On 18 September 2014 Scottish voters will decide
whether Scotland should become an independent country. There has
been extensive debate about the impact of independence. This report
focuses on what the constitutional implications for the rest of
the UK would be were a "yes" vote to be returned.
Of prime importance would be whether the rest of
the United Kingdom would be the "continuator" state,
retaining its current international status and institutions. The
evidence we received demonstrated that it would, and that an independent
Scotland would be a new "successor" state. This would
have significant implications for negotiations about independence
following a "yes" vote. It would mean that UK institutions
(including Parliament, the BBC and the Bank of England) would
remain institutions of the rest of the UK. It would affect how
assets and liabilities would be apportioned, with certain assets
apportioned in accordance with legal principles and other assets
and liabilities subject to political negotiations, based on the
principle of equity.
Statements by UK Government ministers suggest that
they would cease to represent the interests of Scotland immediately
after a "yes" vote. We conclude that this would create
constitutional difficulties: while the political dynamic would
have changed, the UK Government would continue to have international
and domestic responsibilities for Scotland between a "yes"
vote and the date of independence. Arrangements would need to
be made to ensure that Scotland continued to be represented internationally.
On domestic matters reserved to the UK Parliament, the Scottish
Government should be consulted during this period on long-term
decisions primarily or solely affecting Scotland.
MPs for Scottish constituencies should remain in
Parliament until Scotland became independent and leave at that
point. Any changes in their status after a "yes" vote
being returned, and the timing of their departure from Parliament,
would need to be settled quickly. The same issue would not arise
for Scottish peers who sit as peers of the United Kingdom; under
current law they would, however, need to be taxpayers in the remaining
UK to continue to sit.
We recommend that, to avoid any risk of legal challenge,
a bill should be introduced soon after a "yes" vote
to establish a negotiating team for the rest of the UK and to
devolve to the Scottish Parliament power to do the same for Scotland.
A small team representing the UK Government should negotiate for
the rest of the UK, in consultation with the official opposition
and the Welsh and Northern Irish executives. MPs representing
Scottish constituencies should not negotiate for the rest of the
UK, hold those negotiators to account nor ratify the outcome of
the negotiations. There would be no constitutional or legal necessity
to adhere to the Scottish Government's proposed timetable of independence
in March 2016.
Following negotiations, UK legislation would be needed
to end the UK Parliament's jurisdiction over Scotland and to enact
the results of negotiations.