Scottish independence referendum, 2014

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Scottish independence referendum
18 September 2014
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Result not yet known
Electorate 4.1 million (as of April 2014; aged 16+)1
Flag of Scotland.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on Thursday 18 September 2014.2 Following an agreement between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government,3 the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, setting out the arrangements for this referendum, was put forward on 21 March 2013,4 passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14 November 2013 and received Royal Assent on 17 December 2013.56 The referendum question, as recommended by the Electoral Commission, will be "Should Scotland be an independent country?"7


Location of Scotland (dark orange) within the United Kingdom (pale yellow).

Scotland and England united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, by virtue of the Acts of Union. Prior to this, the Kingdom of Scotland had been a sovereign state for over 800 years.

Devolution referendums

A proposal for Scottish devolution was put to a referendum in 1979, but resulted in no change, despite a narrow majority of votes cast being in favour of change,8 due to a clause requiring that the number voting 'Yes' had to exceed 40% of the total electorate.8 No further constitutional reform was proposed until Labour returned to power in 1997, when a second Scottish devolution referendum was held.9 Clear majorities expressed support for both a devolved Scottish Parliament and that Parliament having the power to vary the basic rate of income tax.9 The Scotland Act 1998 established the new Scottish Parliament, first elected on 6 May 1999.10

2007 SNP administration

The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the launch of the National Conversation, 14 August 2007
Debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament

A commitment to hold a referendum in 2010 was part of the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s election manifesto when it contested the 2007 Scottish Parliament election.11dead link As a result of that election, it became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, the legislative assembly established in 1999 for dealing with unreserved matters within Scotland, and formed a minority government led by the First Minister, Alex Salmond.12 The SNP administration accordingly launched a 'National Conversation' as a consultation exercise in August 2007, part of which included a draft of a referendum bill, as the Referendum (Scotland) Bill.1213

After the National Conversation was concluded, a white paper for the proposed Referendum Bill was published on 30 November 2009.1415 It detailed four possible scenarios, with the text of the Bill and Referendum to be revealed later.14 The scenarios were: no change; devolution per the Calman Review; further devolution; and full independence.14 The Scottish Government published a draft version of the bill on 25 February 2010 for public consultation;1617 Scotland's Future: Draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill Consultation Paper contained a consultation document and a draft version of the bill.18 The consultation paper set out the proposed ballot papers, the mechanics of the proposed referendum, and how the proposed referendum was to be regulated.18 Public responses were invited from 25 February to 30 April.19

The bill outlined three proposals: the first was full devolution or 'devolution max', suggesting that the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for "all laws, taxes and duties in Scotland", with the exception of "defence and foreign affairs; financial regulation, monetary policy and the currency", which would be retained by the British Government.18 The second proposal outlined Calman-type fiscal reform, gaining the additional powers and responsibilities of setting a Scottish rate of income tax that could vary by up to 10p in the pound compared to the rest of the UK, setting the rate of stamp duty land tax and "other minor taxes", and introducing new taxes in Scotland with the agreement of the UK Parliament, and finally, "limited power to borrow money."18 The third proposal was for full independence, stating that the Scottish Parliament would gain the power to convert Scotland into a country that would "have the rights and responsibilities of a normal, sovereign state."18

In the third Scottish Parliament, only 50 of 129 MSPs (47 SNP, 2 Greens, and Margo McDonald) supported a referendum.2021 The Scottish Government eventually opted to withdraw the bill after failing to secure opposition support.1222

2011 SNP administration

The SNP repeated its commitment to hold a referendum when it published its 2011 Scottish parliamentary election manifesto.23 Days before the election, Salmond stated that legislation for a referendum would be proposed in the "second half of the parliament", as he wanted to secure more powers for the Scottish Parliament via the Scotland Bill first.24 The SNP gained an overall majority in the election, winning 69 of the 129 seats, thereby gaining a mandate to hold an independence referendum.2526

In January 2012, the UK Government offered to legislate to provide the Scottish Parliament with the powers to hold a referendum, providing it was "fair, legal and decisive".26 This would set "terms of reference for the referendum", such as its question(s), elector eligibility and which body would organise the vote.27 As the UK Government worked on legal details, including the timing of the vote, Salmond announced an intention to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014.27 Negotiations continued between the two governments until October 2012, when the Edinburgh Agreement was reached.12

The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 27 June 2013 and received Royal Assent on 7 August 2013.28 On 15 November 2013, the Scottish Government published Scotland's Future, a 670-page white paper laying out the case for independence and the means through which Scotland might become an independent country.29


Date and eligibility

The Scottish Government announced on 21 March 2013 that the referendum would be held on 18 September 2014.2 Some media reports mentioned that 2014 would be the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn3031 and that Scotland will also host the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Ryder Cup.31 Salmond agreed that the presence of these events made 2014 a "good year to hold a referendum".32

Under the terms of the 2010 Draft Bill, the following people would be entitled to vote in the referendum:18

  • British citizens who are resident in Scotland;
  • citizens of the 53 other Commonwealth countries who are resident in Scotland;
  • citizens of the 27 other European Union countries who are resident in Scotland;
  • members of the House of Lords who are resident in Scotland;
  • Service/Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the British Armed Forces or with Her Majesty's Government who are registered to vote in Scotland.

