WELCOME to The Scotsman’s comprehensive guide to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
It is our intention to draw all of The Scotsman’s coverage together in one place to answer key questions, outline facts and provide a practical and simplified overview to voters and those interested in the referendum.
Scots will go to the polls in the historic vote to decide the nation’s future on Thursday, 18 September, 2014.
The question that will be put to voters will be “Should Scotland be an independent country ?”.
The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act gave 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in next year’s referendum.
In 2011/12 alone, about 94% of the UK’s North Sea revenues - about £10.6 billion – were generated in Scottish Waters. It is widely expected that an independent Scotland would take a geographical share based on a “median line”. The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) Report bases the Scottish boundary of the UK continental shelf on the median line principle as employed by the UK government in 1999. Other alternatives are possible.
The Scottish Government has said that it will keep the Pound as part of a formal monetary union with the rest of the UK.
Scotland would be a member of the EU; negotiations in the period between a Yes vote in september 2014 and Scotland becoming independent in March 2016 would be over timing and terms.
Most observers have so far worked on the assumption that, in negotiations after a “yes” vote, Scotland would take on a per capita share of that debt.
On this basis, Scotland’s debt as a proportion of national wealth (GDP) would be smaller than the UK’s, and smaller than most of the original 15 EU member states. Furthermore, around 90% of UK debt has been incurred since 1980, a period during which Scotland’s public finances have been stronger than the UK’s. So Scotland could in fact argue that its share of debt should reflect the comparative contribution it has made to the treasury and this would reduce our share of debt further, by around one third.
The Scottish Government has said it would have the UK’s nuclear weapons removed from an independent Scotland as quickly as possible. Some defence analysts have claimed that to transfer the subs, warheads and the huge infrastructure out of the country could take a number of years. However, the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster accepted that they could be disarmed in days, and removed within months.
A new constitutional convention would be set up after the first elections of an independent Scotland in 2016 to draft the document, which alongside the Scottish government would include contributions from political parties, civic society, business interests, trade unions, local government and others. Most importantly, the whole population could be involved in the discussions about Scotland’s constitution. Membership of the convention will be decided by the first independent parliament elected in 2016, learning from international best practice.
The Scottish Government has expressed support for the possibility of dual citizenship; the UK government currently does not exclude dual nationality for those holding citizenship of any other country.
A state can have whatever flag it likes, so therefore if the government of the rest of the UK wishes to keep the Union flag that would be a decision for it. An independent Scotland would adopt the St Andrew’s Cross/Saltire as its national flag.
The franchise used for Scottish Parliament elections will also be used for the referendum which means that only those registered to vote in Scotland can take part, with the addition of 16 and 17-year-olds. Special provisions apply to members of the armed forces.
The Scottish government policy is for an independent Scotland to retain Queen Elizabeth as head of state and the country remaining within the Commonwealth. Any future change would be a matter for the people of Scotland to decide.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said he does not see personal taxation (e.g. income tax/national insurance) rising following independence. He also said there would be no rise in oil industry taxation.
Any future changes would be for the people of Scotland through their elected representatives to decide.
Independence supporters argue that more powers for Scotland mean that Scottish Governments could for example choose to do more to support the housing market. Those against independence, however, claim that recent surveys have shown that uncertainty caused by the referendum have led to a fall in sales of larger properties.
The Scottish government insists that it would continue to fund free tuition for Scottish students under independence, if the party remains in power. There is no guarantee that free tuition would remain in place if Labour was to take power at Holyrood under independence.
THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE DEBATE
Comedians give their views on the Scottish independence referendum and through in a few jokes along the way.
“If you’re a Scot and unsure which way to vote why not hold a séance in your kitchen and summon-up your ancestors to get their take on it. I’m pretty certain that long before you’ve finished explaining your concerns about economic stability they’ll have smashed all the crockery and blown-up the toaster. Probably best not to mention that all you have to do to regain independence is put a cross on a piece of paper rather than invade England and kill the monarch.”
“Having never studied Geography, it seems the SNP are under the illusion that fossil fuels are made by the magical infinite pixies and such revenues will last forever. The plan smacks of a country in mid-life crisis where they’ve won the lotto and, instead of buying a house for the wife and family who they’ve been attached to for centuries, they get a fake tan, fix their teeth and leave to take up with a young hussy called self-determination.”