Exclusive: UN draws up peacekeeping plans in event of Scottish Yes vote
UN's traditional 'blue helmet' colour scheme is in doubt as it could be misinterpreted as a show of support for an independent Scotland
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 01 April 2014
The United Nations is drawing up plans for a peacekeeping mission to monitor cross-border tensions in the event of a Yes vote for Scottish independence, The Independent can reveal.
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Senior UN officials in New York and Geneva are understood to have begun exploring a “last resort” intervention following the refusal of the main Westminster parties to share the pound with an independent Scotland and polls showing rising support for separation north of the border.
Sources within the UN said they were concerned that souring relations between London and Edinburgh in the wake of a victory for SNP leader Alex Salmond could encourage “hotheads” on either side of the border to stoke tensions and seek confrontation.
One scenario being taken seriously is pre-arranged “face-offs”, modelled on the film Braveheart, between rival militias who it is feared could travel to towns such as Gretna Green and Berwick-upon-Tweed for weekend showdowns.
There are also concerns that the days leading up to independence will provoke a sudden exodus of economic migrants either from England to Scotland or vice versa depending on which country is perceived to have the highest chance of future prosperity.
Under the UN plans, reception centres will be set up in Dumfries and Carlisle to cater for migrants. The Independent has been told that conflict-avoidance experts are particularly drawing on UN experience with intractable border disputes such as Cyprus for the Anglo-Scottish mission, which has been provisionally named UNPPICT – the UN Prevention Programme for Inter-Caledonian Tensions.
With formal negotiations on separation likely to start within weeks of a vote in favour of independence on 18 September, countries with a capacity for rapid deployment on UN peacekeeping missions, including Argentina, Spain and the Irish Republic, are also understood to have been approached. A senior UN planner said: “It has to be emphasised that this is something we envisage only as a last resort.”
Fears that the traditional “blue helmet” colour scheme of UN peacekeepers could be misinterpreted as a show of support for an independent Scotland have led to a rethink on what headwear UNPPICT personnel might wear. A “neutral” purple beret is the favoured alternative.
Planners have also begun discussions on where the UN mission, which would initially consist of civilian observers but could eventually draw on military resources including drones to monitor movements either side of Hadrian’s Wall, should be based. Coldstream, with its long history as a pivot point in Scots and English relations, is understood to be the favoured location.
Avril Prime, who runs a guest house in the Borders town, told The Independent she had been approached to accommodate a UN delegation. She said: “There was an enquiry last month for a block booking from September. I assumed it was something to do with fishing.”
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