself could serve to fuel the views of some states that the RUK was a power in irreversible decline.


69.  Important though hard power and its trappings undoubtedly are, there is recognition within government and beyond that the UK's international standing and soft power influence derives not simply from its material wealth, its diplomatic service or even its willingness to spend money in pursuit of foreign policy objectives.[104] For many analysts, the UK's weight on the world stage is also rooted in how others view its political stability and its long experience of continuous and constitutional government. The FCO itself places a great emphasis on the importance of soft power and public diplomacy and has prioritised the use of 'soft power' to promote British values, advance development and prevent conflict.[105] Speaking in 2011, the then FCO Minister Lord Howell, argued that the UK's "attractiveness rests on offering a positive domestic constitutional model that appears to work".[106] Catarina Tully stated that the RUK is seen as a rule-maintainer, not a rule-setter, and that the UK's "experienced broker role is respected externally and considered to add significant value in terms of making global governance work better, particularly in international institutions".[107]

70.  Most witnesses agreed that the RUK would inevitably suffer some reputational damage and Sir Jeremy Greenstock noted that "there are members of the United Nations who are sometimes reasonably content to see the UK in trouble or struggling".[108] Other witnesses claimed that the emergence of Scotland as an independent country could give rise to perceptions overseas that the UK's weight and influence is in decline. For instance, Professor Whitman and Dr Blick argued that the "prestige of the UK as a successful multinational state would be compromised by the loss of a major territory within it".[109] Catarina Tully stated that:

if soft power is about the power of attraction towards your world-view, it is at first glance difficult to see fragmentation as anything other than a negative judgment on the UK. [...] Nothing speaks louder than citizens voting with their feet. This phenomenon - in the absence of clear explanations - may well open up questions about what was wrong with the political construct formerly known as the United Kingdom. This is quite aside from the to-be-expected response of countries like Venezuela, Iran and Argentina who have interest in putting into question the UK's authority and legitimacy.[110]

71.  While there was agreement among witnesses that reputational damage would arise, there was less clarity about how this might manifest itself or what impact it could have on the RUK's ability to project its foreign policy goals. The FCO acknowledged that there could be a "short-term risk of opponents of the UK's foreign policy seeking to exploit any uncertainty or distraction that could follow a vote in favour of separation for Scotland" and that "traditional allies may seek reassurance that the UK would retain the ability to project influence and military capability in support of joint objectives".[111]

72.  Witnesses did however agree that the way in which the RUK handled "the business of the break-up" would significantly influence how much reputational damage and loss of prestige the RUK suffered internationally.[112] We heard from a number of witnesses that proactive political and diplomatic management of the situation would be required to prevent objections arsing from key states.[113] Thus far, it is not clear that the UK is doing this, partly because it has chosen to state, as a policy position, that it is confident Scots will vote to stay as part of the UK. The problem with this strategy from an international perspective, as Catarina Tully observed, is that "countries are finding it difficult to assess their own response to independence since they are not getting much response from Whitehall":

They are uncertain about what the Scottish Referendum means and what Scottish independence might mean. Herein lies an opportunity for the UK and Scotland both to engage and reassure partners' concerns while balancing their own quite separate respective agendas and build their respective soft power credibilities - whatever the outcome of the referendum.[114]

73.  Assuming that the RUK could largely maintain its hard power capabilities following Scottish independence, there is no reason to suggest that its influence in international organisations and institutions would change, at least in the short term. However, any resulting nuclear disarmament of the RUK would lead to obvious hard power losses which would have a profound impact on the RUK's future foreign policy posture.

74.  It is difficult to measure the impact on the RUK's international standing and influence in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country but we conclude that some degree of reputational damage is inevitable. We recommend that ahead of the referendum, the FCO does more, when appropriate, to engage with international partners in order to highlight the UK's commitment to a consensual and broad-based engagement on the Scottish referendum, with a view to minimising the risk of damage to the UK's reputation.


