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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Scotland's National Borders

As Scotland approaches the Independence Referendum, most Scots have a general idea of our national borders but know little of their history and changes over time. This paper provides basic information and lesser-known specifics which we hope will interest you.

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Scotland’s national borders comprise one terrestrial border with England and several sea borders, two with England and several with other countries (the Isle of Man, Ireland, Faeroe, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands). The government of the United Kingdom has attempted to make unwarranted and illegal changes to both the terrestrial and the North Sea borders between Scotland and England. All these changes have been unfavourable to Scotland.

This paper highlights the major findings of ‘The National Borders of Scotland’, by Dr James Wilkie and Edward Means, published in October 2013.That report, abbreviated here to ‘TNBS’, was written to provide the Scottish people with complete information on Scotland’s true national borders, including information on historic and more modern illegal attempts to change them; and to expose the UK Government's recent and current bad-faith manoeuvres to change the true borders. The complete TNBS, including eleven full-colour maps, is available for free download from:

Terrestrial Border

Scotland’s terrestrial border with England was fixed in 1237 by the Treaty of York, signed by Alexander II of Scotland and Henry III of England. Even after the 1707 union it remained the boundary between two distinct and independent legal systems. It runs from the Solway Firth in the west to the mouth of the River Tweed in the east, mostly using rivers, mountain ridges and other natural features. There was a tidying-up agreement between the two kingdoms in March 1552 on the largely featureless so-called Debatable Lands between the rivers Sark and Esk in the west, but otherwise the now completely definitive Scotland-England terrestrial border has never been legally altered in almost eight centuries.

With this, Scotland gave up a good deal of territory further south, including the town of Carlisle, where the first Scottish Royal Mint had been set up by King David I in 1136.  The loss of Scottish territory was the price Alexander paid for the firm and now legally unalterable establishment of the Scottish/English border on its present line, including the Tweed estuary south of Berwick.

The true terrestrial border is depicted in Figure 1 of TNBS.  Figure 2 of TNBS depicts the area north of that border that the UK government unlawfully claims is part of the County of Northumberland, England.

The English invaded Scotland and unlawfully occupied the Scottish Royal Burgh of Berwick on Tweed on a number of occasions between 1296 and 1482. Berwick had received its founding royal charter from Scotland’s King David I in the year 1124. The town did not simply “change hands”, as has been alleged, for even then its Scottish status was never in doubt. These invasions were military aggression with no constitutional force, and furthermore were in violation of the 1237 Treaty of York, which established the border at the River Tweed.

The subsequent compromise, under the 1502 Treaty of Perpetual Peace, of leaving Berwick under English administration while remaining part of Scotland, did not alter the Tweed border. This agreement, resulting from James IV's betrothal to Princess Margaret Tudor, daughter of the English King Henry VII, applied only to the town and castle of Berwick. It did not apply to the landward area of the present Berwick enclave as far north as Lamberton, which was added in the 19th century.

English law did not apply in Berwick at the time of the Union in 1707. The recognition of the Church of England in the Acts of Union by both the Scottish and English Parliaments did not in any way change the Scottish-English Border.

The UK government’s Wales and Berwick Act 1746, section 3, unconstitutionally ordained that henceforth English Law would apply in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It did not incorporate Berwick into England. The 1746 act was a panic measure in reaction to the 1745/46 Jacobite scare (like banning tartan and bagpipes).  In August 1850 Queen Victoria underlined the permanent constitutional validity of the Tweed border when she opened the Royal Border Bridge, which crosses the Border (the River Tweed) into Berwick.

The entire Wales and Berwick Act 1746 was repealed by the Interpretation Act 1978.  Berwick remained a separate enclave under English administration. However, in 2009 the Borough of Berwick upon Tweed was abolished and the enclave was amalgamated with the English County of Northumberland, thereby losing its identity for the first time in eight centuries.  This unconstitutional gesture has no bearing on Berwick's status as an English-administered part of Scotland's territory.  The actual structure of that administration is an English internal matter that does not affect the constitutional reality.

The drafters of UK legislation have repeatedly assumed in error that the administrative boundary near Lamberton represents the border.  None of this legislation (including the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999, which will be discussed later) is of any relevance to the status of Berwick in the event of Scotland becoming independent.

Berwick has never ceased to be the natural centre for Berwickshire and the eastern Scottish Borders. It is very remote from all the major English population centres and remains oriented towards Edinburgh and the north. Berwick houses the Home HQ and museum of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, formerly a Scottish regiment which is now 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Royal Scots Borderers) in the reorganised Army structure. Berwick's football team plays in the Scottish league, the local accent sounds Scottish, and a poll in 2008 showed that 80% of the population would prefer to come under Scottish government.

The UK government has made unwarranted and illegal attempts to redefine the last few miles of the eastern part of the border, which is the centre of the River Tweed. The true border was redirected at 55°45’43.55”N–02°05’08.42”W. The border line was redirected toward the north and then eastward to the coast at 55°48'42"N–02°01'54"W near Lamberton (see the red line in Figure 2 of TNBS). However, since the Treaty of York was never rescinded, it was not possible to alter the constitutionally fixed border at the mouth of the River Tweed; therefore the border movement has no constitutional validity.

