Travellers in England and Wales could be forced to show their passports and negotiate border controls to enter Scotland should the country vote in favour of independence, a leading academic has claimed.
Professor Robert Wright, of Strathclyde University, suggested that, in the event of Scottish independence, other European Union nations would insist it joined the passport-free Schengen area, which covers most of the EU.
As the UK and Ireland are not part of Schengen, Scotland would no longer be part of the Common Travel Area (CTA) of the British Isles.
While the Scotsman newspaper points out the SNP is in favour of remaining in a British Isles passport-free zone, Professor Wright says a “strict interpretation” of the rules would mean “the operation of checkpoints and border guards, the patrolling of the border, the use of documents (usually a passport) for border crossing and potentially the construction of a fence or some other physical barrier.”
In an academic paper he points out that, should Scotland join the Schengen zone, both Ireland and the UK would be put under “considerable pressure” to follow suit.
The report said: “The SNP government has stated it will opt out of the Schengen Agreement, since its preference is to remain part of the CTA. It is difficult to think of a set of circumstances that would allow Scotland to opt out and not be part of the Schengen Area as this is now the norm in the EU.
“This would make the UK even more isolated with respect to EU practice. In the opinion of the author, such isolation could create considerable pressure for the UK to join the Schengen Area.”
A UK government spokesman told the Scotsman that if Scotland became independent, it would have to apply for membership of international organisations such as the EU, adding: “That would require negotiation on the terms of membership, which would not be known in advance.”
A Scottish government spokesman insisted an independent Scotland would not be compelled to join Schengen. “Independence will give Scotland full responsibility for managing borders and migration in a way that best fits the national interests,” he said. “In any case, the Common Travel Area has existed for many decades, long predating the Schengen Agreement, and allows freedom of movement between the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. There are no proposals to change these arrangements for an independent Scotland, as border controls would be in no-one’s interests.”
Last year David Lidington, Minister for Europe, also warned that passport controls could be required should Scotland become independent.
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