75.  As we concluded in our Report into The Role of the FCO in UK Government, the FCO is among the world's most accomplished diplomatic operations.[115] Catarina Tully stated that "British international influence in no small part comes not from its size but from the persuasiveness and forcefulness of its diplomatic service [...], its pragmatic approach, role of honest broker [and] the coherence and effectiveness of its diplomacy".[116] During this inquiry we explored whether Scotland's emergence as an independent country would have an impact on this. The ex-diplomats we heard from did not think that the RUK's daily diplomatic business would be unduly affected by independence, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock felt that "most members of the United Nations, whether or not they enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude, would get on with the business of not wanting to cause fuss over somebody else's internal business".[117] However, Professor Chalmers contended that "there will be a loss" and that "is bound to lead to some loss of self-confidence among our elite [...] I don't know what the psychological impact of that on the individuals concerned will be but it should not be underestimated".[118]

76.  The greatest impact on the diplomatic service could arise from budget cuts as part of the Government spending round that would follow Scottish becoming an independent country. Lord Jay told us that the Treasury might argue that with GDP 8% lower and the number of people that the UK represents overseas reduced by approximately the same amount, there should be a corresponding cut in the FCO's budget. He stated that:

Further significant cuts in the FCO's budget would make it difficult for the Foreign Office to continue to carry out the sorts of services that it carries out with the range of posts that it now has across the world. [...] How do you maintain with a smaller budget a spread of posts with the quality and the number of people that you need to do the job that needs to be done, with the security that you need to have in order to be able to do that? I think that that would be very difficult.[119]

77.  The FCO would also need to set up a new representative office in Scotland (with associated costs) at a time when it is under pressure to cut back on other parts of the overseas network. Its diplomats, too, would have a role to play in the independence negotiations and in developing an appropriate RUK approach to its new neighbour. There could also be a loss of staff and expertise through voluntary moves to a new Scottish diplomatic service. Inevitably, any of these scenarios would divert already scarce resources away from existing FCO programmes, although it is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy at this stage what impact this may have. We are concerned that any budgetary cuts imposed by the Treasury on the RUK's diplomatic service as a result of independence would cut into the bone of existing FCO operations. This would be magnified by the costs involved in setting up a new representation in Scotland which would inevitably divert already scarce FCO resources away from existing commitments.


78.  If Scotland were to vote 'yes' in the independence referendum, the transitional period before 2016 would coincide with a process of radical constitutional reform within the EU as well as a possible (R)UK referendum campaign on whether, and on what terms, it should remain part of the EU. We have examined these issues in detail as part of our inquiry and Report into The Future of the European Union: UK Government Policy, which will be published later this year.[120]

79.  On paper, because the RUK's population would not diminish significantly, it is likely that voting weights in the European Council would remain unchanged and there would be no formal decrease in the RUK's power or weight.[121] However, the same may not apply in the European Parliament. As Dr Murkens told us, "the problem is that the number of MEPs is capped at 750 plus the president, so any increase in Scottish representation would lead to a necessary reduction in RUK's 73 [MEPs]. Would the rest of the United Kingdom be happy to see such a dramatic reduction in its representation? I leave that question open".[122]

80.  There could be a greater informal impact on the RUK's influence. Dr Andrew Blick, University of Kent, and Professor Richard Whitman, Associate Member of Chatham House, argued that in this respect, the implications for the RUK's role in Europe would be "profound and irreversible".[123] Professor Whitman claimed that, "accompanied by the rump UK's likely continuation of its position outside the Euro zone, and the possible transition of monetary union into a deepened fiscal and political union, a status as a European diplomatic Lilliputian is one credible scenario".[124] He argued the UK would cease to be one of the EU's 'big three' Member States alongside France and Germany and could face a diminished capacity for influence bilaterally and within the EU institutions. This in turn could lead to a reduced influence with the United States if its capacity to exercise influence on EU policy-making is diminished".[125]

81.  It was also suggested that other EU countries could exploit separation to pressurise the RUK to re-negotiate the terms of its membership in particular policy areas (for example the Euro, Schengen or the budget rebate) particularly if this came at a time when the RUK was seen to be blocking or delaying key initiatives of importance to other Member States.[126] Dr Blick told us:

It adds in a whole new tier of negotiations and footwork that has to go on. If we then try to run that alongside trying to negotiate something for Scotland as well, it could become hideously complex and issues which become difficult could pop up that we cannot foresee.[127]

82.  However, Catarina Tully told us that in terms of the debate about [RUK] influence in Europe, the name of the game [...] is not really independence but the UK's attitude to the EU. That trumps all concerns about the UK reducing in size by 8% of its population, 30% of its land mass, and between 8% and 10% of its GDP".[128] From a diplomatic perspective, Sir Jeremy Greenstock stated the RUK would retain "considerable energy".[129]

83.  There is a danger that the RUK's influence within the EU could decline in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country although it is currently impossible to predict the extent of the damage that may arise, not least because this could also be affected by the consequences of the ongoing debate over the UK's future relationship with the EU.