Convicted prisoners are prohibited from voting in the referendum. The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that this restriction was unlawful in a case brought by John Hirst, but Lord Glennie said that he believed the ECHR judgment would apply only to parliamentary elections.33 The ruling by Lord Glennie was appealed, but the Court of Session in Edinburgh upheld his judgment.34 An appeal to the UK Supreme Court was also rejected.35

The Scottish Government passed legislation to reduce the voting age for the referendum from 18 to 16, as it is SNP policy to reduce the voting age for all elections in Scotland.183637 The move was supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Greens.3839

In January 2012, Elaine Murray MSP of Labour led a debate arguing that the franchise should be extended to Scots living outside Scotland, including the approximately 800,000 living in the other parts of the UK.40 This was opposed by the Scottish Government, which argued that it would greatly increase the complexity of the referendum and stated that there was evidence from the United Nations Human Rights Committee that other nations "might question the legitimacy of a referendum if the franchise is not territorial".40

In the House of Lords, Baroness Symons argued that the rest of the UK should be allowed to vote on Scottish independence, on the grounds that it would affect the whole country. This argument was rejected by the British Government, as the Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace said that "whether or not Scotland should leave the United Kingdom is a matter for Scotland".40 Wallace also pointed to the fact that only two of 11 referendums since 1973 had been across all of the United Kingdom.40 Professor John Curtice has also argued that the Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum of 1973 created a precedent for allowing only those resident in one part of the UK to vote on its sovereignty.41


Prior to the scheduling of the 2014 referendum, there had been debate as to whether the Scottish Parliament had the power to legislate for a referendum relating to the issue of Scottish independence without a Section 30 Order, as the constitution is a reserved matter for the UK parliament.20 The Scottish Government insisted in 2010 that they could legislate for a referendum, as it would be an "advisory referendum on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament",19 whose result would "have no legal effect on the Union."18:17

In January 2012, Lord Wallace, Advocate General for Scotland, expressed the opinion that the holding of any referendum concerning the constitution would be outside the legislative power of the Scottish Parliament2642 and that private individuals could challenge a Scottish Parliament referendum bill.43 The UK Parliament has the power to transfer legal authority to the Scottish Parliament to prevent this, but the Scottish Government initially objected to the attachment of conditions to any referendum by this process.43 The two governments eventually signed the Edinburgh Agreement, which allowed the temporary transfer of legal authority. The agreement states that the governments "agreed to promote an Order in Council under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 in the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments to allow a single-question referendum on Scottish independence to be held before the end of 2014. The Order will put it beyond doubt that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for that referendum."3


As agreed in the Edinburgh Agreement, the Electoral Commission is responsible for overseeing the referendum, "with the exception of the conduct of the poll and announcement of the result, and the giving of grants. In its role of regulating the campaign and campaign spending, the Electoral Commission will report to the Scottish Parliament. [...] The poll and count will be managed in the same way as [...local] elections, by local returning officers [...] and directed by a Chief Counting Officer."3


The Edinburgh Agreement stated that the wording of the question would be decided by the Scottish Parliament and reviewed by the Electoral Commission for intelligibility.3

The Scottish Government stated that its preferred question was "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"44 The Electoral Commission tested the proposed question along with three other possible versions.45 Their research found that the "Do you agree" preface meant that it was a leading question, which would be more likely to garner a positive response.44 The question was subsequently amended to "Should Scotland be an independent country?", which the Electoral Commission found was the most neutral and concise of the versions tested.4445

The clarity and brevity of the question used in Scotland has been contrasted with the longer formulations used in the sovereignty referendums held in Quebec in 1980 and 1995.444647


Campaign organisations

The campaign in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK, Better Together, was launched on 25 June 2012.48 It is led by Alistair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and has support from the Labour Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats.48

The campaign in favour of Scottish independence, Yes Scotland, was launched on 25 May 2012.49 Its chief executive is Blair Jenkins,49 formerly the Director of Broadcasting at STV and Head of News and Current Affairs at both STV and BBC Scotland. The campaign is supported by the SNP,49 the Scottish Green Party (which also created "its own pro-independence campaign to run alongside Yes Scotland"50) and the Scottish Socialist Party. At its launch, Salmond stated that he hoped one million people in Scotland would sign a declaration of support for independence.51 On 9 June 2014, Yes Scotland stated that 789,191 had signed it.52

Campaign funding and costs

In the 2010 Draft Bill, the Scottish Government proposed that there would be a designated organisation campaigning for a 'Yes' vote and a designated organisation campaigning for a 'No' vote, both of which would be permitted to spend up to £750,000 on their campaign and to send one free mailshot to every household or voter in the referendum franchise. There was to be no public funding for campaigns. Political parties were each to be allowed to spend £100,000.18 This proposed limit on party spending was revised to £250,000 in 2012.53

In 2013, new proposals by the Electoral Commission for the 16-week regulated period preceding the poll were accepted. They allow the two designated campaign organisations to spend up to £1.5 million each and for the parties in Scotland to spend the following amounts: £1,344,000 (SNP); £834,000 (Labour); £396,000 (Conservatives); £201,000 (Liberal Democrats); £150,000 (Greens).44 An unlimited number of other organisations can register with the Electoral Commission, but their spending is limited to £150,000.54

According to the Scottish Government's consultation paper published on 25 February 2010, the cost of the referendum was "likely to be around £9.5 million", mostly spent on running the poll and the count. Costs would also include the posting of one neutral information leaflet about the referendum to every Scottish household, and one free mailshot to every household or voter in the poll for the designated campaign organisations.18 As of April 2013, the projected cost of the referendum was £13.3 million.55


In December 2013 the Better Together campaign declared that it had received donations of £2.8 million.56 Six-figure contributions were made by businessmen Ian Taylor and Donald Houston, and by author C. J. Sansom; almost 27,000 donations of under £7,500 had been received by the same date.57 A later donation came from writer J. K. Rowling, who announced in June 2014 that she had given £1 million.5657 In the following month, whisky distiller William Grant & Sons announced a donation of approximately £100,000.58

As of May 2014, the Yes Scotland campaign had declared £4.5 million in cash donations.5657 £3.5 million was given by EuroMillions lottery-winners Chris and Colin Weir.56 A six-figure donation was given by investment fund manager Angus Tulloch; approximately 18,000 donations of less than £7,500 had been made by the same date.57


