Establishing an Independent Scotland
Whitehall mandarins, Unionist politicians and their Luddite supporters will tell you it will be a long and torturous process over many years and it must be this way because the relationship Scotland has with the rest of the UK is too complex to untangle in a shorter period. But if Czechoslovakia could be split up in six months in 1992, why should the process of establishing an independent Scotland be such a hardship?
The Velvet Revolution
World War 1 lasted four years, World War 2 lasted six. So is it easier to conquer then lose an entire continent than to separate two jurisdictions peacefully? Czechoslovakia, not only transformed from a socialist republic and a Soviet satellite to liberal democracy, but it also successfully split peacefully into two nations in 6 months.
The pivotal elections that took place in 1992 saw an even split of voters in both of the constituent parts of Czechoslovakia. Tensions arose and the leaders of both constituent regions agreed the federation should be split.
An agreement was signed on 26 August 1992. By 13 November 1992, a law had been enacted as to how the federal assets were going to be divided and twelve days later, an act was passed that set the dissolution date on 31 December 1992.
Complex matters such as the continuity of government, laws, and arrangements for courts and so on were all swiftly determined by December 1992.
A new Czech Constitution was passed on 16th December 1992. Czechoslovakia was dissolved at midnight on 31 December 1992. When people woke up on 01 January 1993, they had new nationalities.
Within a mere six months, a comprehensive settlement had been agreed and activated. Immobile assets were distributed to the country where they sat, mobile assets and assets abroad were distributed according to the rough population ratio.
Amendments to international treaties signed by Czechoslovakia were negotiated and signed very quickly by both new republics, confirming the continuation of such treaties.
In 1996, the two countries signed a protocol specifying the distribution of duties enshrined by treaties signed as Czechoslovakia.
All of this happened whilst Czechoslovakia and its constituent countries were undergoing a massive economic transformation. Czechoslovakia was privatizing on an unprecedented scale and at an unprecedented pace.
In a way, it was like Brexit and the UK’s 1980s privatizations combined, only a lot more complicated. Whereas the 1980s UK privatized two companies a year, the early 1990s Czechoslovakia privatized two companies an hour.
Taken together, these companies’ accounting value was a big share of GDP. The voucher privatization alone (there were other methods of privatization) privatized companies worth one-third of Czechoslovak GDP.
And let us not forget the fact that Czechoslovakia was also a currency union. The original idea was that the currency would continue after the separation, but the Czechoslovak koruna outlived Czechoslovakia by a mere six weeks. All of this was taking place at the exact same time the republics were being separated. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Two things made this possible:
The leaders’ insistence that it must happen fast before organized business interests and/or government could mount a successful defence of the status quo.
Then the fact that the two newly-created governments, for all the tension between them, successfully worked together to apply current or previous arrangements in good faith.
Wherever questions or differences arose, they sought an amicable solution where none of the parties would score a win for their side but rather one where future cooperation would be maintained.
Nobody was proposing divorce bills or ridiculous notions of planes not flying, trucks stuck at the border, licenses not being recognized, or one country continuing to have jurisdiction over the other for the next 100 years.
Time and good faith were of the essence. If Czechs and Slovaks were able to separate in six months, surely Westminster and Holyrood will be able find a way to extract one the other in a similar time period?
Credit this article (paraphrased a wee bit here and there) to Martin Pánek, Director of the Prague-based Liberal Institute.