84.  Foreign affairs are a reserved matter under current devolution arrangements with the practical arrangements for handling foreign affairs contained in a Memorandum of Understanding between HMG and the Scottish Government which includes a Concordat on the co-ordination of European Union Policy issues.[130] In essence, this provides for the UK to take the policy and political lead on foreign affairs with input from Scottish Ministers, as appropriate, where there are particular Scottish interests at stake. Within these parameters, the Scottish Government has successfully engaged on a wide range of international issues, developing strategic international objectives and engagement plans with key countries (including the USA, Canada, China and more generally South Asia) focusing on business, trade, education, culture, science and tourism.[131] It is also seeking an enhanced role for Scotland in Europe, including through the Scotland Europa Office in Brussels. According to the European Policy Centre, its presence has ensured that Scottish interests have international recognition, a voice in the European arena and an ability to cultivate relations with other institutions.[132]

85.  In addition to a network of Scottish Development International (SDI) Offices (which focus on inward investment and international trade) the Scottish Government also has staff working within the FCO overseas network on matters of particular Scottish interest and has capitalised upon the large Scottish diaspora through initiatives such as 'GlobalScot', enabling it to create business opportunities and project Scottish soft power. Indeed, the 2012 Anholt-GFK Roper Nation Brands Index Report for Scotland suggests that Scotland's reputation abroad is strong and is scored and ranked similarly and in some cases ahead of the other smaller, high income, liberal democracies on the index (e.g. Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and New Zealand). Scotland's governance and tourism are seen as Scotland's strongest points while exports are perceived as its weakest point. Across all dimensions, with the exception of exports, Scotland is ranked within the Top 20 countries.[133]


86.  It is clear from the points illustrated above, that Scotland already projects a strong Scottish voice at an international level. Yet, the Scottish Government argues that this is not sufficient for Scotland's needs. It states that:

independence will give us a voice on the world stage. As a member of the European Union and United Nations, we will be a fully-fledged partner in the international community. This will allow us to promote and protect our interests and provide an input into global issues and challenges.[134]

It adds that:

as an equal partner at these top tables [international organisations], we will have a real say in fostering global co-operation and solving conflict - in big-ticket issues such as peace and war, reconciliation, breaking down barriers and action on saving the planet.[135]

87.  We asked witnesses whether having a direct voice would allow Scotland to play the type of global role the Scottish Government aspires to. Dr Kaarbo told us that as a small and newly independent country, Scotland would lose "the objective material powers"[136] that currently enable the UK to play a global role in geopolitics, global security and international human rights through its influence in, for instance, the Security Council and the other main international groupings of the most influential and economically significant countries, such as the G8 or G20.[137] The FCO maintained that Scotland would also lose out in the international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where its voting shares and influence would be reduced from its current position as part of the UK and where "the expectation must be that an independent Scotland would not be represented by its own single seat".[138]

88.  So too, it might lose the benefits that come from the UK's ability to project soft power which, according to a 'Global Soft Power' survey published in November 2012, places the UK is at the top of the list, ahead of the US, Germany, France and Sweden. The survey concluded that no other country comes close to Britain's influence around the world. Similarly, in the 2012 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, the UK's was ranked 3rd out of 50 in countries in terms of overall reputation.[139] Catarina Tully reasoned that:

the SNP appear to have made an implicit calculation that there is a net foreign policy gain to independence for Scotland. This is despite moving from being part of the 3rd largest economy in Europe to the joint 17th. The implicit calculation may be that what Scotland loses in scale and hard power, it gains by: over a billion pound saving on defence; being able to focus on a narrower set of national objectives; using foreign policy capabilities more efficiently; using soft power more effectively; and - implicitly - stronger regional relationships. This is a typical small power diplomatic strategy: narrowly focused on specific interests and bound closely to its regional allies.[140]

