Scotland/England Maritime Boundaries 93

According to existing Westminster legislation, English waters stretch at their North Easterly point to 56 degrees 36 minutes north – that is over 100 miles North of the border at Berwick, and North of Dundee.

In 1999 Tony Blair, abetted by the Scottish traitor Donald Dewar, redrew the existing English/Scottish maritime boundary to annex 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters to England, including the Argyll field and six other major oilfields. The idea was specifically to disadvantage Scotland’s case for independence.

The pre-1999 border was already very favourable to England. In 1994, while I was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I had already queried whether it was too favourable to England. I little anticipated that five years later Blair would push it seventy miles North!!

I should explain that I was the Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and was number 2 on the UK team that negotiated the UK/Ireland, UK/Denmark (Shetland/Faeroes), UK/Belgium, and Channel Islands/France maritime boundaries, as well as a number of British Dependent Territories boundaries. There are very few people in the World – single figures – who have more experience of actual maritime boundary negotiation than me.

The UK’s other maritime boundaries are based on what is known formally in international law as the modified equidistance principle. The England/Scotland border was of course imposed, not negotiated. It is my cold, professional opinion that this border lies outside the range of feasible solutions that could be obtained by genuine negotiation, arbitration or judgement.

It ignores a number of acknowledged precepts in boundary resolutions, most important of which is how to deal with an inverted right angle coastline, as the Scottish coastline is from Elgin to Berwick, with the angle point around Edinburgh. It also fails adequately to close the Forth and Tay estuaries with baselines – by stark contrast to the massive baselines the UK used across the Thames and Stour.

It is essential that Scotland is not conned into accepting the existing England Scotland maritime boundary as a precondition of any independence referendum. This boundary must be subject to negotiation between equal nations post independence, and in my opinion is most likely to end with referral to the International Court of Justice. I have no doubt the outcome would be a very great deal better for Scotland than the Blair-Dewar line, which would cost Scotland billions.

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93 thoughts on “Scotland/England Maritime Boundaries

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  • Iain Orr


    Boundary negotations (and arbitration, if necessary) are covered in the Scottish Government’s August 2007 document, “Choosing Scotland’s Future: A National Conversation: Independence and Responsibility in the Modern World”:

    ” …[3.15]…Any issues concerning the borders of an independent Scotland, particularly the continental shelf, would also have to be negotiated, but in a manner that respects the governing principles of international law in such matters.
    3.16 These issues are likely to be dealt with in an overall agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government, enshrined in legislation enacted at both Westminster and Holyrood, to allow both Parliaments the opportunity to consider and agree matters affecting both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
    3.17 At the beginning of such a process of negotiation, arrangements should be agreed for arbitration under the principles of international law of any issues which the parties find themselves unable to resolve by mutual agreement.”
    I have sent you an email about possible interest in this domestic international issue by the International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU) at Durham University.


    For the Beyond Petroleum future of all parts of the present UK there’s a useful Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Sources at .

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    I’m sorry, delimitation of sea boundaries turns my mind immediately towards Palestine and human rights.
    OT agreed (I’m upset) – the marine ‘buffer zone’ restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza’s fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.
    In the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for fishing access. In 2002 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12 nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon.
    Since 2009 the limit is three (3) miles. OK – off my chest – thank-you.

  • OldMark

    Thanks for the link Mary.

    The conclusion here seems to be that the English domain in the North Sea extends as far as the Auk field, and not the Fulmar field as I stated on the other thread.

    The report you link to also discusses the implications of any possible secession from Scotland of the Orkney and/or Shetland Islands. These islands have been ‘British’ since 1707. Prior to that, for how long were they actually ‘Scottish’ ? (My understanding is that they belonged to Norway until at least the mid 14th century). Both sets of islands also have a good percentage of English immigrants in situ. Interestingly, the Bloc Quebecqois blamed their narrow defeat in the independence referendum in the 90s on recent immigrants who wanted to keep links to Canada. Will history follow a similar path when the Scotch referendum is held ?

  • James Irvine


    Thanks for your concern for the people of Orkney and Shetland. It is interesting that this concern of English people towards them only appears when the issue of Scotish independence comes up, and is always articulated in terms of oil and gas reserves and no other aspect of the life of those people or the islands.

  • DonnyDarko

    Oldmark: Before the Viking conquests of Scotland , England and Ireland the Picts were living on both Islands.
    The Normen Conquest of England was carried out by Vikings settled in France.I think we’ve all got a bit of Norwegian or Danish blood in us.

