Michael Moore, David Cameron’s Secretary of State for Scotland, has for the first time revealed concerns rural areas on both sides of the border will suffer if Alex Salmond succeeds in breaking away from the Union at next year’s referendum.
Mr Moore, whose Scottish constituency of Berwickshire borders Northumberland, said farmers and traders would suffer. His comments come amid growing concern that Scottish departure from the UK would mean some form of border control is needed, impacting on trade. Alongside this a worry of changes to EU farming support.
MPs say they do not know what independence would mean for Single Farm Payments and other support and what impact this might have not just on Scotland but on English trading partners and supporting and businesses.
Mr Moore raised the threat to jobs and trade when asked by Hexham MP Guy Opperman what the impact might be of independence.
The minister said: “As one of my honourable friend’s neighbouring MPs, I recognise the importance of Hexham and north Northumberland.
“As he knows, in a farming context and in so many other ways, any kind of legal border between Scotland and England would be an absolute disaster.”
Mr Opperman is due on a four-day tour of Scotland later this month in an attempt to rally support for the Union.
He said a new country would need to apply to join the EU, a move likely to be opposed by Brussels.
“I believe we are better together, but if they are independent they will need to apply to join the EU. The EU have made it very clear that they will oppose this application to join the EU.
“Consequently we will need border controls with Scotland. This would mean a border control at Carter Bar and all along the Scottish border of my constituency. I am not proposing another Hadrian’s Wall, but some have made the case for Salmond’s Wall as the new border.
“Such a boundary would have a huge impact on trade and the economy of Northumberland and the border region of south Scotland. We are doing great work rejuvenating the regional economy with the rural growth fund and a doubling of the number of local apprentices. I do not want independence to jeopardise this and the Scottish Minister Michael Moore agreed. “
Mr Opperman added: “From farming to tourism, to simply doing business, the negative effects of a new legal border between England and Scotland would be a real problem for our local economy. You will effectively end up with a legal border crossing at Berwick, with who knows what kind of checks in place.
“That can’t be good for business, and will put a real barrier in the way the economies of southern Scotland and north Northumberland are linked. We should be enhancing those links for business and tourism, and pulling together, not cutting them.”
His comments follow a similar claim by Home Secretary Theresa May, who said border patrols were a possibility. Scotland has always played down the claims.
A recent poll showed only 25% of Scots backed independence, and businesses in the borders areas are said to be among the most reluctant. Workers along the border, where farming and tourism are, like Northumberland, mayor employers, have opposed separation.