89.  Witnesses told us that that as a small "resource-dependent, resource-small country"[141] intent on playing a global role it would be crucial for Scotland to pursue its foreign policy goals through the use of soft power if it was to succeed in punching above its weight internationally. Here, Scotland already performs well and if it could improve upon this by, for instance, providing innovative leadership, developing an economic niche or by highlighting its strategic importance, it could carve out a global role. However, Dr Kaarbo warned that "it is a crowded field out there" and that it would take a long time "and it would have to build up that credibility" especially since the policy areas that the Scottish Government appears to wish to influence (like climate justice) are already championed by other states with greater resources, influence and experience.[142] Professor Rose, Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, concluded that "while Scotland has the advantage of being an internationally known brand that may help to open doors abroad, this is insufficient to seal deals".[143]

90.  It would also be more difficult for Scotland to exercise influence across the wide range of issues that the Scottish Government appears to wish to champion. As Professor Richard Rose stated in his written evidence, "the lack of the hard power of military force and a large gross domestic product forces small states to rely on 'smart' power, that is, a conscious strategy of engaging with other countries in order to call attention to common interests that may be pursued for common advantage".[144] However, as Catarina Tully noted, although small states tend to choose one or two issues on which they show global leadership, "everywhere else they have to go with the consensus of the international organisation".[145] Put another way, a small state has to be "an environment taker, not an environment shaper" with "its room for manoeuvre in terms of its choices [...] shaped a lot more by its alliances".[146]


91.  Diplomatic excellence undoubtedly helps states to exercise influence internationally. Currently, Scots and Scottish businesses have access to the support and expertise provided by the FCO's overseas network which comprises around 270 diplomatic posts in 170 countries and 14,000 staff. As part of the UK, Scottish Development International's own offices in 13 countries are complemented by the UKTI network of 162 offices in 96 countries, and can draw on the UK's diplomatic representation in the rest of the world.[147] In addition, the Scottish Government has, under the auspices of the Scottish Affairs Office, four staff at the UK's Washington embassy and a further two in the British Consulate in Toronto. In Beijing there are two accredited staff. There are also 12 staff working under the umbrella of the UKREP in Brussels.[148]

92.  The FCO states that its overseas network enables the UK to "deliver a distinctive foreign policy that extends its global reach and influence on bilateral and multilateral issues such as climate change, human rights and global security, as well as assisting UK nationals overseas", all areas that the Scottish Government states it would seek to exercise influence upon.[149] According to the FCO, in 2011-12:

  • 172 grants were provided to Scottish firms through support under the UKTI's Tradeshow Access programme;
  • 310 reports were commissioned on behalf of Scottish firms through overseas posts under UKTI's Overseas Market Introduction Services;
  • Three research projects were offered to Scottish firms under UKTI's Export Marketing Research scheme;
  • Four Scottish missions to India, Brazil, Qatar and China (a total of 34 companies) were supported under UKTI's Market Visit Support programme.[150]

93.  In spite of this, and the current Government's commitment to place commerce at the heart of foreign policy, Scottish Ministers have argued that "too much of UK overseas representation is based on status and power and that's not what Scotland needs" and that "a Scottish embassy and consular network will focus more on jobs and trade and promoting Scotland internationally, with benefits for our economy".[151] The Deputy First Minister stated that "it is not necessarily a criticism of the FCO; it is just saying that [...]we would very much have that focus on trade as a key driver of our diplomatic representation abroad".[152] To achieve this, Scottish Ministers want to create a new Scottish overseas network using its existing network of 22 SDI offices located in large commercial centres as a basis for its diplomatic estate. This would allow, according to the Deputy First Minister, "a strong priority [...] on the key markets, the emerging markets, where it was important for us to be in order to support and protect our key economic interests".[153] The Deputy First Minister was not able to provide estimates for the costs involved in setting up a Scottish overseas diplomatic presence. Ms Sturgeon stated that in terms of running costs, other similar, small states like Norway or Denmark spent "in about the region of £100 million to £200 million".[154] She told us that "it would certainly be the objective of an independent Scottish Government to replicate the quality of the representation that is provided [by the FCO], not necessarily doing it in exactly the same way with exactly the same property footprint".[155]

94.   We asked witnesses whether the diplomatic infrastructure outlined above would deliver the added impact and influence the Scottish Government aspires to. The FCO told us that the UK's privileged relationships and diplomatic, consular and UKTI network delivers benefits to Scottish people and businesses at home and overseas.[156] It reasons that it is "difficult to see how those relationships would be more productive for Scotland than those privileged relationships the UK currently enjoys with the rest of the world, and particularly the other major international powers, including the emerging economies".[157] We also asked Lord Jay for his response to the Scottish Government's claim that too much of UK representation is based on status and power as distinct to "what Scotland needs". He reasoned that:

