If a state such as the UK breaks up, its assets and liabilities should be divided on reasonable lines, perhaps proportionately to GDP or population, or according to some sensible geographic or cultural delineation. I’ve mentioned the case of the Falkland Islands in passing before. This week’s curious visit of SNP veterans minister Keith Brown to the islands to mark the 30th anniversary of their liberation prompts a little more exploration of the subject.
The islands were colonised by Britain (in other words jointly by Scotland and the other constituent nations). The population, however, is disproportionately of Scottish descent (coming mostly from Orkney and Shetland originally). It’s really a Scottish colony, therefore.
So in the event of a break-up of the UK, who should be responsible for the continued governance and defence of the islands? Well, logic suggests Scotland should at least pay a contribution towards the defence of the islands, including a proportion of the cost of military assets such as the naval vessels, fighter aircraft and missile systems which are needed for their long-term security. Arguably, Scotland should be solely in charge (perhaps with England taking on Gibraltar and other colonial left-overs) in which case the Scottish defence requirement would be considerably greater (and more expensive) than I suggested in my last blog.
Now, I don’t know what the SNP’s get out for this is. Someone should ask Mr Salmond. Perhaps he’d say something like “we’re leaving the UK, just like the Irish did, and remaining British colonies should continue to be looked after by London.”
But does that mean that if England seceded from the UK, then the rump Scotland/Wales/NI state would be left holding all the post-colonial babies? Hardly fair, is it?
Clearly, if Scotland does leave the UK, it’s not going to be required to look after the Falklands, whatever its moral responsibilities. It can run away if it wants, and no doubt the remaining UK countries will continue to do the right thing. But if I was negotiating from the rump-UK point of view I’d certainly factor in the Falklands and its associated costs when negotiating the division of more mainstream assets and liabilities.
Here’s a great picture, by the way, of what the Falklands flag might look like under Scottish rule, thanks to the Quizzical Gaze blog: