A borderline case to remain part of the UK

There was cross-party agreement last week in the House of Commons after I, with Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border Rory Stewart, made the case for UK cross-border unity at Scottish Questions.

Alongside Mr Stewart, I asked specifically about what independence would mean for Border constituencies.

The future shape of Scotland, and the very existence of the UK, is at stake in the forthcoming referendum. If Scotland were to leave the UK, the Border constituencies would be the first to feel the effects of an international frontier.

There are no easy answers to the question of what could happen if Scotland goes it alone. There would be a new international border and – however close our co-operation – that could mean more bureaucracy and extra controls for people travelling to visit family, go on holiday or do business.

Common UK citizenship and the unrestricted movement of people and goods between Scotland and other parts of the UK have been crucial in enabling the integration of communities and businesses.

If Scotland votes Yes it may signal potentially-dramatic changes to the personal finances of many thousands who live on one side of the border, but work on the other. The number is estimated at around 30,000 – but this rises to 110,000 once longer-distance commuters, such as those working on North Sea oil rigs, are included.

Scotland’s largest customer is the rest of the UK. Independence would mean greater costs for business with different regulatory and tax regimes.

Management of the UK’s external border is complex, expensive and relies on a fully-integrated system across the UK. Currently, all activity to manage, control and secure the UK’s border, and every penny spent, benefits each UK citizen wherever they live or work.

Of course Scotland could be independent, but there is a price to be paid by both countries if that happens, and that price includes serious problems at the border. If the UK, minus Scotland, does not have control of, and does not know what Scotland’s immigration policy is going to be, it cannot commit itself to an open border with Scotland.

Anybody who pauses at the top of the Carter Bar on the A68 is able to experience one of the most beautiful views of Scotland, as well as one of the most beautiful views of England.

I hope that at the end of the year when I pause at the top of the Carter Bar, this spot will continue to be a mutual meeting point between two nations, rather than an international border point separating two states.