You don't want status and power for its own sake. You want status and power because that enables you to exert the influence you need to exert to bring about the policies you want to have executed. They do not stand on their own. You can call it what you like, but what you want is to have the impact in a country which enables you to go and talk to the people who really count and say, "This is what we need," and get a receptive response. You do not necessarily need to have a traditional embassy structure to do that, but it very often helps.[158]

Scale and costs

95.  Replicating the FCO's quality of representation would involve, according to the FCO itself "change of considerable magnitude".[159] Professor Rose wrote that it would involve "creating almost from scratch the full panoply of representation currently provided by the UK Government".[160] Although there is no fixed rule about how many embassies and ambassadors a state should have, by way of comparison Finland has 93 posts (although they are due to be cut because of budgetary pressures), Austria has 82 and Ireland 73.[161] The Scottish Government has not detailed how many embassies in total it would seek to have. Scotland would also need to establish representations to key international organisations such as the UN, Commonwealth and NATO and many of the other key international agencies based in New York, Geneva and Vienna. In terms of the EU, Professor Rose expected that Scotland would need to establish and staff major embassies in up to two dozen national capitals. He also anticipated that its permanent representation office in Brussels would need to be eight to ten times larger than its existing mission.[162] He added that:

It is a diplomatic truism that to represent a country it is necessary to be present, whether or not the EU committee meeting is one in which a country has an interest. It is necessary to monitor Commission preparations of proposals; the reaction of home departments affected by a specific Commission proposal; and the position that other countries are likely to take on an issue that makes them suitable partners in an alliance based on common interests. All of this takes time and skilled staff. [163]

96.  As Lord Jay noted, this would amount to the creation of "a reasonably sized diplomatic service just to do what would need to be done".[164] Resources could be optimised through the European External Action Service or by working diplomatically with other states. However, Lord Jay warned this would still have significant cost and security implications.[165] Scotland would also need to recruit specialist staff including linguists.[166] Witnesses raised the possibility that some FCO staff may wish to leave and join a new Scottish diplomatic service[167] but the FCO was clear that its personnel could not be compelled to join a new service.[168]

97.  Witnesses agreed that it was possible to create a different model of overseas representation but cautioned that in addition to annual running costs there would need to be substantial capital investment. Unlike states such as Denmark which have built up their overseas networks over centuries, an independent Scotland would incur significant one-off costs if it was to acquire from scratch comparable properties, equipment and staff. All of this would also need to be achieved as a matter of urgency, concurrently with creating new ministries in Edinburgh.[169] Although the Scottish Government could reduce some costs through its plans to use its existing 22 SDI offices, Lord Jay noted that these are not all in capital cities and are therefore not always best suited to non-commercial activity.[170]

98.  There is no reason in principle why Scotland could not set up a fully functioning and successful diplomatic service if it became an independent country but, in the absence of a coherent and costed diplomatic vision, Scottish voters should be under no illusion about the significant resources that would be required to fulfil the Scottish Government's aim of replicating the quality of the business and consular support currently provided by the FCO and UKTI. Seasoned and experienced diplomats who can influence agendas through longstanding cultural, linguistic political awareness are the product of many years of training which cannot be replicated cheaply or quickly, as the FCO knows only too well. Independence may provide Scotland with an opportunity to pursue more innovative forms of diplomatic representation, but there would inevitably be trade-offs. It takes more than good will and soft power to seal deals internationally and Scotland would be starting from scratch in this regard, a fact that would not be lost on the many Scottish businesses that currently benefit from the FCO's support and the many Scottish nationals who use the FCO's consular services.


