Margo MacDonald: May borders on the ridiculous

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There can’t really be all that much wrong with a woman of a certain age who wears kitten-heeled, animal print shoes with such aplomb, and whose other accessories are frequently off the “knock ‘em dead” shelf, can there?

Unhappily, it has to be admitted that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, may have terrific taste where shoes are concerned, but she shows none of the same discernment when it comes to her views on how an independent Scotland will co-operate on security measures with England, Wales and Ireland.

She looks dowdy in passing up the chance of injecting a bit of passion, and saying “No” to everything.

It’s not hard to imagine Scotland and England inventing and then co-operating in a variety of ways that make for better government all round. Super-obviously, neighbours such as we will be sharing technological developments and more than likely jointly producing big construction projects. We might even have agreements on monitoring some of the round-the-clock projects and services running both sides of the Border. Some of these services will be security services, secret and discreet. Their function will be to maintain peace and law and order, and to forewarn the two countries of differences in the diplomatic attitudes towards them struck by other countries, or particularly threats of terrorism.

There’s no real reason to assume that, working through the foreign offices and departments of justice of the governments north and south of the Border, the security services will not get along fine, if they’re given firm limits inside which to operate.

So, for example, the English 
security service would not be able to, without permission either as a matter of course, or on a whim, listen in to telephone calls to England originating from Scotland or the Republic of Ireland. Given our common interests, the game-plan should be simple and easy to review. Special Branch officers already work in Scotland, so Mrs May is diminishing her own reputation by saying a Scottish Government couldn’t expect the same level of co-operation. If this British government and its predecessors have been able to share information with Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Tunisia, apart from the US, commonsense dictates that they’ll share with Scotland.

The public side of the diplomatic service, in Scotland’s case, will be slanted more to promoting Scotland as a good place to holiday and to do business . . . think of all these lovely golf courses and fishing rivers. Quite possibly, just as sometimes happens now, one or other country with medical expertise or facilities not available in the others will accept friendly foreign nationals for advanced, rare, medical treatment.

So what has May to worry about? She should leave the frightening talk to the frightful Michael Moore. The Scottish Secretary’s input to the referendum debate has been a disgraceful denial of his country in his efforts to save his party. So negative has he been he has lost any credibility.

May is probably amongst the runners and riders to succeed David Cameron, and there’s a growing feeling that he’s not in for the long haul. So the Home Secretary should keep well clear of party political point-scoring over the serious matter of how security services will be run after the Scots vote for independence.

There’s no doubt that the security of our islands is one of the most important functions of government. Already, because there are two states, the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which have to co-operate and share intelligence to guard against illegal immigration, drug distribution and sales, terrorist threats, a culture of co-operation, or the doctrine of 
necessity, is well established. The Home Secretary would be cutting off her nose to spite her face, in spectacular fashion, if she turned her back on co-operation with the Scots and, as a result, there was an open door into England for illegal immigrants. With Scottish independence, Scottish governments would negotiate how the line management of its service would change, while the policy objectives would remain much the same, unless of course, a new, perceived threat should emerge.

Although security is one of the fundamental policies for any government, it’s a fair bet that it could be one of the easier co-operation policies to negotiate. The reason? England depends on Scotland as much as Scotland depends on England to defend their national boundaries. Unlike other policy areas there aren’t too many variations on the same theme to tie up negotiators for a long time.

And finally, is it in the UK’s interest for May to broadcast a message that shrieks system breakdown . . . even temporarily?