Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Everyday life under independence - Part 1. A new passport

I only managed to watch a little bit of last night's Big Debate on Scotland's future. I do wish the BBC wouldn't hide these things past my bedtime, but I knew that I'm not likely to get a huge amount of sleep tonight, what with the US Election and all that.

I'll watch the whole thing later. There was certainly a good quality panel - Willie Rennie, Angela Constance, Anas Sarwar and Patrick Harvie. The first question from the audience of 16 and 17 year olds was on a subject close to my heart - immigration. I'd be surprised if you didn't know by now that I don't think much of the UK Border Agency, or the unhelpful and misinformed attitude towards immigration of both Tories and Labour, not to mention the less mainstream parties down south.

Willie Rennie mentioned that there was no guarantee on the terms of EU Membership that an independent Scotland would have so we don't know whether we would be forced to join the Schengen Agreement which allows borderless travel within Europe. The UK has an opt out, and so does Ireland in order to preserve its common free travel area with the UK. An independent Scotland, if it wished, might well be able to secure that opt out - but there is no guarantee that it would. This is something we need to know before we vote in 2014, and we need to have more of an assurance than the SNP telling us that it'll be fine. They've got form for saying that kind of thing without any actual basis in fact to back it up.

We need to be aware that we might end up in the EU, but a member of Schengen. That means that the free travel we enjoy within these islands is likely to be compromised, with border posts being set up at the border with England.

A few of us were discussing this last night on Twitter. Below is a bit of the conversation I had with Kate Higgins, or The Burd as she is better known in the Blogosphere. The prospect of having to show passports to get into England doesn't bother her.

That's a perfectly legitimate point of view. As is the view that this would only be a minor inconvenience. The conversation continued:

But what if you don't have a passport? I didn't until we went to Mallorca for the first time in 1993, when I was 26. Some people don't travel abroad, or can't afford to. The current price for a UK passport is £72.50 for an adult, £46 for a child. That means that a family of four wanting to go and see their Granny in Newcastle would have an extra cost of £237 plus whatever it cost to get the photos done before they started. And what about the Scottish teenager with the minimum wage job in the Tesco in Carlisle? They'd be queuing at the border every day.

It's something we have to think about. Ok, if you fly to London, you have to show photo ID - although this can be a driving licence - but you don't need to carry your passport if you're going on the train. It might not be a big deal to some, but it'll be a major pain in the neck for others.

This got me thinking, though. Bob and I have to renew our passports by May next year, before the referendum. If Scotland votes yes, then we'll only get 3 years' use out of them. And then I actually thought about having to give up my UK Passport. And, to my surprise, I filled up a bit. It hit me that I really don't want to be part of a different country. I'm a proud Scot, but I love the UK too. I feel quite an emotional attachment to the UK and it would be a real wrench to be forced out of it.

I know I'm a bit soft lump at the best of times, but even I was surprised at how much just the thought of filling in a passport form to the Scottish Government saddened me. I know, equally, for others the thought would be the sign of some great liberation that they've wanted all their lives, but I can't share that.

Of course, if Scotland votes for independence, I guess I'll have to get used to it. Bob and I would have to surrender our UK passports and apply for Scottish ones. If I could choose to, I'd want to stay part of the UK, but the choice would be a Scottish passport or be stateless I guess and I like the sunshine too much to confine myself here. Anna was born in England, but I assume as she has Scottish parents she'd get a Scottish passport. 

There will be families, though, who will have to have different passports. If you're a Scot married to someone from England, where will your family stand? What about the children - could they get dual nationality? I know lots of couples with different passports because they come from different countries and it's fine - but they were in different countries when they got together. It's not the same as being in the same country that's then split up.

There will be lots of things like this that the SNP will have to explain in some detail to us about how they'll work in an independent Scotland. As a minimum we'll need to know:
  • who will qualify for Scottish citizenship
  • what about their spouse/kids if they are English, Welsh or Irish, EU, or outside EU
  • if your spouse comes from outside EU, will they have right of residency here?
  • what immigration controls will there be?
So many from my generation have got together with people from abroad, much more than in the past. It will be even greater, I suspect, with the generation of 16 an 17 year olds in the audience last night. They need to know answers to these questions before they vote. 

Now, don't for a moment mistake me for someone who likes the UK immigration rules as they currently stand. In fact, I think this is where Ming Campbell's Home Rule Commission might have missed a trick, by not specifically giving some rights on immigration to Scotland. It kind of did, because it imposes a statutory duty to consult between state Governments within a Federal UK but it wasn't explicitly mentioned. Even so, that's a huge improvement on where we currently stand. 