99.  The Scottish Government has asserted that Scottish interests would be better represented by an independent Scottish presence in the EU rather than as part of the UK. Speaking in January 2013, the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, argued that "it is only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland at the referendum next year that will ensure Scotland's voice is always heard at the top tables of Europe".[171] Giving oral evidence to us, Ms Sturgeon referred to research that suggests that small states in Europe have been more successful in negotiating legislation than some of the larger states, in order to reinforce her view that "states can be influential in Europe notwithstanding the relative smallness of their territory or population".[172] She also told us that:

The starting point of Scotland right now is as a country as part of the UK that has significant responsibilities in devolved areas where it is often in our interest and would be in our interest to argue a case directly before the European Union, in the Council for example, where our ability to do so is heavily restricted. Our Fisheries Minister [...] cannot articulate and represent the Scottish interests without reference to the UK Government and does not have the ability to depart from a UK Government line even if that was in the interests of Scotland.[173]

100.  In its written evidence, the FCO defended the status quo and argued that as one of the largest Member States in the EU, the UK has a considerable say over policies that have a particular impact in Scotland such as regulation of the financial services industry, health and safety regulation affecting the offshore oil industry and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.[174] Mr Lidington also argued that the influence of small Member States in the EU is variable and heavily dependent on alliances and support from large Member States.[175]

101.  The FCO did acknowledge that in the Council of the European Union, the main forum for decisions amongst the Member States, smaller countries have tended to have a higher voting weight proportional to their population than the larger ones. However, it also noted that this is set to change in 2014 with the introduction of the new voting system agreed under the Lisbon Treaty. Under this arrangement, legislative proposals will in general need to be backed by over 55% of the Member States and by countries together representing over 65% of the EU's population. The FCO and a number of witnesses argued that this would tend to increase the voting weight of the larger Member States, including the UK, relative to the current position, and would diminish the voting weight of smaller Member States.[176] Yet Ms Sturgeon told us that "whether it is under the current voting arrangements or under the double majority arrangements that Europe will move to from 2014 onwards, we will have significantly more influence than we do just now".[177]

102.  Witnesses were not convinced that a direct voice would necessarily equate to a greater influence or an ability to shape particular policy areas. Professor Rose stated that the pressure for consensus in EU decision-making and rules for super-majorities "mean that individual countries, whatever their size, must form alliances on an issue by issue basis in order to have their positions incorporated in an EU decision".[178] Mr Lidington observed that even if Scotland was to find a place within a coalition of small states, "in raw political terms it is the leaders of the big Member States who tend to count for most [...]. Frankly, if you get something where France, Germany and the UK, or France, Germany, the UK and Poland all line up together, it is very difficult, even for a coalition of small Member States, to resist that".[179]

103.  Other witnesses argued that even if Scotland gained a direct voice after independence, on some issues it would still have "a lot less room to manoeuvre" than a large state.[180] Equally, although the number of Scottish MEPs would increase substantially, Professor Rose stated that "the extent to which Scottish voices would be strengthened [...] depends less on the number of Scots in a European Parliament of 751 MEPs than it does on the abilities of the individuals whom parties nominate and Scots elect".[181] Finally, the European Policy Centre observed that:

the UK's voice is heard even on issues such as EU economic and financial governance, where it has exercised its opt-out. This occurs not out of politeness but because it is a big state. Except for those matters where the consent of all members is required, smaller Scotland could expect no such treatment.[182]

An industry perspective on the EU

104.  In written evidence, the trade body representing one of Scotland's key industries, appeared content with the support it currently receives from the FCO. The Scotch Whisky Association stated that "effective and influential representation" by the UK on the EU Trade Policy Committee and Market Access Advisory Committee has been key to tackling market access problems. It added that "ensuring the UK's trade voice is heard within the EU is vital given the lead role of the European Commission and the EU's overseas delegations on trade issues" and that the support received from UK departments and the UK Permanent Representation in Brussels on EU internal market issues is "invaluable". In particular, it praised FCO support in relation to the complex issues surrounding product labelling and matters relating to EU accession countries.[183]

105.  As far as the EU is concerned, a direct Scottish voice would not necessarily equate to more influence; influence is an upshot of many state attributes, not an automatic by-product of sovereignty. While an independent Scotland could have a more distinct voice than it does now, that does not mean that it would be able to alter unilaterally the content of policies to its own ends. It could be more effective for the Scottish Government to seek to re-visit existing arrangements on foreign policy in order to explore whether, working within the parameters of the current devolution settlement, Scottish interests could be given a more direct voice on certain issues. We recommend that in its response to this report the FCO outlines its views on this matter.

