SNP's Scottish border Square

Hard times will follow the SNP’s hard border

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LAST WEEK an SNP MSP proclaimed that a hard border would create jobs – “we can show that a border will work – there are issues that have been brought to my attention that show that jobs can be created if a border is created”, saidEmma Harper MSP.

Nicola Sturgeon backtracked, saying a hard border was not SNP policy.  But Sturgeon is wrong and Emma Harper right about the consequences if Scotland secedes, however absurd the idea.

A hard border is an inevitable outcome of the SNP’s policy that a separate Scotland would join the EU. As the Institute of Government stated in a report just out on the consequences of Scotland joining the EU:

“If Scotland joined the EU, a hard border on the island of Great Britain would be the inevitable result. Although EU membership would reduce barriers to trade between Scotland and the EU, it would increase them on trade across the Anglo-Scottish border, which would become a new external customs and regulatory frontier for the EU. After more than three centuries as part of a single market, Scotland and England would find themselves on either side of a hard economic border.”

Emma Harper is right in saying that some jobs would be created by a hard border. There would be jobs for border guards, customs staff – and for people running the ice cream and snacks vans that would cater to the long queues on either side of the border.

Millions would of course need to be spent in creating border infrastructure; lay-bys, hard standings and inspection sheds for the delayed hauliers, booths for passport control and staff facilities. The cost would be borne disproportionately by the Scottish exchequer as it would be the EU insisting on the new concrete jungle not the UK.

More importantly the medium and long term overall economic consequences for Scotland would be catastrophic. LSE Professor Dr Thomas Sampson states: ‘My research finds that independence would… reduce Scotland’s income per capita by somewhere between six and nine per cent. That’s coming from the additional cost of trading across the border, higher prices and fewer opportunities for exporting.’

The Institute of Government report explains further:

“Businesses operating across the Anglo–Scottish border would face new barriers to trade. As an EU member state, Scotland would have no choice but to enforce customs processes, as well as regulatory checks on goods such as animal and plant products. There would be a need for new border infrastructure to enforce these rules. VAT processes and rules of origin requirements would create further barriers to cross-border trade and compliance costs for businesses.  Scotland exports substantially more to the rest of the UK than to the EU so barriers to trade could be costly to the Scottish economy. Scottish business trades around three times as much across the Anglo–Scottish border as it does with the EU.”

As Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations has explained, it’s not plausible that Scotland could itself choose to put up no barriers to trade because “if Scotland was an EU member state then it would have to apply the common EU trade policy” which requires checks and controls at the border.

The congestion caused at the potential bottleneck of the Coldstream Bridge border crossing on the A697 – never mind the tailbacks on the border on the M74/M6 and the A1 – would be a new experience for drivers not used to queues such as those at the Eurotunnel on an off-day.

The moving of livestock would become especially difficult – as would people taking their dogs with them on holiday. One only has to look at the problems people are now experiencing taking seed potatoes, trees and shrubs and any animals (dead or alive ) to Northern Ireland from Great Britain to see what difficulties can arise.

Of course one also wonders what the economic benefits of independence might be to make all the hassle worthwhile, given that under SNP control devolved Scotland’s economy has done considerably worse than the rest of the UK with an growth rate a third or a half lower than the UK growth rate; lower business investment; declining business scale-ups; fewer innovative businesses; lower productivity; a declining proportion of the workforce in training; and, employment growing at 2/3 of UK level.

Given the SNP also has an extensive track record of failure in every other policy area, how would it do any better if it had untrammelled power in an independent Scotland?

Which competent nationalist politicians has the SNP they been hiding who would actually know what they are doing and could be brought in to replace the current incompetent shower? What magical elixir would independence bring?

Of course Scotland’s economic performance would be very considerably worse. Without the substantial financial transfers from the British Treasury and with the huge disadvantage of a hard border providing significant friction and delayed access to Scotland’s largest market, the economy would be in freefall.  Taxes would go up, as would poverty, well above the increased levels achieved by the SNP after their 14 years of failure.

The Institute of Government puts it politely: “As the SNP makes its electoral pitch that now is the time to vote again on independence, it must also be open about the trade-offs that Scotland would face, and the costs as well as benefits that EU membership would bring to an independent Scotland”.

To be more blunt, it is most depressing that the SNP cannot be honest with voters about the necessity of a hard border and the economic destruction that would inevitably follow.

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