Sturgeon’s independence bid sparks border fears – Council leader in ‘Berlin Wall’ panic

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Earlier this year, Nicola Sturgeon warned she would not rule out forcing visitors coming to Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to face isolation measures in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The threat led to fears over a hard border between Scotland and the rest of the UK – particularly as the SNP leader continues to drive for independence.

Despite the SNP insisting borders would not be closed with the rest of the country, even if Scotland was to become independent in the future, Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, warned about the prospect when pressed on the issue of independence.

Cllr Young said: “If they were to join the EU there would be a hard border – look at the whole debate with Ireland, we either have a border on the land or a border in the sea. It is impossible to not have a border.

“Personally I don’t want to see Scotland leave the Union.”

It comes as Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Conservative’s tourism spokesman, read out an email from a concerned English person to Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.

The email, sent to Mr Mundell by a borders tourism business, outlined the guest’s concerns about their booked holiday in Scotland.

The email said: “Just checking if everything is OK as per our last email and everything looks OK for our stay especially with Nicola Sturgeon threatening to quarantine us ‘nasty’ English people.”

Cllr Stewart added: “Nicola Sturgeon kept implying she would close the border in response to coronavirus, and I saw the people holding ‘Keep England out of Scotland’ banners, but the reality is you couldn’t physically close that border – you’d have to build something like the Berlin Wall.”

Earlier this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned she would not rule out forcing people coming to Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to face isolation measures if the COVID crisis escalated out of control.

Ms Sturgeon said she would consider doing so “if it is required from a public health perspective” and added: “We have to be on our guard against cases coming into Scotland from elsewhere.”

Speaking today, Cllr Stewart then went to criticise Scottish independence which has seen support grow in recent months, despite a rise in coronavirus cases.

The poll by Survation shows 53 percent are in favour of breaking with up the Union, with 47 percent against and independent Scotland.

It is the latest in a series of surveys since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic showing a majority of Scots in favour of independence – including one by Panelbase which held support at 55 percent last month.

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Cllr Stewart added: “I think the disadvantages would greatly outweigh the advantages – an independent Scotland would have a negative impact on us.

“We’re probably about to enter the biggest recession of our lifetimes due to the twin impacts of coronavirus and Brexit, we don’t need the break up of the Union added to that.

“The north of the county is tied economically to Scotland, we have very strong links.”

Mr Stewart stressed that on the “positive side, there would be jobs created because the physical border would have to be manned” for a new border.

 

But he stressed that the “impacts on trade, especially with tariffs, would mean the negatives far outweigh the positives.”

Cllr Shona Haslam, fellow Tory leader of Scottish Borders Council, said people are “living in cloud-cuckoo land if they think Scotland becoming independent is an easy, straightforward process.”

She added: “When you live here, you realise there is no border here.

“People here don’t see the border, and they certainly don’t pay attention to it.

“It’s a very glib statement to make when there are so many economic, cultural and infrastructure links across the communities in the borders which are reliant on each other.”

A SNP spokesperson hit back at the claims and said: “The Scottish Government has no plans to close the border either now or post-independence.”

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