Independent Scotland would keep …

In its White Paper today (26 November 2013) the Scottish Government has tried to reassure nervous sceptics with a list of things that they hope a future independent Scotland would keep.  Widely reported have been the Queen, the pound sterling , membership of the EU, membership of NATO (all these subject to negotiation), free travel to the rest of the British Isles, the BBC, Royal Mail (albeit renationalised).  But there is one item in the list that has not attracted much attention …

The White Paper concludes with a list of questions, of which no. 108 reads as follows:

“Weights and Measures
108. Would Scotland develop its own legislation on weights and measures, and would this be metric or imperial?

The existing system will continue on independence.”

MetricViews takes no view on whether Scots would be wise to vote for independence from the UK.  Some Scottish supporters of completing metrication may have been considering voting for independence in the hope that an independent Scotland might escape from the “very British mess” of trying to operate two incompatible systems of measurement at the same time.  However, it appears from the White Paper that such hopes would be unfounded.

4 thoughts on “Independent Scotland would keep …”

  1. Perhaps I should also have pointed out that if an independent Scotland were required to rejoin the EU as a new member state (as the commission have said they would) they would not automatically be able to claim the various exemptions and opt-outs enjoyed by the UK. These include the euro currency and the Schengen Agreement as well as the right to continue to use certain imperial units that were legal at the time of accession in 1973. So despite the bland assurance quoted above, it is not at all clear what the Scottish measurement system would be after independence.


  2. The bland reply given in the document suggests that the question of weights and measures has not been given any thought.
    One question is whether or not an independent Scotland would become a signatory of the Metre Convention and if so, would she be a full member or an associate member. Norway and Sweden are both credited with have been original signatories of the treaty, having joined as a single country in 1875 and split into two in 1905, as was the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia who both joined as part of Czechoslovakia in 1922. On the other hand the Irish Free State joined in its own right in 1925. The conditions for signing the convention are diplomatic relations with France, a national laboratory and payment of annual subscriptions. Full members have the right to a national prototype kilogram that is calibrated against the international prototype kilogram, a seat on the CGPM and a right to have one of their nationals elected to the 18-strong CIPM. Since 1999 associate membership has been available to countries that wish to partake in the Mutual recognition agreement program only. All EU members apart from Cyprus and Luxembourg have signed the Metre Convention, though Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Malta are associate members only.
    Another question is the status of EU directive 80/181/EEC within an independent Scotland. Under the directive, the mile and the pint may only be used in “in those Member States where they were authorised on 21 April 1973”, the United Kingdom and Ireland having joined in 1 January 1973. Would an independent Scotland be recognised as such a state for purposes of this directive, or would an independent Scotland be deemed a “new country” that did not exist in 1973? I am not qualified to answer that question¹. Both the document on Scottish independence and the EU directive are clear on one thing – Scotland would not re-introduce the old (pre-1707) Scottish measures – the Scots mile being 1.12 Statute miles (1973 metres) and the Scots pint being 2.996 imperial pints (1.696 litres).
    During the last decade, the administration of weights and measures has been overhauled in the United Kingdom to bring it into line with various EU directives. At the turn of the century trading standards officers were responsible for both certifying weights and measures as being legal for trade and for ensuring that traders comply with the legislation. EU directives required that certification of weights and measures should be privatised in much the same way that motor car MoTs are privatised, that they are regulated by national laboratories and that unlike MoTs, anybody seeking certification of their equipment may approach any certification company anywhere within the EU. Since this an EU-wide arrangement, it is unlikely to have any noticeable effect on an independent Scotland, the main issue being whether or not an independent Scotland would have its own national laboratory or whether she would “contract the work out” in the way that Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Cyprus do.

    [¹However, the Commission have indicated that Scotland would be regarded as a new applicant – Editor]


  3. I think you are to be congratulated on picking up so quickly that metrication is one of many things not considered. Here in Scotland we live in fear and trepidation that people in their ignorance may be overwhelmed by his eloquence and vote for independence. Please keep up the pressure.


  4. The Sunday Times News Review on 1st December had a spoof piece on Scotland’s independence titled ‘Aye, Welcome to the New Free Caledonia’, in which it was suggested that Sean Connery will be its president in 2024. I quote a couple of sentences from the article:

    ‘The “Andy Murray, Grand Slam champion 2020” commemorative shortbread was reduced to 9 groats and 99 bawbees a kilo. “Aye, we are metric,” said the Ghost. “Wee Alex Salmond didnae like the sound of imperial measures. Reminded him too much of the evil, old empire.”‘

    Apart from the fact that the shortbread would have been sold by the kilo anyway, I wonder if Connery would really embrace the metric system. If Scotland’s road signs had already been converted by Salmond, would Connery convert them back?


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