Smuggling scenario depicted

I don’t think the issue of border controls is quite as cut and dried as Councillor Stuart Bell (Southern, November 7) would have us believe.

I am sure that, as he says, the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and Republic of Ireland was an important plank in those two countries’ case for an opt-out from the provisions of the Schengen Free Travel Agreement.

But the crucial point is that it was negotiated at the draft stage before Schengen was finalised. Once Schengen came into force, it became a part of what the EU calls the “acquis communautaire”, which is the whole corpus of existing EU laws and regulations which every new member state is required to accept in full. No cherry-picking allowed.

All 28 member states have to individually agree the terms and conditions of entry being offered to a new member state – and no new member state has been permitted to opt-out of Schengen.

Secondly, even if all 28 member states can be persuaded to let Scotland off the hook on Schengen, the CTA only regulates the movement of people. It does not regulate the movement of goods.

If, after independence, excise duties and rates of VAT between Scotland and the rest of the UK were to diverge significantly over time, human nature being what it is, there would spring up a lucrative trade in smuggling.

In these circumstances either the rest of the UK or Scotland, depending on which way the smuggling was flowing, would want to set up border customs controls to choke off the loss of revenue.

Peter Heald