Political advertising on television and radio in the UK is prohibited by the Communications Act 2003, with the exception of permitted party political broadcasts.59 Three major cinema chains stopped showing adverts by referendum campaign groups after receiving negative feedback from their customers.60


The UK Government has stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast are in favour of independence, then "Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations".6162 If the majority is against independence, Scotland would continue within the United Kingdom.6162 Further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Scotland Act 2012.6162 The Electoral Commission prepared an information leaflet which confirmed that the UK Government and Scottish Government had reached agreement on these points.62



In 2013, as part of a European Union (EU) member state, Scottish farmers received £583 million in subsidy payments from the EU under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).63 Annual CAP payments are made to the UK, which then determines how much to allocate to each of the devolved administrations, including Scotland.64 In the last CAP agreement, farmers in the UK qualified for additional convergence payments because Scottish farmers receive a lower average single farm payment per hectare, mainly due to the mountainous terrain in Scotland.6465 Supporters of independence therefore believe that an independent Scotland would receive greater agricultural subsidies than at present.64 Opponents of independence believe that Scottish farmers currently benefit because the UK is one of the larger EU member states and therefore has a greater say in CAP negotiations.64 They also question whether an independent Scotland would immediately receive full subsidy payments from the EU, as other states which have recently joined have had their subsidies phased in.64

Border controls and immigration

For more details on border controls within the British Isles, see Common Travel Area.
For more details on border controls within the European Union, excluding the British Isles, see Schengen Area.

The UK has some opt-outs from EU policies. One is the opt-out from the Schengen Area, meaning there are full passport checks for travellers from other EU countries except Ireland, which is part of the Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK. The Scottish Government proposes that an independent Scotland should remain outwith the Schengen Area and join the CTA,6667 ensuring that no passport controls would be needed at the Anglo-Scottish border.

Nicola Sturgeon commented that an independent Scotland would negotiate with the EU to have the same visa arrangements as the UK currently has: "We are not in Schengen at the moment. We would simply be saying that we did not want to go into Schengen".68

In May 2014, Labour's most senior MEP told the Sunday Herald that the EU was "not going to force [Scotland] to join Schengen".69

Alistair Carmichael, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said in January 2014 that it would make sense for Scotland to be in the CTA, but it would have to operate similar immigration policies to the rest of the UK.67 This position was supported by Home Secretary Theresa May, who said in March 2014 that passport checks would be introduced if Scotland adopted a looser immigration policy.67


In the white paper Scotland's Future, the Scottish Government pledged to expand childcare provision in an independent Scotland.7071 The paper states that this policy would cost £700 million, but that this would be financed by increased tax revenue from an additional 100,000 women returning to work.70

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said that the policy should be implemented immediately if the Scottish Government believed it would have a beneficial effect,70 but Salmond responded that under devolution the costs of the policy would have to be financed by cuts elsewhere in public expenditure.70 In March 2014, the National Day Nurseries Association said that the plan could not be implemented unless greater funding was provided by local authorities to private nurseries.72 A report by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre questioned the economic benefit of the policy, pointing out that there were only 64,000 mothers of children aged between 1 and 5 who were economically inactive.73 A spokesman for Salmond said that the estimated total 104,000 women would enter the workforce over a longer period, as future generations of mothers would also be able to work, stating: "The key point about the policy is that it doesn't happen on one day or one year and then cease."73


A British passport.

The Scottish Government proposes that all Scottish-born British citizens would automatically become Scottish citizens on the date of independence, regardless of whether or not they were then living in Scotland. British citizens "habitually resident" in Scotland would also be considered Scottish citizens, even if they already held the citizenship of another country. Every person who would automatically be considered a Scottish citizen would be able to opt out of Scottish citizenship provided they already held the citizenship of another country.74 The Scottish Government also proposes that anyone with a Scottish parent or grandparent will be able to apply for registration as a Scottish citizen, and any foreign national living in Scotland legally, or who has lived in Scotland for at least 10 years at any time and has an ongoing connection to Scotland, shall be able to apply for naturalisation as a Scottish citizen.74 The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, said future policies of an independent Scottish Government would affect whether Scottish citizens would be allowed to retain British citizenship.75 An analysis paper published by the UK Government in January 2014 stated that it is likely that Scots would be able to hold dual citizenship.76



In July 2013, the SNP proposed that there would be a £2.5 billion annual military budget in an independent Scotland.77 The House of Commons Defence Select Committee—composed of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Democratic Unionist MPs78—criticised the proposals and argued that the £2.5bn budget was too low.79 On the air defence plans it stated: "We do not currently understand how the Scottish Government expects, within the available budget, to mount a credible air defence—let alone provide the additional transport, rotary wing and other support aircraft an air force would need."79 It also warned of the impact of independence on the Scottish defence industry: "This impact would be felt most immediately by those companies engaged in shipbuilding, maintenance, and high end technology. The requirements of a Scottish defence force would not generate sufficient domestic demand to compensate for the loss of lucrative contracts from the UK MoD, and additional security and bureaucracy hurdles would be likely to reduce competitiveness with UK based companies."80 Andrew Murrison, UK Minister for International Security Strategy agreed with the Committee that the budget was too low and said it was "risible" for the SNP to suggest it could create an independent force by "salami-slicing" units from the British armed forces that are based in Scotland, or have Scottish links.81

