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What If Scotland Chooses Independence?

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond gives a speech to launch the consultation for an independence referendum in Edinburgh on January 25.
First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond gives a speech to launch the consultation for an independence referendum in Edinburgh on January 25.
By Rikard Jozwiak
BRUSSELS -- The date's not yet set, but Scots are on the verge of being asked if they want independence from the United Kingdom.

For a long time it seemed that most Scots would favor staying in the union, but polls in recent weeks have indicated that opinion is equally split between the two camps.

Much will depend on how the referendum, expected by 2014, will be put.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is due in Edinburgh on February 16 for talks with the head of Scotland's devolved government, Alex Salmond, in an effort to agree the referendum's terms.

The British government wants a straight in-or-out question whereas Scotland's devolved government, dominated by the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), has been toying with the idea of asking two questions: one about independence and one about whether Scotland should acquire more powers inside the United Kingdom -- a move short of independence known as "devolution max."

The SNP has also pushed for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote -- the legal voting age is currently 18. Youngsters tend to be more pro-independence.

How would a Scottish separation from the United Kingdom look?

It's likely to be a velvet divorce. The Scots would keep Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state and retain the British pound as their currency.

But there are tricky issues, such as the fate of the British Army's nuclear submarines, which currently are parked in Scotland's deep lochs.

"We don't want to have nuclear submarines on Scottish soil," says Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister of Scotland, "We would not have them if Scotland was to be independent. Many people in Scotland see the ability not to have weapons of mass destruction on our soil and territorial waters to be one of the great advantages and reasons to vote for independence."

Even so, finding an alternative location for the submarines could take some time, raising the scenario that London's nuclear weapons could end up stored in a foreign country.

Would an independent Scotland automatically be part of the European Union?

No one knows for sure, since there is no historical precedent and there is nothing in the EU treaties about what to do if a part of a country that already is a member state becomes independent.

Some argue that Scotland is a successor state to the United Kingdom and that the rest of the U.K. also would have to reapply to join the EU if Scotland were forced to do so.

Alyn Smith, a European member of parliament (MEP) for the SNP, says that Scotland automatically will become an EU member after settling a few issues with Brussels such as the number of Scottish MEPs , the portfolio of the Scottish EU commissioner, and the voting power of the new country.

"We will change our relationship in that we move from the second carriage of the train to the first-class carriage of the train. But that's it," he says.

But others are of the opinion that Scotland might have to go through some sort of accession talks similar to those of other EU candidate countries -- though it's unclear if Scotland would have to leave the EU before applying to join again.

Would an independent Scotland have to adopt the euro?

If Scotland is a successor state to the United Kingdom, it would inherit the United Kingdom's opt-out to the single currency. At the same time, all new member states must one day join the euro.

How to square those opposing arguments is unclear. But the most likely precedent here is Sweden, which has pledged to join the euro in the future but rejected membership through a referendum in 2003 and has stayed out ever since.

Would other EU member states accept Scotland into the club?

Fabian Zuleeg, of the Brussels-based the European Policy Center think tank, says Scottish independence would raise fears in countries such as Spain where certain separatist-minded regions might seek to copy Scotland.

"There will be worries how this could serve as a positive precedent to other movements within the EU," he says. "So I think that the Scottish would have to convince the other partners that they would be a good partner within the European policymaking environment and that their case is a special one which would not serve as a precedent for others."
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Comments
     
by: James from: London
February 16, 2012 12:46
If Scotland does vote for independence in 2014, then a second referendum will almost certainly be necessary to confirm the actual terms of independence. This would be extremely messy, as the rest of the UK population will demand a say on such an important treaty... It seems very unlikely to me that a treaty allowing and independent Scotland to stay in the pound, or walk away from RBS and HBOS's debts would ever receive approval from the electorate or English MPs. What happens then?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 16, 2012 21:03
I mean, JAMES, what is not "extremely messy" in Europe these days? Talking about the desire of (some?) people in Scotland to discontinue being a part of the UK - no wonder! What did this membership in the UK bring people? Being always associated with the aggressive desire of the British polititians to kiss the ... of such gringos as George W. Bush? Being constantly dragged into some wars - such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq and, who know, soon also in Iran or "Falkland" - because the US wants it? Live in this deindustrialized society, where young people are so hopeless that they can only loot and burn stores in London (like they did last summer) and where the only "honest" job that can help you earn a living is that of a speculator in the City?
So, I would just like to wish Scotland good luck and hopefully they will find a way of splitting peacefully from the UK :-)!
In Response

