Scottish Independence Could Trigger Security Council Reform

Sept. 7, 2013 – A Yes vote in the Sept. 18th Scottish independence referendum could lead to the UK losing its permanent Security Council seat and trigger wider reform of the 15-nation body.

There is precedent in favor of such a scenario not happening. Following the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Russia notified the UN that it would assume the USSR permanent seat in the Council and the 11 former Soviet republics also wrote in favor of Russia taking the USSR seat. That was before calls for Security Council reform began in earnest, in the mid-1990s.

And since the end of the Cold War, clamor for reform has grown – most recently because of the failure of the 15-nation body to act on the situation in Syria.

Privately, non-permanent members of the Council have complained they are locked out of decision making by the P5, and in the wider UN membership there is a push for more transparency and accountability from the Council.

By what current logic should Europe possess two of the five permanent veto-wielding seats on the Security Council is also increasingly asked while Africa and Latin America have none.

An independent Scotland and EU member states may support a downsized UK – which would presumably have a new name – holding on to the old UK seat, but countries that aspire to a permanent seat – such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa – could see a Scottish Yes vote as an opportunity to change the status quo in an outdated UN.

This year’s high-level segment of the General Assembly opens on Sept. 22nd, four days after the Scottish poll, and if speeches from recent years are an indication there will be more calls for reform of the Security Council, and the result of the Sept. 18 referendum may give those calls more legs.

Moreover, the UN charter is in dire need of reform. It still refers to Germany, Japan and Italy as enemy states and despite the succession of Russia to the USSR seat the charter still refers to the USSR, as well as the Republic of China, as holders of two of the permanent five seats.

But any change to the charter requires the consent of the P5 and they are united in upholding the status quo to hold on to their veto power and not open up the can of worms that could lead to the much needed reform the UN requires to reflect the world as it is today.

An independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the UN, which should be an uncomplicated process.

 – Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

World Cup 2014: the UN and FIFA

June 11, 2014 – Thirty-one of the 32 nations that will contest this year’s World Cup are UN member states with England the odd one out.

That’s because the UK, comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is a UN member while each of its country’s football associations are individual FIFA members and compete separately for qualification.

FIFA is bigger than the 193-member UN. The world football body has 209 member associations including China, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Macau. It also includes Puerto Rico, Montserrat, Guam, Suriname, Tahiti and Denmark’s Faroe Islands, along with several other dependent territories of France, the US, UK and the Netherlands.

Most of the associations that are not a UN member are FIFA members on the basis of Article 10, Paragraph 6 of the Fifa statutes. It states: ‘A football association representing a territory that has not yet gained independence may apply for FIFA membership if it has the authorization of the association of the country to which this territory belongs.’

Not so for Kosovo. Despite recognition from 96 countries, it is not a full member of FIFA because of Serbian objections.

Besides the United Kingdom, there are seven other UN member states that are not members of FIFA – Monaco, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu.

Although its economic and political influence is waning on the world stage, Europe still dominates on the football field with 13 of the 32 World Cup slots allocated to the continent while South America gets six, Asia and Oceania, 5, Africa, 5, and North and Central America, including the Caribbean, gets four places.

The World Cup draw itself has produced some interesting UN battles with current Security Council members Australia and Chile facing off in Group B, while fellow non-permanent members Nigeria and Argentina meet in Group E, a group that also includes Bosnia and Iran, two countries that are both on the Security Council’s agenda.

But the biggest battle of all could happen in the knockout stage. If the US emerge as runners-up in its very difficult group and Russia wins its somewhat easier group – which also includes non-permanent Council member South Korea – then the two will meet in the round of 16.

Let the games begin.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

An Independent Scotland Not Likely to Face Difficulties Joining UN


Feb. 11, 2013 – British Prime Minister David Cameron was correct when he said earlier on Monday that an independent Scotland will have to renegotiate its relationship with international bodies but secessionists need not worry about Edinburgh encountering problems joining the UN.

While Kosovo and Palestine see their path to full UN membership blocked in the Security Council by Russia and the United States respectively, there are several examples of newly-independent states getting admitted hassle-free as full United Nations member states.

South Sudan was admitted to the UN on July 9, 2012, a year after it broke from Khartoum. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were both admitted to the UN on Jan 19, 1993, nineteen days after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

Several former Soviet states were also admitted in the early nineties including Central Asian countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The former Yugoslav states Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia all joined the UN in 1992 or 1993. Before then, Bangladesh was admitted shortly after its separation from Pakistan. An earlier example is the readmission of Syria after it broke from the then United Arab Republic.

Full membership of the United Nations requires a recommendation from the Security Council and a simple majority vote in the General Assembly.

Barring an unlikely veto from the UK, Edinburgh should not have a problem getting the Security Council’s recommendation and would be expected to easily secure General Assembly approval.

A more troubling scenario for Scotland is whether it would have to renegotiate the 14,000 international treaties the UK has signed.

Denis Fitzgerald