The Royal United Services Institute suggested in October 2012 that an independent Scotland could set up a Scottish Defence Force, comparable in size and strength to those of other small European states like Denmark, Norway and Ireland, at a cost of £1.8 billion per annum, "markedly lower" than the £3.3 billion contributed by Scottish taxpayers to the UK defence budget in the 2010/11 fiscal year. This figure was based on the assumption that such a force "would be predominantly used for domestic defence duties with the capability to contribute to coalition and alliance operations under the aegis of whatever organisations Scotland became a member of" and that therefore it "would not be equipped with expensive and state-of-the-art hardware across the board". The authors acknowledged that an independent Scotland would "need to come to some arrangement with the rest of the UK" on intelligence-gathering, cyber-warfare and cyber-defence, that the future cost of purchasing and maintaining equipment of its forces might be higher due to smaller orders, and that recruitment and training "may prove problematic" in the early years.82

Dorcha Lee, a former colonel in the Irish Army, suggested that Scotland could eschew forming an army based on inherited resources from the British Army and instead follow an Irish model: form a limited self-defence force, with the capability to contribute "in the region of 1,100 personnel" overseas to peacekeeping missions, a navy with the "capacity to contribute to an international peacekeeping mission" and an air force with "troop-carrying helicopters" and "a logistics aircraft".83 Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute argued that such a small force would be incompatible with the requirements of NATO membership: Irish levels of defence spending "would be difficult to sell to Scotland's NATO neighbours—including the UK—who would see it as an attempt to free-ride on their protection."84

The SNP have argued that there was a defence underspend of "at least £7.4 billion" between 2002 and 2012 in Scotland and that independence would allow the Scottish Government to correct this imbalance.85 As part of a reorganization of the British Army, the UK Government confirmed in July 2013 that seven Territorial Army sites in Scotland would be closed, although army reservists in Scotland would increase from 2,300 to 3,700; the SNP stated that Scotland was suffering "disproportionate defence cuts".86

The Scottish Government plans that, by 2026, an independent Scotland would have a total of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel across land, air and maritime forces.87 According to the government's plans, on independence, Scotland's defence forces would have a total of 9,200 personnel (7,500 regular and 1,700 reserve), equipped with a negotiated share of current UK military assets. The Scottish Government's assessment of defence capabilities at the point of independence include:87

The Scottish Government plans that by 2021 the defence forces will have 12,030 personnel (10,350 regular and 1,680 reserve), with the addition of two additional frigates and several maritime patrol aircraft.87

Nuclear weapons

The Trident nuclear missile system is based at Coulport weapons depot and naval base of Faslane in the Firth of Clyde area. While the SNP objects to having nuclear weapons on Scottish territory, British military leaders have claimed that there is no alternative site for the missiles;8889 in April 2014, several British military leaders co-signed a letter stating that forcing Trident to leave Scottish waters would place the UK nuclear deterrent in jeopardy.90

A seminar hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that the Royal Navy would have to consider a range of alternatives, including disarmament.91 British MP Ian Davidson cited a UK report published by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament that suggested that the warheads could be deactivated within days and safely removed in 24 months.92 A report in 2013 from the Scotland Institute think tank suggested a future Scottish Government could be convinced to lease the Faslane nuclear base to the rest of the UK to maintain good diplomatic relations and expedite NATO entry negotiations.93

Nowhere to Go, a report by the Scottish CND, concludes that the removal of Trident from Scotland would force unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, as the weapons have no viable alternative base.94

NATO membership

Current map of NATO, member states shown in dark blue.

The Scottish Government's position that Trident nuclear weapons should be removed from Scotland but that it should hold NATO membership has been branded as a contradiction by figures including Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats,95 and Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party.96 Salmond has said it would be "perfectly feasible" to join NATO while maintaining an anti-nuclear stance and that Scotland would pursue NATO membership only "subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations".97 In 2013, Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute claimed that "pragmatists" in the SNP accepted that NATO membership would be likely to involve a long-term basing deal enabling the UK to keep Trident on the Clyde.98

The former NATO Secretary General and Scottish Labour peer Lord Robertson has said that Scottish independence could be "cataclysmic" for the West and that its enemies would "cheer loudest".99 The Scotsman newspaper commented that Robertson had shown "a lack of proportion and perspective" in describing independence in this way.100 Robertson has also said that "either the SNP accept the central nuclear role of NATO ... or they reject the nuclear role of NATO and ensure that a separate Scottish state stays out of the world's most successful defence alliance."101 Kurt Volker, former United States Permanent Representative to NATO, has said there is likely to be "great goodwill" to an independent Scotland becoming a NATO member.102

At their annual conference in October 2012, SNP delegates voted to drop a long-standing policy of opposition in principle to NATO membership.103 MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart resigned from the SNP over the policy change.104 Finnie said that "there is an overwhelming desire to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons and that commitment can't be made with membership of a first strike nuclear alliance", and challenged Salmond to explain "how the aim of being a member of NATO and ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons could take place".96 The Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party, which participate in the Yes Scotland campaign for independence, remain opposed to continued membership of NATO.105


A UK Government paper on security stated that Police Scotland would lose access to the intelligence apparatus of the UK, including MI5, SIS and GCHQ.106 The paper also says that an independent Scottish state would need to build its own security infrastructure.106 Theresa May has commented that an independent Scotland would have access to less security capability, but would not necessarily face a reduced threat.106 In 2013, Allan Burnett, former head of intelligence with Strathclyde Police and Scotland's counter-terrorism co-ordinator until 2010, said that "an independent Scotland would face less of a threat, intelligence institutions will be readily created, and allies will remain allies". Peter Jackson, Canadian-born professor of security at the University of Glasgow, agreed that Special Branch could form a "suitable nucleus" of a Scottish equivalent of MI5, and that Scotland could forego creating an equivalent of MI6, instead "relying on pooled intelligence or diplomatic open sources" like Canada or the Nordic countries.107 Baroness Ramsay, a Labour peer and former Case Officer with MI6, said that the Scottish Government's standpoint on intelligence was "extremely naïve" and that it was "not going to be as simple as they think".107


