LONDON — British security could come under threat if Scotland votes for independence in its 2014 referendum, Britain's foreign ministry warned on Wednesday.
Enemies of Britain could exploit any instability caused by the break-up of the 300-year-old union and the creation of a new border along the north of England, the Foreign Office told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.
"There could be a short-term risk of opponents of the UK's foreign policy seeking to exploit any uncertainty or distraction that could follow a vote in favour of separation for Scotland," the ministry said in a statement.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland's pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond signed a referendum deal in Edinburgh on Monday, firing the starting gun on a two-year campaign for the hearts and minds of Scottish voters.
Cameron strongly opposes a breakaway, while Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) which heads the Scottish administration, claims independence would boost the Scottish economy as well as bringing greater political autonomy.
Cameron's Conservatives, their government coalition partners the Liberal Democrats and the main opposition Labour party have all said they will campaign against a Scottish breakaway.
A survey by ComRes for ITV News released on Monday showed only 34 percent of Scots in favour of an independent Scotland, similar to previous polls.
The Foreign Office urged Salmond's administration to provide evidence that an independent Scotland would automatically keep its membership of international bodies such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.
The new nation would have to withdraw from Britain's 14,000 treaties and its citizens could face a greater risk of "child abduction, forced marriage or crime" through the loss of British consular assistance, the ministry also warned.
But the SNP dismissed the security concerns.
"Independence will mean that we continue to work in co-operation with other parts of the UK, our European neighbours and international partners on common defence and security interests," a party spokesman said.
The SNP is due to vote on overturning its historic opposition to NATO at its party conference on Friday.
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