Borders in Perspective

Published: 14 July 2014
Author: Daniel Cetrà

Academics gathered in Edinburgh to discuss the concept of borders. Dani Cetra sums up the event. The full report of the event is available for download.

Dr Dennis Novy (University of Warwick and CEPR) - "Estimating Border Effects: The Impact of Geographic Aggregation"

  • Summary estimates in research and policy reports should be regarded with a large degree of caution. It is problematic to pluck border barrier estimates from the literature and apply them to individual scenarios such as a potentially independent Scotland.
  • Moreover, even if the point estimates are correct, the uncertainty surrounding them might be substantial. Prudent policy makers would be well advised to take the uncertainty into account and resist from making claims that ignore the uncertainty.

Professor Liam O’Dowd (Queen’s University of Belfast) – “Origins of the Irish Border”

  • It may be that the referendum result will be much less important than ‘behind the scenes’ political and economic manipulations in determining what an independent or devolved Scotland might mean in practice.
  • The historical Irish case demonstrates that even where a new border had to be drawn Ireland remained firmly integrated in the economy of the UK and into its sphere of influence for at least 50 years after Partition.

Dr Cathal McCall (Queen’s University of Belfast) – “Borders: The Contemporary Irish Experience”

  • A ‘yes’ vote in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum would result in the arrival of a new state actor that potentially complicates British-Irish  Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC). However, for legal and political reasons, it is unlikely that an ‘Independent Scotland’ would become involved.
  • The Interreg IVA (2007-13) programme introduced Scotland to the cross-border equation with this Ireland/Northern Ireland/Scotland programme worth €256m. However, projects with Scottish involvement claimed only €30m in the first 2 years of operation which is perhaps indicative of a lack of familiarity with cross-border cooperation in Scotland.

Professor Keith Shaw (University of Northumbria) – “The Impact of the Border in the Event of an Independent or more Devolved Scotland”

  • A 2013 report entitled “Borderlands: Can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish autonomy” captured the anxiety of politicians and the business community in relation to the economic implications of a resurgent Scotland.
  • It also captured a strong element of Hope that Scotland’s ‘next door neighbours’, ‘close cousins’ or ‘friends in the north’ could benefit from a more powerful Scotland.
  • The areas share a number of common economic and social challenges and (also possess a number of assets) that would benefit from common-sense collaboration in areas such as transport infrastructure, tourism, connectivity, forestry, food and drink, business development and skills.

Professor Jouni Häkli (University of Tampere, Finland) – “Nordic Experiences of Living with State Boundaries”

  • Since the 1950s there have been numerous initiatives and projects of cross-border cooperation (CBC) between Nordic countries at local, regional, and transnational levels. The main goal has been to alleviate border effects by overcoming the function of borders as barriers.
  • The Nordic CBC has been able to create a very lively and multi-scalar field of political, administrative, economic, and cultural interaction across national borders, seeking to preserve and develop a common space of living.

Dr Claire Colomb (University College London) - “A European perspective on cross-border cooperation: lessons & challenges from EU-funded territorial cooperation programmes”

  • Scottish and Northern English actors can already use the opportunities for cooperation within existing EU-funded European territorial cooperation programmes in partnership with other European actors.
  • If Scotland becomes independent, a new cross-border cooperation area would have to be created as part of the INTERREG A programme, just like in every single border area within the EU. In addition, new instruments such as European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) should facilitate the development of stable, institutionalized forms of trans-boundary cooperation.
  • If Scotland remains part of the UK, the need for cross-border cooperation remains. There is a pressing need for a strategic reflection on the key issues around which Scottish and Northern English local authorities and regional actors would need to cooperate more.


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