The coordinates of the Tweedmouth harbour light are 55°45’53.28”N–1°59’03.12”W. The breakwater wall was built in 1810-11, presumably to deepen the river for navigation by narrowing it and thereby increasing the flow. The satellite image in Figure 3 of TNBS shows quite clearly that the wall ends almost exactly in the middle of the natural channel of the estuary so that the harbour light on its end, built in 1826, can be taken to be the end of the Scotland-England terrestrial border, and the starting point of the North Sea border as shown in that figure.

When independence happens, the Scottish-English terrestrial border will remain on the line that existed at the moment of union on 1 May 1707, i.e. from the middle of the Solway Firth to the middle of the Tweed estuary – a border that has stood for almost eight centuries.

North Sea Border

In 1968 the UK government ignored the true North Sea border and set a false border at latitude 55°50'N, near Marshall Meadows about a mile south of Lamberton, by imposing the Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order 1968. This Order declared the Scotland-England border, north of which would run Scottish legal jurisdiction in the North Sea, to be on a line running due east at 55°50'N. The coordinate is obviously erroneous, and was apparently used just because it is a round figure purportedly representing the latitude of the end of the coast near Lamberton at 55°48'42"N. This fundamental error of mistaking the administrative boundary at Lamberton for the national border is very common among UK legal drafters. In this case they simply used a slovenly approximation of the administrative boundary, which has no constitutional significance whatsoever – an error compounded by the drafters of the 1099 Order (see below) with their mendacious projection of the boundary line far to the north of the true border. Figure 4 of TNBS depicts the true and false borders, including the false border of 1999 described in detail below that figure.

Imposition of the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999

On 13 April 1999 the UK government promulgated Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1126, purported to be Constitutional Law and entitled ‘The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999’. The order was quietly rushed through the UK Parliament without regard to serious reservations raised by MPs.

The Order states:

Boundaries - internal waters and territorial sea
For the purposes of the Scotland Act 1998, the boundaries between waters which are to be treated as internal waters or territorial sea of the United Kingdom adjacent to Scotland and those which are not, shall be... …and then specifies the tables in Schedule 1 Part I and Schedule 2 Article 4 as defining the new North Sea boundary. These tables are shown in Figure 5 of TNBS.

Besides being a clear violation of the Treaty and Acts of Union, this transfer has a direct deleterious effect on the finances of the Government of Scotland in that no taxes or licence fees derived from activities in the illegally transferred area are credited to Scotland in the periodic Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) reports.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act repeatedly state that construction of sea borders by using the “equidistance principle” is “the fairest and most transparent method”. That may indeed be true provided the parties on both sides agree to the location of the base points. But there was no such agreement in this situation.

The Order very conveniently does not identify the base points, but it can be easily shown through use of 'Google Earth' that the baseline extends from St Abbs Head in the Borders to Bamburgh Head in Northumberland. All points on the border shown in the chart are equidistant from these base points.

It is ironic to note what the situation would be if the equidistance principle were applied at the true border. The baseline would have to be drawn between the outermost low water points on each side of the mouth of the River Tweed and the border projected from the midpoint of the baseline. Depending on the exact location of the low water marks, the border would be projected at a bearing of between 105 degrees (the direction of Hamburg) and 130 degrees (the direction of Amsterdam). In either case the Scottish North Sea area would be increased, not decreased.

Figure 6 of TNBS shows the true Scottish North Sea border in relation to the Exclusive Economic Zones of other nations in the central and northern sections of the North Sea.

Figure 7 of TNBS shows, in dark blue, the sea area from which tax and licence revenues from oil and gas production are credited to Scotland. Notice that the sea area stolen by Boundaries Order 1999’ – an area of 6,255 statute square miles – is excluded. There were at least twelve producing oil and gas fields in the stolen North Sea area. These are listed in Figure 8 of TNBS and shown on the map in Figure 9.

Each of these oil or gas fields sends taxes and licence fees to the UK Treasury. Not one penny of this money is credited to Scotland, thus the GERS report results are understated – to the disadvantage of Scotland, as customary. Of course HM Treasury does not publish information in sufficient detail to permit calculation of the understatement. Even a request under the Freedom of Information Act would likely be denied on the grounds that such information is commercially confidential.

Relevant Hansard extracts quoted in TNBS are proof positive that the 1999 Order was never intended to apply to anything other than fisheries. That was merely a front for an act of treachery that we now see developing before our eyes, but it remains the official purpose for which the 1999 Order was imposed. The Scottish Government should not let anyone in London get away with any unauthorized extension to cover oil, gas, minerals, policing etc.

The remainder of TNBS goes on to discuss Rockall , the Northwestern Seas, and issues associated with independent Scotland’s relationship with the European Union.

Have a look at the complete report at:

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