LONDON (dpa) – Many of the key questions surrounding potential independence for Scotland have not yet been decided, with only conflicting solutions put forward by the competing camps. Here are some of the most pressing questions posed by voters: Would an independent Scotland still be a member of the European Union?
There is no precedent for a territory within an EU state seceding and retaining EU membership. The Scottish government argues that under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union, it could negotiate to remain a member by its proposed independence date of March 2016, without actually leaving.
But the British government disagrees, stating that Scotland would need to reapply for membership, as set out by Article 49. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appeared to support that position in February, when he said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to become an EU member because it would need the approval of all the other 28 member states.
What currency would Scotland use?
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has insisted that Edinburgh has an equal right to the pound and has threatened to refuse to take on Scotland’s fair share of the UK’s national debt if his wish for a currency union is denied. London begs to differ, and all three major political parties – Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour – have declared that they would oppose the sharing of a currency with Scotland.
The Scots could also choose to launch their own currency, use the pound without a formal agreement or use the euro – which EU laws state it would have to do if it became a new member – though Salmond has ruled all three options out.
What would be the effect on the rest of the UK?
Scotland has for years been a stronghold for the opposition Labour party. In the 2010 general election, Labour won 41 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats while the Conservatives won just one. So a Scottish “yes” to independence means it would be much harder for Labour to win power in Westminster and conversely easier for the Conservatives.
There are also fears that Scottish independence could stoke violence in the British province of Northern Ireland, by encouraging dissident republicans to agitate for a referendum on union with the Republic of Ireland. However, there are few concerns that a push for Welsh independence could be spawned. A YouGov poll earlier this year showed that only around 10 per cent of the Welsh supported independence for Wales.
How much will Scotland benefit from having control of its oil reserves?
Scottish nationalists have long argued that their country would be better off if it were in control of revenues from its oil reserves, rather than sharing them with the rest of Britain. Salmond has announced plans to set up a sovereign wealth fund, similar to the Norwegian model, and maintains that there are around 24 billion barrels remaining in the North Sea with a value of 1.5 trillion pounds (2.5 trillion dollars). More than 40 billion barrels have been extracted since the 1970s. But “no” campaigners have pointed to the volatility of oil revenues, and suggest a country as small as Scotland – which has a population of just over five million – could not cope with the difficulties that causes. They also argue that reserves are in reality as low as 12 billion barrels and are becoming increasingly difficult to extract.
What would Scottish independence mean for the UK’s nuclear armoury?
The UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapons are stationed at the Clyde Naval Base in Scotland. But the Scottish government has said that in the event of independence it will remove Trident by 2020 and ban nuclear weapons from its territory.
While some experts have said that a relocation to England or Wales is not technically or financially insurmountable, other have suggested it could lead to the end of Britain as a nuclear power, leaving France the only nuclear-armed country in Europe. The British Ministry of Defence has said it has no plans for Scottish independence, no plans to move Trident and that “unilateral disarmament is not an option”.
What effect could Scottish independence have on NATO?
Former NATO secretary general Lord Robertson has said Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on Western security, at a time when the situation in countries like Syria and Ukraine makes it all the more important to show solidarity.
Another NATO bigwig, former commander General Sir Richard Shirreff, also suggested that if it disrupted Britain’s nuclear capabilities by forcing the removal of the Clyde fleet, other members of the nuclear alliance could well refuse any Scottish application for membership.
But the Scottish government argues that the country’s strategically important position means it is in NATO’s interests to accept its membership, and points out that the majority of its 28 members do not possess or host nuclear weapons.