  • Jon

    > It is interesting that this concern of English people towards them only appears when
    > the issue of Scotish independence comes up
    I see the point you are making, but you wouldn’t want to be making race-baced generalisation, would you? I think there are plenty of English people who want Scotland to be independent simply because (or if) that is what people living in Scotland want. We’re not all bad, you know.

  • Demeter

    Just wondering if the English can have a referendum for independance from Westminster too

  • Lloyd Jones


    We must guard against being drawn into a bad tempered war of words against ourselves. We are brothers and sisters on these islands. We have built a world together and we have fought together. We have created a common culture, cultures high and low and together we have travelled across the globe and suffered and shined in all the continents.

    The truths of our mutual situation are many sided. The Scots have right on their side when they say they have a claim to the oil and gas of the northern sea. The Scots have right on their side when they state, as no one can contradict, that they are a free and independent nation, not only right but history. Scotland is a nation unto itself, with the power and ability to govern itself like any nation great or small.

    But the story does not begin or end there. Britain is a geographical space and our enemies, present or future, would make no distinction between the coast and the land between Berwick and the ancient citadel of blue and white power. The constitutional binding of our nations is a deep and legitimate concern for the followers of Albion and no one should ever gainsay the glorious majesty of the estate and parliament of Westminster as if this were only a seat of oppression and not a space where the reigns of history have not pulled the world along.

    The facts of two nations, three nations, even four are our own to digest. Their mutuality cannot be separated. Can you imagine the history of anyone you know so that the Scottish and the English can be pulled apart?

  • Clark

    I found this map and its associated legend on the site CeeDee linked to:
    Yes, the URL is odd, containing a mix of forward and backward slashes. Only Microsoft use backslashes in web addresses, and the site is running the Microsoft IIS server (bad). The site seems generally broken, most links don’t work.
    However, I think I may have found infrast.pdf:

  • Lloyd Jones

    What does this prove? They are a load of lines on a map? I thought that the thoughts of this blog were against the instrumentalization of human relationships. We are supposed to be against the causing of disputes based on the delineation of the ownership of this or that carbon fuel which while it may keep the lights going for a few years more or may cause the exchequer to earn this or that money is not really the pull and push of history, which is a story of hopes and desires of identity and passions.

  • Vronsky

    There are some English posters here and elsewhere who tend to be rather racist and unpleasant about the Scots – or ‘Scotch’, as they say – a word apparently intended to be as offensive as ‘nigger’. Although this sort of thing is depressingly common across websites and political forums, I want to report that it isn’t typical of the Englishman in the wild. To begin with we have plenty of ODEs (Ordinary Decent Englishmen) posting here – but I can report wider experience.
    I’ve spent much time in England, working, playing and living. My first school was Broadlane in Nantwich, and when I first attended school in Scotland I arrived with a broad Cheshire accent (not yet entirely erased, I’m told). In later life my experience of English people has usually been that they’re not much exercised by the idea of Scottish independence – ‘if that’s what the Jocks want, let them have it’ is the commonest reaction, perhaps occasionally delivered with a a wee bit of sadness but no recrimination.
    It’s my hope, and I know it’s Craig’s too, that Scottish separation and the ending of the UK as we presently know it will help the ordinary Englishman at least as much as the ordinary Scot. I’m interested and encouraged by Mark Golding’s feeling that perhaps the benevolent rippples could spread even wider. Who knows. However here in these islands some sort of revolution is needed and I can’t imagine any of the posters here carrying scythes and cudgels – so why not just encourage the Scots to have a go at kicking the broken machine?

  • Vronsky

    @lloyd jones
    All wonderfully sonorous and declamatory. But what’s Ed Miliband’s speech writer doing here?

  • Qark

    “There are some English posters here and elsewhere who tend to be rather racist and unpleasant about the Scots – or ‘Scotch’, as they say – a word apparently intended to be as offensive as ‘nigger’.”
    There are some Scotch posters here who tend to be rather racist and unpleasant about the English, insisting among other things that the English are racist if they chose to adhere to the traditional vocabulary of their own language.

  • crab

    As a brit in Ulster, the prospect is daunting, anything could happen here. But the fruits of the combined Union continue to be war and avarice.
    If the Scots could break the Union in an untimely manner before our planned war ON Iran, they might be able to pull themselves and others out of it. Would that it were – time for a revolution.

