Is Britain’s Security Council Seat In Jeopardy?

Elaine Teng takes the question seriously:

Strictly speaking, the Scottish referendum should not affect Britain’s Security Council seat, but reform of the U.N. is increasingly in the air. Currently, there are five permanent Security Council members who hold veto power (the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia, and China), and ten rotating members elected by the General Assembly to serve two-year terms. There’s a general consensus that the Council should be expanded to 20-25 permanent members, but that’s when things start to get tricky. Which countries should join? India, a nuclear power home to a fifth of the world’s population? Germany and Japan, two of the world’s largest economic powers who contribute more to the U.N. budget than any country other than the U.S.? Nigeria, to give Africa a seat and correct the skew of power towards Western countries? Should France and Britain’s seats be combined into a single European seat to better accommodate the changing political realities?

Independence could accelerate these conversations, especially since the Scottish referendum comes just two days after the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly on Tuesday. Should Scotland become independent, the position of the new, much smaller Britain on the Security Council might be called in to question. (An independent Scotland would apply for U.N. membership, a process that should be relatively smooth and straightforward.)

Stewart M. Patrick dismisses such speculation:

This is not going to happen. The near-certain outcome, if the Scots unwisely choose to go it alone, is that the authorities in Edinburgh will immediately recognize the UK government’s UNSC claim. A newly independent but closely integrated Scotland has everything to lose and nothing to gain by disputing the UK’s permanent seat. (Nationalism may be “political romanticism,” in Isaiah Berlin’s words, but even the most starry-eyed Scots understand that a country of fewer than six million has no permanent slot on the UNSC). Perhaps more surprisingly, the attitude of the remaining permanent four UNSC members will be identical: they will quickly recognize the rump United Kingdom as the state entitled to permanent membership.