92   As at 27 March 2011 the UK's population was 63,181,775, comprising: England - 53,012,456 (83.9%); Wales - 3,063,456 (4.8%); Scotland - 5,295,000 (8.4%); Northern Ireland - 1,810,863 (2.9%)1, ONS Statistical Bulletin 2011 Census: Population Estimates for the United Kingdom, 27 March 2011, dated 17 December 2012; See also Ev 97. Back

93   Ev 75 [FCO] Back

94   Malcolm Chalmers, "Kingdom's End?", The RUSI Journal, 157:3, 2012, 6-11 Back

95   Ev 86 Back

96   Q 339 [David Lidington] Back

97   Q 338 Back

98   Q 293 Back

99   Q 144 Back

100   Q 74 [Sir Jeremy Greenstock] Back

101   Q 62 Back

102   Ev 91 Back

103   Q 205 Back

104   Malcolm Chalmers, 'Kingdom's End?', The RUSI Journal, (2012),157:3, 6-11 Back

105   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Business Plan 2011-2015, May 2011 Back

106   Rt Hon Lord Howell of Guildford, HL Deb, 28 April 2011, col 307  Back

107   Ev 112 Back

108   Q 58 Back

109   Ev 79 Back

110   Ev 112 Back

111   Ev 75 Back

112   Q 61 Back

113   Q 91 Back

114   Ev 112 Back

115   Foreign Affairs Committee, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, HC 665, 12 May 2011, para 21 Back

116   Ev 112 Back

117   Q 59 Back

118   Q 91 Back

119   Q 185 Back

120   Evidence submitted to the inquiry can be found on the Committee's website: Back

121   Q 11 [Dr Murkens] Back

122   Q 12. Currently Scotland has 6 MEPs, There are 73 UK MEPs. 72 were elected in the European Parliament elections on 4 June 2009. The UK gained an additional seat in the West Midlands region on 1 December 2011, As a result of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.  Back

123   Ev 78 Back

124   Ev 79 Back

125   Ev 79. See also Ev 90 [Dr Kenealy]. Back

126   Ev 91 [Dr Kenealy]; Ev 108 [Dr Zuleeg] Back

127   Q 56 Back

128   Q160 Back

129   Q 60 Back

130   This also includes a Joint Ministerial Committee (Europe) responsible for resolving possible disagreements over EU affairs between devolved administrations and the UK Government Back

131   See for example, 'Scotland's International Framework', Scottish Government, October 2012  Back

132   Engel and Parkes, "Accommodating an independent Scotland" Back

133   'The Anholt - GFK Roper Nation Brands Index(SM): 2012 Report for Scotland', Scottish Government, 7 December 2012, Back

134   'Your Scotland, Your Future' Scottish National Party, December 2011 Back

135   IbidBack

136   Q 170 Back

137   Ev 74 [FCO] Back

138   Ev 74 [FCO]. Not all independent states have a single seat. Some form alliances and are represented by a single state. Back

139   Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index 2012, 23 October 2012 Back

140   Ev 114 Back

141   Q 170 [Dr Kaarbo] Back

142   Q 173 [Ms Tully]  Back

143   Ev 102 Back

144   Ev 102 Back

145   Q 169 Back

146   Q 157 Back

147   Ev 76 Back

148   HL Deb 27 Feb 2012, col WA206 Back

149   Ev 75 Back

150   HC Deb, 5 Nov 2012, col 3MC Back

151   BBC News Online, 25 June 2012  Back

152   Q 292 Back

153   Q 292 Back

154   Q 319 Back

155   Q 290 Back

156   Ev 75 Back

157   Ev 74 Back

158   Q 201 Back

159   Ev 76 Back

160   Ev 101 Back

161   Q 359 [David Lidington]. See also Ev 102 [Professor Rose]. Back

162   Ev 101 Back

163   Ev 102 Back

164   Q193 Back

165   Q 193 Back

166   Q 194 Back

167   Ev 92 [Dr Kenealy] Back

168   Ev 76 Back

169   Ev 102 [Professor Rose] Back

170   Q 193 Back

171   "Scotland and rUK in EU: co-equal successor states", SNP Press Release, 19 January 2013 Back

172   Q 287 Back

173   Q 288 Back

174   Ev 74 Back

175   Q 347 Back

176   Ev 74 Back

177   Q 287 Back

178   Ev 102 Back

179   Q 365 Back

180   Q 157 [Catarina Tully] Back

181   Ev 102 Back

182   Engel and Parkes, "Accommodating an independent Scotland" Back

183   Ev 104 Back

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