Nick Clegg yesterday upped the rhetoric in the debate over Scottish independence by declaring that the case for Scotland going it alone will be ‘annihilated’.
The deputy prime minister was responding to a question in the Commons from the SNP MP, Angus MacNeil.
Pressed over whether, if a party currently in government were to get annihilated at a general election, should it then keep its peers in the House of Lords, as the numbers would not then be reflective of the position in the House of Commons, Clegg responded:
“The only thing that is going to be annihilated is the argument for independence for Scotland, which is gaining no currency among the people of Scotland, because the vast majority of people in Scotland and elsewhere want to keep the United Kingdom together.”
It came as the SNP has attacked the Conservatives after junior Scotland Office minister, David Mundell, appeared to agree with the notion that Scotland was ‘extinguished’ in respect of international law as a result of the 1707 Act of Union.
Within their paper for the Scotland Office on the implications of independence for Scotland, professors James Crawford and Alan Boyle, both experts in international law, argued that Scotland was indeed extinguished by the Act of Union.
The experts reject the idea that Scottish independence would undo the Treaty of Union, which created the UK, allowing Scotland and England to revert to their pre-1707 status. They do not, however, reach a view on whether 1707 marked the creation of a new state in international law or the expansion of England under a new name.
They continue (page 75):
“For the purpose of this advice, it is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state.”
Speaking to STV, however, pressed as to whether he supported the notion outlined in the legal advice, Scotland office minister, David Mundell, simply responded ‘yes’.
Hitting out at the comment, SNP MSP Roderick Campbell declared the minister’s remarks to be ‘cack handed’, before going on to conclude:
“The anti-independence campaign is now asking people to vote ‘No’ and endorse the position that Scotland was ‘extinguished’.
“The Tory-led government’s inept leadership of the ‘No’ campaign has shattered the claim that Scotland is an equal partner in the UK – which will only serve to boost support for an independent Scotland and a ‘Yes’ vote.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives dismissed Campbell’s comments as a ‘smokescreen’.
The pro-union Better Together campaign has meanwhile launched a campaign calling on Holyrood to follow Whitehall’s lead and publish its own legal advice on independence.