The Scottish Government and pro-independence campaigners have argued that a democratic deficit exists in Scotland108109110 because of the centralised nature of the UK and its lack of a codified constitution, and that this could be resolved through independence.111 The SNP has also described the unelected House of Lords as an "affront to democracy" and said that "a Yes vote for independence means that people in Scotland can get rid of the expensive and unrepresentative Westminster tier".112

The "democratic deficit" label has sometimes been used to refer to the period between the 1979 and 1997 UK general elections, during which the Labour Party held a majority of Scottish seats but the Conservative Party governed the whole of the UK.113 Salmond has argued that instances such as this amount to a lack of democracy, and that "the people who live and work in Scotland are the people most likely to make the right choices for Scotland".114115 In January 2012, Patrick Harvie said: "Greens have a vision of a more radical democracy in Scotland, with far greater levels of discussion and decision making at community level. Our hope is that the debate over independence will spark a new enthusiasm for people taking control over the future of our country and our communities."116

Unionists such as Menzies Campbell argue that any democratic deficit has been addressed by creating the devolved Scottish Parliament, and that within the British Government and British political system “Scotland and the Scottish have enjoyed influence beyond our size or reasonable expectation”.117 Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski argued in 2009 that the asymmetric devolution in place in the UK has created a democratic deficit for England.118 This "deficit" is more commonly known as the West Lothian question, which cites the anomaly where English MPs cannot vote on affairs devolved to Scotland, but Scottish MPs can vote on the equivalent subjects in England. Kawczynski also pointed out that the average size of a parliamentary constituency is larger in England than in Scotland.118


A principal issue in the referendum is the economy.119 The UK Treasury issued a report on 20 May 2013 which said that Scotland's banking systems would be too big to ensure depositor compensation in the event of a bank failure.120 The report indicated that Scottish banks would have assets worth 1,254% of GDP, which is more than Cyprus and Iceland before the last global financial crisis.120 It suggested Scottish taxpayers would each have £65,000 of potential liabilities during a hypothetical bailout in Scotland, versus £30,000 as part of the UK.120 Economists including Andrew Hughes Hallett, Professor of Economics at St Andrews University, have rejected the idea that Scotland would have to underwrite these liabilities alone. He observed that banks operating in more than one country can be given a joint bailout by multiple governments.121 In this manner, Fortis Bank and the Dexia Bank were bailed out collectively by France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.121 The Federal Reserve System lent more than US$1 trillion to British banks, including $446 billion to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), because they had operations in the United States.121122 Robert Peston reported in March 2014 that RBS and Lloyds Banking Group may be forced to relocate their head offices from Edinburgh to London in case of Scottish independence, due to a European law brought in after the 1991 collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.123

Weir Group, one of the largest private companies based in Scotland, commissioned a study by Oxford Economics into the potential economic effects of Scottish independence.124 It found that Weir would suffer more corporation tax, despite the Scottish Government's proposal to cut the rate of corporation tax, due to it no longer being able to offset losses in Scotland against profits in the rest of the UK.124 It also stated that independence would result in additional costs and complexity in the operation of business pension schemes.124 The report found that 70% of all Scottish exports are sold to the rest of the UK, which it said would particularly affect the financial services sector.124 Standard Life, one of the largest businesses in the Scottish financial sector, said in February 2014 that it had started registering companies in England in case it had to relocate some of its operations there.125

In February 2014, the Financial Times noted that Scotland's per capita GDP is bigger than that of France when a geographic share of oil and gas is taken into account, and still bigger than that of Italy when it is not.126 As of April 2014, Scotland had a similar rate of unemployment as the UK average (6.6%)127 and a lower fiscal deficit (including as a percentage of GDP)128 than the rest of the UK. Scotland performed better than the UK average in securing new Foreign Direct Investment in 2012–13 (measured by the number of projects), although not as well as Wales or Northern Ireland.129 GDP growth during 2013 was lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, although this was partly due to an industrial dispute at the Grangemouth Refinery.130

Supporters of independence often claim that Scotland does not meet its full economic potential when subject to the same economic policy as the rest of the UK.131132 In 2013, the Jimmy Reid Foundation published a report that claimed UK economic policy had become "overwhelmingly geared to helping London, meaning Scotland and other UK regions suffer from being denied the specific, local policies they need". The economist who authored the paper said its conclusions were a direct challenge to the Better Together campaign.133 Later in January 2014, pro-independence politician Colin Fox also argued that Scotland is "penalised by an economic model biased towards the South East of England".131 In November 2013, Chic Brodie MSP said that Scotland was "deprived" of economic benefit in the 1980s after the Ministry of Defence blocked oil exploration off the West of Scotland, ostensibly to avoid interference with the UK's nuclear weapons arsenal.134


The Pound Sterling, as is used currently in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Another economic issue is the currency that would be used by an independent Scotland.135 The principal options are to establish an independent Scottish currency, join the European single currency, or retain the pound sterling.135

At present, the SNP favours continued use of the pound sterling in an independent Scotland through a formal currency union with the UK, with the Bank of England setting its interest rates and monetary policy and acting as its central bank.136 In Scotland's Future, the Scottish Government identified five key reasons it believes a currency union "would be in both Scotland and the UK's interests immediately post-independence": Scotland's main trading partner is the UK (2/3 of exports in 2011); "companies operating in Scotland and the UK [...have] complex cross-border supply chains"; there is high labour mobility; "on key measurements of an optimal currency area, the Scottish and UK economies score well"; and short-term economic trends in the UK and Scotland have "a relatively high degree of synchronicity".87

Yes Scotland has argued that a currency union would benefit both Scotland and the rest of the UK, as Scotland's exports, including North Sea oil, would boost the balance of payments and therefore strengthen the exchange rate of the pound sterling.137 However, Professor Charles Nolan of the University of Glasgow has said that including Scottish exports in the balance of payments figures would make little difference because the pound is a floating currency. He said: "if the continuing UK loses those foreign exchange revenues [...then] the pound falls, boosting exports and curbing imports until a balance is once again restored."138 Professor Brian Ashcroft of Strathclyde University also argues that the effects on the balance of payments would be "largely neutral".139

