We need us: the story of the last Scottish referendum

A letter arrives from a Scottish friend. It contains some materials from what you might call “the last Better Together campaign”, the referendum of 1979.

There are some little stickers which read “Good Girls Say NO on 1st March”. There are some car stickers with a pretty clear message: “Disintegration? After two and a half centuries?”

But best of all there is a leaflet from “Scottish Customs Controls”. This was knocked up by the ‘No’ campaign and then given to groups of students who were sent up and down passing them out on the London to Edinburgh trains.

It’s a brilliantly terrifying document. Here’s how it starts. “When you enter Scotland you will pass through customs. A valid passport must be shown. All goods in excess of the duty-free allowances which you have obtained outside MUST BE DECLARED. There are strict limits to the amount of money in Sterling Notes (£) or Pounds Scots (Sc£) you may take in and out of Scotland. Excess cash and undeclared goods in excess of the allowances are liable to forfeiture.”

It then goes on to outline what you may and may not bring in the way of tobacco (not more than 200 cigarettes and “Scottish residents and nationals are entitled to the above allowances only on production of official receipts to show that the tobacco was obtained more than 60 miles from the frontier post”), and alcohol (“the re-importation of Scotch whisky purchased more cheaply in England and elsewhere in the EEC is currently forbidden”).


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Then on other goods, there is talk of “an equalisation surcharge” on anything bought cheaply in England as well as a note that “the importation of firearms for sporting or any other purpose is forbidden.”

Finally, at the end of the document there is a “special note” to motorists pointing out that only the “main frontier posts” are open all year and day around. Try crossing anywhere else and you “may be diverted or turned back.”

It is easy to say that some of this sounds ridiculous to the modern ear. Maybe it does. But the point still stands. If Scotland is independent, Scotland is a foreign country. And if Scotland is a foreign country it has borders.

It is also worth noting that while the ‘Yes’ campaign says that it would like to be in the EU, but keep free movement between Scotland and England , it is hard to see how this is possible.

To be a member of the EU now you have to be inside the Schengen Immigration area, which the UK isn’t. So, as it stands, there would have to be a real border and crossing of some kind or another. Here’s The Scotsman on the matter.

There is one final thing in my envelope of 1979 goodies. It’s a little banner with the slogan from that campaign on it. It’s a good one. It is “WE NEED US.”

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8 Responses

  1. 03/12/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    Tragically only 27% of the Scots want to be independent. But 52% of the English do. Perhaps a Uk wide referndum would be better.

    • 09/12/2013, 4caster wrote

      Whether to leave a union is for the minority nation alone to decide. If Scotland votes for secession, the rest of the UK would be most unwise to resist. Nor should the rest of the UK be enabled to kick Scotland out if the people of Scotland vote to remain.
      We did not have a UK-wide referendum when the Republic of Ireland was created, and quite right too.
      When Montenegro was considering independence from Yugoslavia, the referendum was rightly confined to Montenegro. To allow voters in Serbia to veto Montenegran freedom would have led to an armed uprising.

  2. 04/12/2013, GFL wrote

    Boris I’m not sure why you are so pro Scottish independence. You know if the Scottish left the union the rest of the UK would probably move a little more to the right?

    Scottish people love big government, socialism, welfare and unions. Pretty much all the stuff you advocate!

    • 04/12/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

      GFL. I am very very pro Scots independence because I see them as a d rag on what could be a very successful economy.
      Not sure where you get the idea I am some sort of big government socialist from. I left the Labour party in 1998 and left my trade union in 2004. I have as little time for the left as I do for the toffs.

  3. 05/12/2013, dave21kj wrote

    It seems to me most English are sensitive that Scotland are having the audacity to have such a vote; the 52% are in part “well if they don’t want us, we don’t want them..”
    For me Scotland are damned they do and damned if they don’t. The country is a basket case under the “union” and it looks as if it could get even worse under independence.
    The market will call time on “big government” and “big deficit” in any case. Question of timing. Maybe independence would sort Scotland out faster than people think..!
    I’m a NO by the way..

  4. 09/12/2013, 4caster wrote

    I reject the notion that the EU would only allow Scotland to remain a member if it were to join the Schengen area, thus requiring border controls with England. Current practices can easily be modified to suit new situations.
    In 1990 when Germany was reunified, 16 million East Germans were brought into the EU with hardly any discussion at all. It was a fait accompli.

  5. 23/12/2013, Dhb wrote

    Merryn writes “It is also worth noting that while the ‘Yes’ campaign says that it would like to be in the EU, but keep free movement between Scotland and England , it is hard to see how this is possible.”
    Really?
    Is this not the case with Eire and the U.K.?

  6. 23/12/2013, Dhb wrote

    Scotland could not possibly be any worse as an independent country than they have been reduced to by voting Labour as the dominant party from the 60′s until 2007.

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