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The Edinburg Agreement is an agreement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government over the terms of the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence. Yes you read correctly, Scotland is going to see about becoming independent from the UK. Easier said than done however when you consider the legal consequences that would follow. We aren’t talking about the situation in Sudan where the independent state of South Sudan was created in 2011. This is immensely more complicated but the Scots don’t seem to think so.


Legal opinions are being released in a series of UK papers intended to help make the case that Scotland should remain part of the UK. One of the legal issues is what exactly happens to the status of Scotland if it becomes independent. Well one would imagine that it is then a new state that would be recognized by the international community and have the ability to enter into treaties with other nations. These are a few of the requirements for a self proclaimed country to be recognized as an independent nation state according to international law. But then technically, this new Scotland is not a party to any treaties yet, only the UK is. If Scotland is a brand new independent nation state, wouldn’t they have to apply to be members of the EU and the UN just like all other countries do? Isn’t that the way it goes? The UK thinks so and the Scots do not. In fact they both find each other exceptionally arrogant that each one would have the opposite views on this legal issue.


Another important point brought up is what to do with all the treaties that the UK is a part of. Scotland, as an independent country, wouldn’t just continue to be a part of those treaties as they are specifically between a country and the UK. We are talking about every valid treaty that the UK has been a party to having to be reviewed and re-signed by this new nation state of Scotland. Does Scotland get to pick and choose then what treaties it wants?


Another criticism by the UK is brought up by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon whose statement was in response to Scotland’s belief that their place in the EU would not be affected by independence. She stated “[i]f they believe this and if they think that they keep all the rights of the UK, does that mean that they keep all the liabilities as well, including the UK national debt?” Very good point Ms. Sturgeon. This is beginning to sound like a young teenager that wants to be independent but still use his father’s credit score when going to the bank for a loan.


Questions asked:

1) According to international law, would Scotland have to apply to be a member of the European Union and the United Nations if it gains independence? Please cite to the law or case you are using for your answer.


2) If Scotland gains independence, what about all those treaties that the UK is a party to? Specifically the beneficial ones that Scotland would like to remain a part of. Do they have to review and sign as an independent state? That could take years between negotiations and legal work. Is the party that UK signed with under any obligation to automatically allow Scotland to sign on according to international law? Is there a legal alternative to cut all the red tape?


3) Scotland wants all the benefits but none of the hardships. What about the UK national debt? Scotland is accountable for some of that debt, between national security, the wars over the past 10 years, basic costs of national governing, does Scotland just get off without having to pay a bill? What happens if they try that and the UK refuses to grant independence until they do? Civil war? War of Independence? Can they become independent without the permission of the UK?


4) Would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies, that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!!

Source: Financial Times 


  1. This is a very interesting problem. The first question posed seems relatively easy and straight forward, and it would seem that Scotland would have to apply to the EU and UN. While this probably will not be a problem for Scotland to join the EU and UN, because the UK (and all countries comprising it) is already a member and is likely to be recognized. If they were to apply on their own, it would likely be a mere formality.

    The biggest obstacles in my opinion are definitely questions two and three. I think that if Scotland wants its independence it is going to come at some cost to them. One of these costs has to be that they accept any and all treaties that the UK is a party to and they accept partial debts. Scotland has been recognizing international agreements that were imposed upon it and it would seem that they would simply continue doing so after gaining independence. I’m sure that there could be a situation where they would be able to pick and choose, but this option will likely be taken away from them if they receive independence.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Pierre that Scotland is acting like a teenager who wants independence and relief from all debt of the UK. There needs to be some reconciliation prior to independence and it would likely involve some complicated formula taking into account the GDP that Scotland contributes to the UK and the percentage of their population.

    Bottom line, I do not see Scotland having a hard time receiving recognition from the rest of the world as an independent country (they compete separately in soccer haha), but there will need to be long, grueling negotiations about the terms of the secession.

  2. Mr. Masi I will have to humbly disagree with your statement that admission would be a simple formality. The issue with the first question in my view is one of time and the consequences of that time if admission is not automatic at the time of Scotland’s independence. If Scotland had to apply to the EU and have the status of a non-member, all the benefits that go along with being part of that organization will not be available to Scotland during the application process. It will suffer significantly as all of its future exports will no longer have the benefit of the EU perks. This is because it could take years for Scotland to become part of the EU. To quote from the Copenhagen Criteria on the requirements a nation must meet in order to join the EU “…the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.” ( This means that time must be given to test Scotland’s new economy. Hundreds of millions of pounds are at stake that Scotland is going to lose and their economy will suffer while the EU verifies that Scotland’s economy could meet this requirement.

    Is it fair then that Scotland should get no preferential treatment with admission to the EU because it seeks independence from a country that conquered it, like automatic admission? On the other hand, is it fair to the other EU members to not make sure that Scotland’s economy can meet the requirements that other countries had to in order to join the EU simply because Scotland used to be a part of the UK? What solution would you offer with what legal justification?

    On a more important note Mr. Masi, I am still awaiting an answer to my 4th question in the original post…

  3. This is obviously a difficult problem to solve. Either way it is decided will have long lasting effects on the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the international landscape as a whole. I do not feel I’m qualified to comment on which side is right or even to speculate on how things will ultimately turn out in the end. However, I do know one thing. If William Wallace were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse. Certainly he would need help in delivering freedom to the Scots. So he would most likely join forces with the Highlanders, Connor and Duncan MacLeod (of the clan MacLeod), and of course Scotland’s greatest hero, Sean Connery. Together, this fearsome foursome of kilted warriors would unite the sons of Scotland and tell the English that Scotland’s daughters and her sons are yours no more. They would tell them Scotland is free… ALBA GU BRÀTH!

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