The Scottish Government has also claimed that a currency union would save businesses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland £500m in transaction costs while trading with Scotland,140 which Plaid Cymru treasury spokesperson Jonathan Edwards agreed was a "threat to Welsh business".141 However, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has argued that any additional transaction costs would fall largely on Scottish companies, costing businesses in Scotland 11 times more than those in England.142 The Institute of Directors has stated that any new transaction costs would “pale in comparison to the financial danger of entering an unstable currency union.”142

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and equivalent post-holders in the two other main UK political parties have rejected the idea of a formal currency union with an independent Scotland.143 Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the SNP's proposals for a currency union are "economically incoherent"144 and that any currency option for an independent Scotland would be "less advantageous than what we have across the UK today".145146 Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has also rejected the idea of a currency union, saying it would require the UK to underwrite Scottish debt,147 while Scottish MP and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "What the SNP propose is nothing less than a colonial relationship: Even with no Scots there, the SNP propose Westminster will make key decisions on Scotland."148

The Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said that he would seek a veto on a currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, as having two governments in charge of it would be "a recipe for instability".149 Alistair Darling said voters in the rest of the UK could choose not to be in a currency union with Scotland150 and criticised the proposal by suggesting that Salmond was asserting that "everything will change but nothing will change".151

If Scotland joined a currency union with the UK, some fiscal policy constraints could be imposed on the Scottish state.135 Banking experts have argued that being the "junior partner" in a currency arrangement could amount to "a loss of fiscal autonomy for Scotland".152 Dr Angus Armstrong of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research wrote that "An independent Scotland is likely to find the implicit constraints on economic policy, especially fiscal policy, are even more restrictive than the explicit ones it faces as a full part of the UK."153 Salmond has insisted an independent Scotland in a currency union would retain tax and spending powers.154

Gavin McCrone, former chief economic adviser to the Scottish Office, stated: "While I think it would be sensible for an independent Scotland to remain with sterling, at least initially, it might prove difficult in the long run; and, to gain freedom to follow its own policies, it may be necessary for Scotland to have its own currency."155 However, he warned that this could lead to Scottish banks relocating to the UK.155

The Scottish Socialist Party favours an independent Scottish currency pegged to the pound sterling in the short-term,156 with its national co-spokesperson Colin Fox describing a sterling zone as "untenable",157 as it leaves too much power with the UK state.158 However, the party believes Scotland's currency should be determined in the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament instead of in the referendum.159 Other proponents of an independent Scottish currency include Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan and former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars.160

The Scottish Green Party has said that keeping the pound sterling as "a short term transitional arrangement" should not be ruled out, but the Scottish Government should "keep an open mind about moving towards an independent currency".161 The Jimmy Reid Foundation produced a report in early 2013 that described retention of the pound as a good transitional arrangement, but recommended the eventual establishment of an independent Scottish currency to "insulate" Scotland from the UK's "economic instability". The report argued that the UK's monetary policy had "sacrificed productive economy growth for conditions that suit financial speculation" and that an independent currency could protect Scotland from "the worst of it".162

The Euro, currently used in the Eurozone.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the SNP's policy was that an independent Scotland should adopt the euro,163 though this was relegated to a long-term rather than short-term goal by the party's 2009 conference.164165 There is disagreement over whether Scotland would be required to join the euro if it wished to become an EU member state in its own right. All new members are required to commit to joining the single currency as a prerequisite of EU membership, but they must first be party to ERM II for two years. The Scottish Government argues that, as countries are not obliged to join ERM II, "the EU lacks any legal means of forcing Member States to comply with the pre-conditions that have to be satisfied before Eurozone membership is possible".166 For example, Sweden has never adopted the euro. The people of Sweden rejected adopting the euro in a 2003 referendum and its government has subsequently stayed out by refusing to enter ERM II, membership of which is voluntary.167168

Government revenues and expenditure

The Barnett formula has resulted in higher per capita public spending in Scotland than England.169 If North Sea oil revenue is calculated on a geographic basis, Scotland also produces more per capita tax revenue than the UK average.170171 The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported in November 2012 that a geographic share of North Sea oil would more than cover the higher public spending, but warned that oil prices are volatile and that it is a finite resource. The same report also warned that "If, as is likely, oil and gas revenues fall over the long run, then the fiscal challenge facing Scotland will be greater than that facing the UK".171 The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report for 2012/13 found that North Sea oil revenue had fallen by 41.5% and that Scotland's public spending deficit had increased from £4.6 billion to £8.6 billion.172173

In May 2014, the UK Government published analysis indicating that there was a "Union dividend" of £1,400 per year for each person in Scotland, mainly due to the higher level of public spending under the Barnett formula.174 This analysis was disputed by the Scottish Government, who said that each Scot would be £1,000 better off per year under independence by 2030.174 Three economic experts said that both estimates were possible, but they both depended on unknown variables such as the division of UK Government debt, future North Sea oil revenues, possible spending commitments of an independent Scotland and future productivity gains.175

In its analysis, the UK Government also estimated there would be setup costs of £1.5 billion (1% of GDP) for establishing an independent state, or possibly £2.7 billion (180 public bodies costing £15 million each).176177 Patrick Dunleavy of the London School of Economics criticised the UK Government's "ludicrous" use of his research in arriving at the latter figure.177 The Treasury said that their main figure (£1.5 billion) was based on estimates by professor Robert Young of Western Ontario.178179 Two of the main unionist parties in Scotland have called on the SNP to publish their own estimate of the setup costs of an independent state,177 but the Scottish Government says an estimate is not possible as the final bill would depend on negotiations with the rest of the UK.180 Professor Dunleavy estimated immediate setup costs of £200 million in a report commissioned by the Sunday Post newspaper,181 with "total transition costs" of between £600 million and £1,500 million in the first 10 years of independence.182

