Who Agreed the Border and When-Legal Agreement or Not? A Report Compiled by Craig Murray
In 1999 Tony Blair, abetted by Donald Dewar, (when parliament was in recess) illegally redrew the existing English/Scottish maritime boundary to annex 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters to England, including the Argyll field and six other major oilfields. The idea was specifically to disadvantage Scotland’s case for independence. So, according to Westminster legislation, English waters stretch at their North Easterly point to 56 degrees 36 minutes north – that is over 100 miles North of the border at Berwick, and North of Dundee. The pre-1999 border was already very favourable to England. In 1994, while I was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I had already queried whether it was too favourable to England. I little anticipated that five years later Blair would push it seventy miles North!! I should explain that I was the Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and was number 2 on the UK team that negotiated the UK/Ireland, UK/Denmark (Shetland/Faeroes), UK/Belgium, and Channel Islands/France maritime boundaries, as well as a number of British Dependent Territories boundaries. There are very few people in the World – single figures – who have more experience of actual maritime boundary negotiation than me.
The UK’s other maritime boundaries are based on what is known formally in international law as the modified equidistance principle. The England/Scotland border was of course imposed, not negotiated. It is my cold, professional opinion that this border lies outside the range of feasible solutions that could be obtained by genuine negotiation, arbitration or judgement. It ignores a number of acknowledged precepts in boundary resolutions, most important of which is how to deal with an inverted right angle coastline, as the Scottish coastline is from Elgin to Berwick, with the angle point around Edinburgh. It also fails adequately to close the Forth and Tay estuaries with baselines – by stark contrast to the massive baselines the UK used across the Thames and Stour.
It is essential that Scotland is not conned into accepting the existing England Scotland maritime boundary as a precondition of any independence referendum. This boundary must be subject to negotiation between equal nations post independence, and in my opinion is most likely to end with referral to the International Court of Justice. I have no doubt the outcome would be a very great deal better for Scotland than the Blair-Dewar line, which would cost Scotland billions. There will be many lies thrown from Westminster in the run-up to the referendum: we must take them apart. But the mis-deeds of the past must also be shown for what they are. Ah, perfidious Albion again and will probably stay perfidious “Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear”.
“Until 410 million years ago, the area of land now recognised as Scotland was separated from England by an ocean wider than the present-day North Atlantic – the Iapetus Ocean. When the two halves of Britain, which were part of separate larger continental land masses, began to drift towards each other, so the Iapetus Ocean began to close inexorably. The seaway between the converging continents narrowed until they collided and mountains were squeezed up in place of the vanished ocean. The two ancient continents, originally on opposite sides of the vast ocean, were now joined along a line known as the Iapetus Suture which runs almost parallel to Hadrian’s Wall.” http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/geology/scotland/continents.asp
It is also worth bearing in mind that a decade of opinion poll evidence shows consistently that the people of Berwick council district would want to join Scotland. That actually makes a big difference to the maritime border. Westminster has a track record for imposing boundaries without consultation or representation, going back to the Empire. And there are still disputes (often not acknowledged until the relevant countries’ independence) to be settled – look at the border between Southern Sudan and Kenya. So I’m not surprised at this. After all, Scotland is the classic case of internal colonisation.
I am glad this matter has been raised and by such an authoritative figure. My recollection is that the Blair/Dewar Axis did this by Order in Council while parliament was in recess. It is of very doubtful legality and the boundary will have to be negotiated on independence. They may have slipped up. My recollection is that crime on the rigs was tried in Selkirk Sheriff Court. I don’t think they changed this. Indeed I don’t think they could have changed this by Order in Council. The Border Sheriff Courts may still have jurisdiction over this part of the North Sea. Does anyone know? I don’t.
The conclusion here seems to be that the English domain in the North Sea extends as far as the Auk field, and not the Fulmar field. The report you link to also discusses the implications of any possible secession from Scotland of the Orkney and/or Shetland Islands. These islands have been ‘British’ since 1707. Prior to that, for how long were they actually ‘Scottish’ ? (My understanding is that they belonged to Norway until at least the mid 14th century). Both sets of islands also have a good percentage of English immigrants in situ. Interestingly, the Bloc Quebecqois blamed their narrow defeat in the independence referendum in the 90s on recent immigrants who wanted to keep links to Canada. Will history follow a similar path when the Scotch referendum is held ?
Thanks for your concern for the people of Orkney and Shetland. It is interesting that this concern of English people towards them only appears when the issue of Scottish independence comes up, and is always articulated in terms of oil and gas reserves and no other aspect of the life of those people or the islands. Before the Viking conquests of Scotland , England and Ireland the Picts were living on both Islands. The Norman Conquest of England was carried out by Vikings settled in France. I think we’ve all got a bit of Norwegian or Danish blood in us.
Boundary negotiations (and arbitration, if necessary) are covered in the Scottish Government’s August 2007 document, “Choosing Scotland’s Future: A National Conversation: Independence and Responsibility in the Modern World”;
3.15. Any issues concerning the borders of an independent Scotland, particularly the continental shelf, would also have to be negotiated. The 1999 boundary being discussed pertains to fishing rights and I find it a bit odd that the two maps I have seen published on government websites ( the one cited in an earlier comment and the one at; http://og.decc.gov.uk/assets/og/data-maps/maps/infrast-off.pdf. show borders which do not pertain to the oil & gas industry. The map cited earlier in these comments shows this 1999 border, and the map I have just cited shows a border which is clearly labelled as the RENEWABLES energy boundary. Why should official maps of the oil and gas fields show boundaries which are not applicable to the oil and gas fields? Could it be a deliberate misrepresentation? So far as I know, the legal jurisdiction over the oil & gas fields is still as defined by the Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order 1968 which sets the boundary as the line of latitude at 55° 50′ North, i.e. an east-west line slightly north of the eastern end of the land border.
3.16. These issues are likely to be dealt with in an overall agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government, enshrined in legislation enacted at both Westminster and Holyrood, to allow both Parliaments the opportunity to consider and agree matters affecting both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
3.17. At the beginning of such a process of negotiation, arrangements should be agreed for arbitration under the principles of international law of any issues which the parties find themselves unable to resolve by mutual agreement.” “The International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU) at Durham University has an interest in the matter.
For the, “Beyond Petroleum” future of all parts of the present UK there’s a useful Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Sources at, http://www.renewables-atlas.info . For those who are genuinely interested, this is an excellent introduction to the principles and difficulties involved;
Better quality graphic showing 1987 and 1999 boundaries (but not much of the land border): http://clip2net.com/s/1tuDw
Dept of Energy & Climate Change map showing oil/gas facilities and national boundaries (1.6MB pdf): http://www.og.decc.gov.uk/information/bb_updates/maps/infrast.pdf
There is an internet site called the Scottish Democratic Alliance who have been going on about this boundary change for years. I was not then fully aware of how and why the change had been made and could not, using charts and navigation instruments, find a lot wrong with the border as it seemed to be based exactly on the equidistance law. I visited their site a few weeks ago and it is now more explanatory. There is a dispute about that part of Berwick to the North of the river with claims that it is still in Scotland although administered from South of the river. Now with further comments from Craig and Ian Hamilton regarding baselines and the Law it seems that there was indeed some skulldugry taking place.
Thanks for the heads-up on the Scottish Democratic Alliance. Their website contains an interesting pdf discussion document with maps which can be had at; http://scottishdemocraticalliance.org/international/scotlands-national-borders
Here is a link to the offshore assets. I’m not sure how accurate it is but it may be of help. http://og.decc.gov.uk/assets/og/data-maps/maps/infrast-off.pdf