Scottish Independence: Influence in the UN

Part 6 of an 11-part look at Scottish independence and its potential impact on Scottish influence

Currently, the United Kingdom has significant influence within the United Nations, and, Scotland, as part of the UK, shares in that significant voice. The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the Security Council, along with China, France, Russia and the US, and retains veto power over UN Security Council resolutions. Ten other members are elected to serve on the council, but do not have veto power.[i]

Should Scotland declare independence, two things would have to happen. The remaining United Kingdom would need to issue a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding their status and Scotland would need to apply for admission.

Historical precedent, specifically that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) provides good reference for us on this point. According to the UN[ii], “In a letter dated 24 December 1991, Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation, informed the Secretary-General that the membership of the Soviet Union in the Security Council and all other United Nations organs was being continued by the Russian Federation with the support of the 11 member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

We can draw from this letter the conclusion that the government of the United Kingdom will continue in its current role, with its current influence, within the United Nations. Of course, nothing is ever certain.

As for Scotland, they will have to reapply for membership, such as how Montenegro did after it declared independence from Serbia on June 6, 2006. According to the resolution approving membership in the United Nations, adopted on June 28, 2006[iii], there are two steps to the application approval process. One, the recommendation of the Security Council with at least 9 members supporting membership and all permanent members not voting against and, two, the subsequent support of two-thirds of the General Membership of the United Nations.

If precedent rules, the remaining United Kingdom states will have to support the admission of Scotland into the United Nations. If they choose to oppose, their veto power would then keep Scotland out of the UN. It seems highly unlikely this would ever occur, but it is still quite interesting.

Additionally, a newly admitted Scotland would not have a permanent seat on the Security Council, and would be one of the 188 regular members of the United Nations. They will have the opportunity to serve as one of the 10 non-permanent members for a two-year term at some point in the future.

Scotland will also be required to pay dues. The current United Kingdom had a net contribution to the UN of $155 million or 6.6% of the total UN budget.[iv] All countries assessed dues are based on estimates of gross national income over a base period of 3-6 years, with various other adjustments, and maximum and minimum levels of assessments.[v] Scotland will be treated no differently.

As a result of a move to independence, Scotland’s position of influence will be greatly reduced within the United Nations, and the United Kingdom’s position of influence will be unchanged. However, one could argue that Scotland will now have its own voice in the world of international political discourse, which would “allow the distinctive views of its people to be expressed on the range of issues facing the world today, and allow Scottish Ministers to argue for Scottish interests in international negotiations directly affecting the interest of the nation.”[vi]

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