The credit rating that would be given to an independent Scotland has also been a subject of debate.183184 The credit rating agency Fitch stated in October 2012 that it could not give an opinion on what rating Scotland would have, because Scottish finances would largely depend on the result of negotiations between the UK and Scotland on the division of assets and liabilities.184 Standard & Poor's, another credit rating agency, asserted in February 2014 that Scotland would face "significant, but not unsurpassable" challenges, and that "even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment".185 Research published by Moody's in May 2014 said that an independent Scotland would be given an A rating, comparable with Poland, the Czech Republic and Mexico.186 An A rating would be two grades below its current rating for the UK, which Moody's said would be unaffected by Scottish independence.186


Energy market

Most issues regarding energy are controlled by the UK Government.187 The Scottish Government's control over planning laws allows it to prevent the construction of new nuclear power stations in Scotland.187 Supporters of independence want to retain a single energy market for the whole of Great Britain after independence, in order to maintain price stability and support for suppliers.187 Opponents have said that independence threatens the single energy market.187 Euan Phimister, professor of economics at Aberdeen University, has said that although independence would affect the relationship, it is likely that there would be continued English demand for electricity generated in Scotland because OFGEM projections suggest that there is little spare capacity.188189 The second largest supplier of energy in the UK, SSE plc, believes that a single market would be the most likely outcome under independence, although it would require negotiations and may involve changes to the existing system.190

Labour MP Caroline Flint has said that independence would mean higher energy bills in Scotland, as its customers would have to pay more to support renewable energy in Scotland, which represents one third of the UK total.188 Euan Phimister has said that bills are likely to increase across the whole of Great Britain because renewable schemes and new nuclear power stations in England are both receiving higher subsidies than the power plants which will shortly close due to environmental regulations.188 He also said that there is a distinction between existing and proposed renewable schemes in that the existing schemes have already been paid for, whereas any new construction requires the promise of subsidy from the consumer.188

North Sea oil

Approximately 90% of the United Kingdom's North Sea oil fields are located in Scottish territorial waters. The tax revenue generated from offshore sites are not counted within the nation or region nearest to it, but is allocated to the UK Continental Shelf. The revenue from North Sea oil has been used to support current expenditure since the 1970s, particularly during periods of high unemployment under the Thatcher ministry, rather than creating a sovereign oil fund like in Norway.191192 The SNP believes that a portion of the revenues should be invested in a sovereign oil fund. Opponents of independence argue that creating an oil fund would require cuts elsewhere in the public sector and point out that production has started to decline.citation needed

European Union

Current map of the European Union, member states shown in dark blue.

The SNP advocates for a similar relationship between an independent Scotland and the EU as between the UK and the EU today. This means full membership with some exemptions, such as not having to adopt the euro. There is debate over whether Scotland would be required to re-apply for membership, and if it could retain the UK's opt-outs.193194 The European Commission (EC) offered to provide an opinion to an existing member state on the matter, but the British Government confirmed it would not seek this advice, as it did not want to negotiate the terms of independence ahead of the referendum.195

There is no direct precedent for part of an EU member state seceding.196 There are some relevant cases, but none of these are directly comparable.196 Greenland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) as part of Denmark in 1973, but later voted for home rule and to leave the EEC.196 The reunification of Germany in 1990 meant that the people of the former German Democratic Republic were added to the EEC.196 Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, with both new states joining the EU in 2004.196 Supporters of independence have stated that an independent Scotland would become an EU member by treaty amendment under Article 48 of the EU treaties.197 Opponents argue that this would not be possible and that an independent Scotland would need to apply for EU membership under Article 49, which would require ratification by each member state.197

The former Prime Minister Sir John Major suggested in November 2013 that Scotland would need to re-apply for EU membership, but that this would mean overcoming opposition to separatists among many existing member states, particularly Spain.198 Several media sources and opponents of independence have suggested that Spain may block Scottish membership of the EU, amid fears of repercussions with separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque country.198199200201 In November 2013 the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said in an interview: "I know for sure that a region that would separate from a member state of the European Union would remain outside the European Union and that should be known by the Scots and the rest of the European citizens."202 He also stated that an independent Scotland would become a "third country" outside the EU and would require the consent of all 28 EU states to rejoin the EU, but that he would not seek to block an independent Scotland's entry.202 Salmond cited a letter from Mario Tenreiro of the EC's secretariat general that said it would be legally possible to renegotiate the situation of the UK and Scotland within the EU by unanimious agreement of all member states.203

Professor Sir David Edward, a former European Court judge, has stated that the EU institutions and member states would be "obliged" to start negotiations before independence took effect to decide the future relationship within the EU of Scotland and the rest of the UK.204 He said this would be achieved by agreed amendment of the existing Treaties (Article 48), rather than a new Accession Treaty (Article 49).194204 Graham Avery, the EC's honorary director general, agreed with Edward.205 Avery wrote a report, published by the European Policy Centre, which said that EU leaders would probably allow Scotland to be part of the EU because of the legal and practical difficulties that would arise from excluding it.206 In a research paper, Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott of Oxford University stated that the EU law normally takes a "pragmatic and purposive approach" to issues, such as Scottish independence that are not already provided for by existing treaties.207

