In this series of articles Ian Carse looks at small independent nations and if there are any lessons to be learned from their journeys to self government for Scotland.
By Ian Carse
As a result of the alarming worldwide spread of Covid19 around the Globe you could say that we are living through one of the most unprecedented times in world history when international cooperation has seldom been so important. You could of course say that world wars, other epidemics, global warming etc were/are every bit as serious and I wouldn’t argue against that.
However, I find it hard to think of a time when pretty well every country in the world was affected by something that has prompted such international concern in every country and concerted global action to find a solution, in this case a vaccine, using the expertise and resources around the globe in roughly the same time frame.
We, of course, would have been better served if poor leaders such as Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro and others were competent. Others may even add, with some justification, female, as many of the ladies who are leading countries around the globe are receiving very positive praise for their efforts and initiatives during this crisis, and they are demonstrating clear leadership as we battle to find a solution for everyone.
Thankfully, my family and I live in a country with a high standard of living and an efficient health service. However, I do from time to time think “for how much longer?”
Being a committed supporter of Yes however, my thoughts also turned to small countries that have the same size, or smaller, populations than Scotland and I wondered how they are coping in this pandemic?
So I started to look at the smallest independent country in the UN, Nauru, and I am pleased to say that, as of 25 July 2020, Nauru along with 9 other Oceania sovereign states have yet to report a case. Long may that continue!
For your information the other nine Oceania States are Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Federated State of Micronesia, Palua, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. All of whom are members of the United Nations and all of them are smaller than Scotland.
Each UN member state has equal representation in the organization. Nauru being the smallest, with a recorded population in 2019 of 10,670 people (roughly 0.2% of Scotland’s population).
So I started to think – How can it be that Scotland is considered to be too small to be an independent country when Nauru is considered viable?
Measuring just eight square miles, Nauru is larger than just two other countries: the Vatican City and Monaco. There really isn’t much room in Nauru, it has no protected areas, no World Heritage Sites, no rivers, and just 30km of roads
It is 52 years since Nauru gained independence yet here we are still waiting for our independence to be agreed and the SNP was formed as long ago as 7 April 1934.
Not that I am blaming the SNP, the Greens or indeed the broader Yes movement in Scotland for this lack of progress as all have resolutely led the campaign for Scottish Independence and now the SNP/Green Coalition provide effective government in Holyrood, but I do wonder why other countries have achieved their peaceful transition to independence quicker than Scotland. So I started to ask what did Nauru have, and/or do, which has led them to success while Scotland has been held back?
It turns out that after World War 2 ended the country Nauru entered into a United Nations Trusteeship and its governance was overseen by the UK, Australia and New Zealand under this United Nations agreement until 1966. Full independence came two years later for Nauru in 1968, and Nauru subsequently became a member of the Pacific Community (SPC) in 1969 and a full Member State of the United Nations on 14 September 1999
Fair enough I say, but then I found myself asking what made these countries who were the UN Trusteeship countries, particularly the UK, feel that Nauru had which would necessarily allow it to become a viable independent country? Equally I was wondering what Nauru had that Scotland doesn’t have? Also I asked myself would Scotland be better served under a UN Trusteeship?
However, when looking into it a UN Trusteeship that route isn’t possible because the use of Trusteeships terminated some time ago. Nor is a Trusteeship really desirable for the reasons you will see below.
The answer to my question though has a deep resonance for Scotland. It was natural resources which rich countries wanted to exploit that they would not let go of until their value had been largely exhausted that maintained their interest in the UN Trusteeship.
So now I suggest you Think Oil!!, and in the text below change the word Phosphate for Oil.
Nauru was once the world’s richest country per head of population
So rich were Nauru’s phosphate reserves that for a brief period in the Nineteen Sixties it had the highest per capita GDP in the world
Nauru was once described as a pleasant place
Indeed the first Westerner to visit Nauru was the British whaler John Fearn, who dropped anchor there in 1798. He was clearly impressed, calling it “Pleasant Island”.
The island is ringed by coral reef, which prevents it from having a port but at one time in the not so distant past it made a good place for diving and snorkeling.
Alas, those phosphate reserves have now been largely exhausted and recently the GDP of Nauru has been recorded as $102m (£72m). Not that the indigenous people are to blame for this fall in their country’s fortunes. However, I was interested to note that Scotland’s GDP was recorded in 2017 as approximately £156.03 billion, which is approximately $200 billion.
In addition the impact of phosphate mining has wiped out much of the marine life leaving Nauru with a very limited way of earning an income in today’s world.
However, Nauru could, with the right support, play its part in rebuilding our world and informing/assisting in the debate over climate change, and repairing the damage to the environment which we must avoid for the future of the planet through what it has experienced as a country. Also, because it is an independent country and a member of the United Nations, Nauru is therefore, a country with potential influence.
I started out thinking how can Nauru be considered a viable independent country when Scotland cannot be considered as a similarly viable entity.
Now I am left thinking that becoming an independent nation and a member of the UN possibly has more to do with the fact that once the country that rules you decides you have no economic benefit left in their eyes then you can have your independence, but not before then.
We have the resources, the infrastructure, a sound legal system and a raft of other key attributes to build a modern and influential independent country that the UN Member States would admire and include.
However, there could be yet still one potential obstacle to independence. Even if we assume that we have achieved a majority Yes vote in a legitimate Referendum there is still potentially one more major stumbling block to progress.
The UN states that “..the admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”.
“A recommendation for admission from the Security Council requires affirmative votes from at least nine of the council’s fifteen members, with none of the five permanent members using their veto power. The Security Council’s recommendation must then be approved in the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority vote.”
Can you spot the potential stumbling block? You’ve got it! The UK is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and as a result has the power of veto.
I am sure many people would all say “surely London Government would not use their veto if the majority of the Scottish voting public had voted Yes in a referendum?”
However, ask yourself, how often have we experienced London government doing things to our disadvantage? Brexit is just one example and that is why some people would now say that running a Referendum without agreeing a Section 30 Order runs the risk of any UK government using its UN veto as described above.
Meantime, I am now of a mind that what we need to do is learn the lessons from Nauru and work with Nauru and other small nations across the globe to be able to join them in the community of worldwide nations who are trying to build a better future for everyone while protecting our planet and its inhabitants, regardless if species, from those who put expediency, profit, exploitation and power before society, humanity, cooperation for the common good with kindness and fairness towards all being our mantra.
As a footnote the final question that I am left with though is “Once the Oil has largely run out and London Government sees no financial benefit to having Scotland what will we be left with to build a new nation?
You know the answer. There is more to Scotland than just oil and we deserve the chance to play our part in world affairs rather than being held back and undervalued by Westminster!
This film is from 2017 and features an item about the Nauru detention centre which is now closed.
To find out more about Nauru’s detention centre: Nauru Regional Processing Centre