  • Mary

    O/T but maritime as it concerns the Free Gaza voyages and the evil of Obama’s state of AMERIKA.
    HR bill 3131 is “in committee” according to this website
    under the “full text” number 21. Our captain on the Free Gaza boat, the first boat into Gaza in 41 years, John Klusmire, is specifically named as violating Greek orders. But it’s much more than that, as you can see below:
    “To direct the Secretary of State to submit a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization and any actions taken by the Department of State to express gratitude to the government of Greece for preventing the Gaza flotilla from setting sail in contravention of Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza, and for other purposes.”
    (21) Greek authorities boarded ships and took into custody several individuals, including Captain John Klusmire of the ship Audacity of Hope as it violated Greek Coast Guard orders by setting sail without permission.
    We are gathering names of those of us who will INSIST on putting our own names on this bill if our representatives do not remove John’s. If you are an American citizen and you want your name added to this evil bill, please email me directly, and I will send the names on to the American contingent. The only way we can defeat something like this is if we are all willing to stand up for John and stand up for justice.

    Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
    +33 607 374 512


  • Mary

    Comment 52 on

    Vote ‘NO’
    Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 11:32 PM
    Over 18 months, Alex Salmond tried to block 4 separate FoI requests concerning correspondence he had had with RBS boss Fred Goodwin. Forced to do so, it showed Salmond egging on Goodwin in the purchase of Dutch bank ABN Amro. RBS was in competition with ‘English’ bank Barclays. Salmond reported that an RBS victory was “in Scottish interests”. Successful in overpaying for what became an asset-stripped liability it was the deal which broke RBS. So, despite being holed up in his backwater pretendy part-time pariament, all the evidence shows that the SNP under Salmond is as guilty and caused as much chaos as Brown or any other Labour politician.


  • Misc. musings

    Am I alone in wondering whether DC does not appreciate the possible benefits to ‘conservative England’ of Scotland becoming independent:

    1) obviously, easy future election victories for conservatives in England;

    2) split the UK into rich and poor, like a sovereign version of a pre pack, leaving Scotland with its welfare and public sector costs to the EU / Germany and repackaging the wealth in England;

    3) if England & Wales then departed the EU ( neither Scotland nor the UK remnant would automatically still be a member of the EU, or would they ?) but Scotland remains in the EU (as it would be likely to want to) then there be an official English boot out of Europe, but a Scottish boot (and therefore an unofficial EU boot ) in Europe, which with a bit of back room negotiating could benefit both SNP and conservatives.

  • Rob Royston

    There is an internet site called the Scottish Democratic Alliance who have been going on about this boundary change for years.
    I was not then fully aware of how and why the change had been made and could not, using charts and navigation instruments, find a lot wrong with the border as it seemed to be based exactly on the equidistance law.
    I visited their site a few weeks ago and it is now more explanatory. There is a dispute about that part of Berwick to the North of the river with claims that it is still in Scotland although administered from South of the river.
    Now with further comments from Craig and Ian Hamilton regarding baselines and the Law it seems that there was indeed some skuldugry taking place.

  • Tapestry

    It’s a longterm objective of the World Government to break up the current nations into larger number of parts. Iraq, Turkey, UK etc etc etc. It’s easier to prevent any strong rebellion once all are fractured.

  • Anon

    @John Goss
    “Perhaps Scots can understand how the Argentinians felt about the Malvinas, which prior to Thatcher’s exuberantly costly war, in all senses of the word costly, in order to protect islands 7,000 miles away which before the war everybody thought were in Scotland!”

    “Take the war criminal with the bloodied hands out to sea in a helicopter to the stolen area and drop him out in the style of the Pinochet gangs who did the same to opponents of that nasty regime. Then he can swim for it.”

    Clearly their love of fascists grabbing land by force and abusing human rights started well before Saddam.

  • Dick the Prick

    Gosh it’s a toughie – guaranteed Tory and English control of an English Parliament for a generation or just watching a bullshit audit whilst fat Jock bastard politicians line their pockets. All I can see is costs being borne by me – a Yorkshire sheep shagger, by jocks and miks, taffys, joes and english dumb ejeets who pay their taxes so politicians can talk bollox. I dunno, none of my business really. I’m just a bit bored of it already. Scotland has the best landscapes, whisky and golf in the world – what the fuck is gonna change?

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