by: Elaine from: Scotland
February 17, 2012 01:46
Well said Eugenio! We Scots get constantly accused of being scroungers by our neighbours from hell in England. Rather than check out the true facts they prefer to believe the horrendous Tory media and talk down to us constantly. They treat us like parasites yet we as an Independent country is wealthy on its own rights, especially with the oil tax revenue staying in Scotland rather than propping up Westminster! James does not know Scottish people because he would not accuse us of walking away from our share of the debt.....just because its something the English may do he should not presume to know us! The bigotry that is across the net from English people calling us all sorts will only encourage more and more to vote Independence and I am confident it will happen now.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
February 21, 2012 17:42
I doubt you are Scottish "Elaine", given your terrible linguistic skills.
After all Scotland has a great tradition of literacy.
And I think you might find being independent a lot less pleasant than you think, what with all pension costs, social welfare costs, etc, falling squarely on the Scottish taxpayer rather than being spread across the Union, not to mention the withdrawal of industry back to England, the closure of military bases etc.

by: J from: US
February 17, 2012 01:18
They would have to invent a new language for themselves. Otherwise the differences from the mainland are only sympbolic
In Response

by: Kat
February 17, 2012 11:07
Scotland is attached to England - we are the 'mainland'. A lot of countries around the world speak English, like America for instance, but I wouldn't tell them that their independance is purely symbolic (or even sympbolic). Also, Scotland is already has two additional languages - gaelic and Scots, as well as many regional variants.
In Response

by: J from: US
February 18, 2012 00:38
It is silly to compare US to Scotland. You don't speak gaelic, don't fool yourself and us. It is gone
In Response

by: Kat
February 20, 2012 10:42
I personally don't speak Gaelic... because I'm from the southwest. I can however, speak Scots. I have friends who speak Gaelic. I'm not fooling anyone.
In Response

by: rick from: milan
February 21, 2012 18:42
anyway

the language is the worst tool available

for identify with certainty a people and its ethnicity
In Response

by: Ross from: Edinburgh
February 17, 2012 11:48
Does that mean the relationship between usa and canada is purely symbolic then? As both countries share a border and speak english?
In Response

by: Holebender from: Scotland
February 17, 2012 13:03
J, do you mean like the United States invented a new language for itself when it became independent?

FYI, Scotland has two indigenous languages as well as English so I think that will do us for now.
In Response

by: J from: US
February 18, 2012 00:41
Me thinks English are interested in this from what I read

by: Isoruku from: US
February 17, 2012 05:00
The "British Army" does not have submarines. The Royal Navy does. Get it?
In Response

by: Kat
February 17, 2012 11:08
Westminster has power over the defense budget and the location of the submarines, Holyrood does not. Get it?

by: vn from: Belgrade
February 17, 2012 11:49
An appeal from Serbia to Scotland and the UK: Whatever you may decide, either to become independent from each other, but yet so closely related to the rest of the mainland (EU), or not to disassemble, would you please be so kind as to take from Serbia the "Fifth Child" alongside with the rest of her family back to the nessy origins of her/their mother? The decision making could take about as much as it had taken the British to bomb Serbia in the NATO mission - about six months or so.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 17, 2012 14:21
If the population of Scotland does not want to be part of the UK, this should be decided by referendum...
The same applies to Russia for example:
Chechnya,Tatarstan, Dagestan, Siberia--they can be separated, if the majority of the population would support a separation from Russia on referendum.
There are still options
such as Abkhazia
Abkhazians and their Russian backers have killed thousands civilians and driven hundreds of thousands-- 80% of the population and then held a gathering of the remaining bandits, who sat in the homes of others voted for independence.

I wish the Scots to make the right choice...

by: Peter Holmes from: London
February 18, 2012 16:59
This nonsense calls into question the accuracy of anything on your website. I don't recognise the country you're writing about.

'It's likely to be a velvet divorce,' you say. Most English people would vote for Scottish independence - just to cut the subsidies the Scots have been living on for years. And the new government in Edinburgh could pay back the English taxpayers' bail-out funds for the two collapsed, incompetently-run Scottish banks.

A vote for independence would leave Scotland - and its economy - flat-lining - and most English people would love to pull the plug on the Scots' life-support.



In Response

by: J from: US
February 19, 2012 14:28
There is a sensible posting finally.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
February 19, 2012 23:59
if Scotland, then North Irland, and Wales separate from England, that would probably make England more like european Syngapore - living off financial service sector, providing shelter to fugutive criminals like Berezovsky (for money of course), and doing all kind of money laundering. It would make for high standard of living like that in Lichtenstein. Probably it is the future of all Europe - doing away with centralized corrupt and incompetent governments in favor of local self-government.

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