So one question in a debate has set me off on quite a long and involved train of thought about the practicalities of life after independence. I'm sure the next two years will have plenty more. I'm fairly certain that I'll be called all the evil scaremongering witches by the cybernats, who consider questions as negative smears. I don't care, though. We need to know these things. 


JPJ2 said...

As the UK Government is the member state, and therefore the entity formally entitled to request advice on EU issues, why doesn't Rennie pick up the phone to Clegg and ask hime to ensure that the relevant advice is provided?

Why instead do the Lib Dems wallow unnecessarily in negative speculations about how an independent Scotland would be treated?

Unknown said...

Hmmm, yes, if the advice wasn't to the SNP's liking, I am sure that they would just accept it without question...

JPJ2 said...

A thought this time on the passport issue. Here is a fact-not a speculation, a fact.

My late Irish mother left Ireland in 1944 and came to England to work to be near my late father (yes, she actually left neutral Ireland and worked in a munitions factory).

She then lived in Scotland from 1947 until her death in 2005 (voting SNP from the mid-60s).

As she never left the British Isles, she never had need of a passport either Irish or British. She travelled backwards and forward to the Irish republic many time over many decades and never/ever required a passport to vist the country of her birth in spite of it having separated violently from the UK.

Incidentally, as her son, as well as my UK passport, I am entitled on application to have an Irish passport as well.

Perhaps you are not scaremongering, but your scenarios are typically IMPROBABLE.

Allan Heron said...

Must say that I find it hard to get worked up about the possibility of needing a passport to get into the United Kingdom should Scotland vote for independence. Likewise all the overly sentimental stuff about family members being born in different parts of the United Kingdom.

Worth noting though that for young people many places will only accept either a driving license or a passport as proof of identity. Both of these are expensive if you have no reason to have them other than for this purpose.

JPJ2 - it really is up to the Yes Campaign and the SNP government to make and sustain their own arguments. If they (and, perhaps, you) think that you're going to convince and/or convert anyone by not providing answers in this (and other) matters then you're going to be very, very disappointed in 2014.

Unknown said...

I was surprised that I got worked up about it to that extent, to be honest. But it is a big thing. A friend of mine said the other week that he wanted his wife and him to have the same nationality - and they wouldn't under indy.

And Anna says she wants to live in the same country where Doctor Who is made...

Allan, do Young Scot cards not count as proof of ID?

JPJ2 said...

Allan Heron

I think you will find that the media publishes pro-union nonsense stories much more readily than it publishes pro-independence stories, or rebuttals of incredible anti-independence stories. After another 2 years I expect these nonsenses will be less than convincing.

Consider as an example, the recent dredging up of an 18 year old video from Van Rumpoy attacking "separatism". No mention either that his party is being thoroughly whupped by Flanders nationalists.

Tell me, does anyone believe that if Belgium at the heart of Europe splits, they will suffer all-or any- of the problems threatened to Scotland? Let's live in the real world.

Allan Heron said...

Many place won't accept Young Scot cards. Mostly pubs and clubs as far as I can make out but these places will have somewhat greater importance to young people than they will to us ;-)

Martin's had to carry his passport with him since he turned 18 to be sure he's got all possibilities covered.

Anonymous said...

Hello Caron.The key question to be asked is on currency.If the Bank of England is not the lender of last resort where does that leave Scotland.will the snp launch a new central bank and currency.what happens when during negotiations with the eu if they insist on Scotland joining the euro.The eu euro members are moving towards greater fiscal and political union.this includes keeping the deficit under strict control.Will it be the snp policy to get greater fiscal controls for Scotland just to hand them over to Brussels.the idea that Scotland would continue using sterling without BoE as lender of last resort is a joke .You would see a run on the banks north of the new border as no one could depend on an independent Scotland's financial institutions.also an independent Scotland would need its own financial regulator it could not use the rest of the uks as the snp currently plans

Richard Gadsden said...

The sensible thing to do would be for everyone currently resident in Scotland to be granted dual nationality (UK/Scotland) until they wanted to give one up, but people born afterwards would only get one or the other.

It's not like they make much of a difference - we'd still have right to live and work in each other's countries, courtesy of the EU.

But it's a mess, and the SNP should be answering these questions and not just blathering on about how it will all be fine.

Paul said...

You moving to Wales, Caron?

I fail to get interested or bothered about the passport issue. We just went over to France to Disneyland Paris on the eurostar (never fly when you don't have, remember that, a far more important issue than passports) and passport control was literally a 30 second affair. If it is that easy to get to France why will it be hard to get to England?

My relatives in Northern Ireland regularly cross the border into the Republic - a similar situation don't you think.

I have work friends who live in Switzerland but work in France, or is it the other way around, I'm not sure and it doesn't matter.

If there is independence, in 10 years time no one will care about the passport issue.

There are more important things to think about in the independence debate than this


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