Conservative MP David Mundell has caused outrage after suggesting that Scotland did not exist according to international law, and that the nation had been extinguished by the 1707 Act of Union.
Mr Mundell, who is a junior minister in the Scotland Office, made the astonishing claim in an interview on STV’s Scotland Tonight.
Asked by interviewer John MacKay if he was comfortable with a UK Government report that said Scotland had been “extinguished” by the 1707 Act of Union, the Tory MP replied “yes”.
He said: “Yes, I think that the Act of Union isn’t relevant to this, nor is the break-up of Czechoslovakia”
The remarks have been met with anger by many, with the SNP claiming Mr Mundell’s “cack-handed remarks” had caused major damage to the No campaign.
The interview followed publication yesterday of a report by the UK government which claimed that an independent Scotland would have to start from scratch, inheriting none of the UK’s treaties and obligations. However the initial claim led to furious backtracking by UK Ministers after it emerged Scotland would therefore incur none of the UK’s massive national debt burden.
The report also contained a controversial paragraph that claimed Scotland had effectively ceased to exist when the 1707 Act of Union was ratified.
According to page 75 of the UK government report:
"For the purpose of this advice, it is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state."
Mr Mundell’s public endorsement of the claim has been criticised by the SNP. The nationalists said it blew apart Unionist claims that Scotland was an equal partner in the Union.
SNP MSP Roderick Campbell, an Advocate, said:
"In his cack-handed 'Yes' response, David Mundell has done enormous damage to the 'No' campaign.
"For generations, the ideology of unionism in Scotland has rested on the idea that 1707 was about the coming together of two equal nations in a new partnership for the supposed betterment of Scotland - but the UK Government have now repudiated this by agreeing that the Union 'extinguished' Scotland.
"For example, only a few weeks ago in the House of Lords Michael Forsyth made his case for a 'No' vote on the basis that the Union 'guarantees those aspects of Scotland that make it an independent country'."
Speaking last month, Mr Forsyth said: “In 1707, we did not give up our status as an independent country. Indeed, the Act of Union guarantees those aspects of Scotland that make it an independent country.”
Mr Campbell added: "The Tory-led government at Westminster have now left poor Lord Forsyth and the 'No' campaign leaders with no positive case to make - they have torn up any Scottish case for the Union by saying that it 'extinguished' Scotland.
"Never again can anyone in the 'No' campaign argue with any credibility that Scotland being governed from Westminster has anything to do with the interests of Scotland - it is about the interests of Westminster, and those who seek office and positions there.
"A Yes vote in the referendum reflects the case for Scotland, and the positive future for Scotland as a normal nation with the powers of an independent country.
“The anti-independence campaign is now asking people to vote 'No' and endorse the position that Scotland was ‘extinguished’.
“The Tory-led government's inept leadership of the 'No' campaign has shattered the claim that Scotland is an equal partner in the UK – which will only serve to boost support for an independent Scotland and a 'Yes' vote.”