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Media Watch 2011

27 May 2011
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Klearchos Kyriakides
Comment:
The prospect of Scottish independence within the European Union
Should Cyprus say ‘never’ and thereby sustain the ‘Enosis’ of Scotland with the United Kingdom?

In elections held earlier this month, the Scottish National Party (SNP) gained a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament. Thus, for the first time since devolution was introduced under the Scotland Act of 1998, the SNP is in the driving seat of the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.
 
In consequence, the UK is potentially facing a constitutional crisis with profound implications for Cyprus. The reasons flow from the SNP’s policies which are at stark odds with those of the London-based coalition government of the UK. 
 
One source of division concerns public expenditure. Hence, for example, Scottish students will continue to receive free university education in Scotland, whereas universities in England will soon be charging up to £9,000 per annum.

Territorial unity produces strength, whereas territorial fragmentation generates weakness.

A second area of disagreement relates to the SNP's pro-independence philosophy. Indeed, fresh from his election triumph, Alex Salmond, the SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, has already pledged to activate a referendum on the constitutional future of Scotland. 
 
If a referendum takes place and if Scotland achieves independence – two big 'ifs' – the union of 1707 will be dissolved and the UK will be a smaller place. 
 
Can Cyprus draw any lessons from the Scottish experience? 
 
An obvious one is that if a unitary state is constitutionally carved up into a federation or even, as in the UK, on the basis of devolution short of federation, a divisive 'them and us' mindset is normally generated. This does not make for effective or coherent governance. 
 
A second lesson is that dangers lurk in any policy designed to appease a secessionist party or movement. Since 1998, Scottish devolution has served to whet, rather than diminish, the SNP’s appetite for independence.
 
In short, territorial unity produces strength, whereas territorial fragmentation generates weakness. It is a simple principle, but one which is seemingly lost on all those in Cyprus who are steeped in the corrosive mindset of 'bizonality' and 'bicommunality'.
 
One other point must be made. The SNP's strategy is predicated on the basis that an independent Scotland would form part of the EU. This raises an intriguing question. In the event of Scotland seceding from the UK, would the Scots have to submit an application to accede to the EU in their own right? If so, how would the Republic of Cyprus respond? As things stand, the Republic is unlikely to endorse any Scottish application and thereby establish a secessionist precedent which may return to haunt the Republic. Then again, the outcome may differ if the Republic is transformed into a bizonal, bicommunal federation along the lines of British policy. This begs the obvious question as to whether British policy towards Cyprus is properly serving the interests and the integrity of the UK. 
 
The UK and the Republic of Cyprus may be situated at opposite corners of the EU. Even so, with Scottish independence possibly looming on the horizon, the integrity of the UK may be resting in the hands of the Republic. Why? The SNP's pro-independence strategy may receive a devastating if not fatal blow if the Republic announced that it would never countenance the secession of Scotland from the UK and that the Republic would veto any Scottish application to enter the EU. 
 
Ironically, therefore, a Cypriot 'never' may hold the key to the sustained 'Enosis' of Scotland with the remainder of the UK.
 
Klearchos Kyriakides is a senior lecturer and non-practising solicitor, School of Law, University of Hertfordshire