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, suggested in 2012 that an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership, but the rest of the UK would continue to be a member.208 In a BBC interview he stated: "We are a union of states, so if there is a new state, of course, that state has to apply for membership and negotiate the conditions with other member states. For European Union purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent it is a new state and has to negotiate with the EU."209 In 2014, he asserted that Scotland joining the EU would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible".210 Christina McKelvie MSP, Convener of the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament, wrote to Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, in March 2014 to ask whether Article 48 would apply.211 In her reply to McKelvie, Reding said that EU treaties would no longer apply to a territory when it secedes from a member state.212 Reding also indicated that Article 49 would be the route to apply to become a member of the EU.212 Jean-Claude Juncker, who is due to succeed Barroso as president of the Commission in November 2014, said in July that he would respect the outcome of the referendum.213

In January 2013, the Republic of Ireland's Minister of European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, stated in an interview that "if Scotland were to become independent, Scotland would have to apply for membership and that can be a lengthy process".214 Creighton later wrote to Nicola Sturgeon to clarify that she understood her view was "largely in line with that of the Scottish Government", and that she "certainly did not at any stage suggest that Scotland could, should or would be thrown out of the EU".215 In May 2013, Roland Vaubel, an Alternative für Deutschland adviser,216 published a paper that argued that Scotland would remain a member of the EU upon independence, and suggested there would need to be negotiations between the British and Scottish Governments on "how they wished to share the rights and obligations of the predecessor state". Vaubel also claimed that Barroso's comments on the legal position had "no basis in the European treaties".217

Future status of the United Kingdom in the European Union

In January 2013, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, committed the Conservative Party to a referendum in 2017 on the UK's membership of the EU if they win the 2015 general election.218 Legislation for it has been approved by the House of Commons.219 Studies have shown some divergence in attitudes to the EU in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Though a Scottish Government review based on survey data between 1999 and 2005 found that people in Scotland reported "broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole",220 Ipsos MORI noted in February 2013 that voters in Scotland said they would choose to remain in the EU in a referendum, "in contrast to November 2012 data on attitudes in England", where there was a majority for withdrawal.221 Yes Scotland claimed that the UK government plans have caused "economic uncertainty" for Scotland.222 Christina McKelvie said that she feared that Scotland would be "dragged out of the EU against our wishes".223 Some commentators have suggested that the UK leaving the EU would undermine the case for Scottish independence, since free trade, freedom of movement and the absence of border controls with the UK could no longer be assumed.224225226

Health care

Responsibility for health care has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament since it was established in 1999.227 The Scottish Government has enacted health policies which are different from those in England, such as abolishing charges for prescriptions and elderly personal care.227 NHS Scotland has been operationally independent of the NHS in the rest of the United Kingdom since the formation of the NHS in 1948.228229 Supporters of independence argue that independence is needed because possible reductions in the NHS budget in England would result in reduced funding for Scotland, which would make it difficult to maintain the existing service.229 Harry Burns a former chief medical officer for Scotland, said in July 2014 that he thought independence could be beneficial for public health because it may give people greater control of their lives.230

In May 2014, about 100 medical workers, including surgeons, consultant doctors, GPs, pharmacists, dentists, hospital porters and janitors joined a pro-independence campaign group called NHS for Yes. Its co-founder described health care in Scotland as "a shining example of self-government for Scotland demonstrably being far better than Westminster government" and said independence would "protect [NHS Scotland] from future Westminster funding cuts, and the damaging impact of privatisation south of the border".231

Specialist treatment

Opponents of independence say that being part of the UK is crucial in allowing Scots to obtain specialist treatment elsewhere in the UK.229 At present, NHS Scotland has reciprocal arrangements in place with the NHS services in the rest of the UK and specialist services are shared.228 Vote No Borders, a unionist campaign group, ran a cinema advert claiming that Scots would find it more difficult to obtain treatment at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), a London facility which specialises in care for children.232233 Vote No Borders withdrew the advert after GOSH complained that it had not been consulted about the advert and stated: "We would like to reassure Scottish families that we already have reciprocal health care agreements with numerous countries, and we regularly treat patients from across Europe because of our very specialist expertise."232233


Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

A republic is favoured by some pro-independence political parties and organisations, including the Scottish Green Party234 and the Scottish Socialist Party.235 The SNP is in favour of retaining a personal union with the rest of the UK and would also seek membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.135 Salmond has said the monarchy would be retained by an independent Scotland. Some figures within the SNP, including Christine Grahame, the convenor of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, believe it is party policy to hold a referendum on the status of the monarchy,236 owing to a 1997 SNP conference resolution.237


UK State Pensions are managed by the UK Government, paying £113.10 per week to a single person who is of state pension age in 2013/14.238 The state pension age for men is presently 65, but this is due to rise to 66 in 2020 and 67 by 2028.238 Research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that an independent Scotland could delay these increases, due to its lower life expectancy.239 The white paper on independence, Scotland's Future, pledged to maintain a state pension at a similar rate to the UK.240 Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in April 2014 that Scotland had an above average share of the public sector pension bill and concluded that pensions would be protected by sharing risks and resources within the UK.241 UK Government pensions minister Steve Webb said in May 2014 that Scots would be entitled to the current levels of state pension after independence because they had accumulated rights within the existing system.242 Webb went on to say that there would need to be negotiations between the UK and Scotland as to how these pensions would be paid.242 In relation to private pension schemes, a report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland expressed concern that there were no plans to deal with EU regulations that may affect the funding of cross-border defined benefit schemes.243 The EC decided in March 2014 not to relax these regulations, which require cross-border schemes to be fully funded.244


Scotland will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2014 Ryder Cup in the months preceding the referendum. Scott Stevenson, the director of sport at Commonwealth Games Canada, said: "Athletes want to come in and compete, unencumbered by politics."245

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish published a report in May 2014 that found no obvious barriers to an independent Scotland competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics.246 McLeish said that some athletes, particularly those in team sports, may choose to compete for the existing Great Britain team rather than Scotland as they would be nationals of both states.246 International Olympic Committee representative Craig Reedie has pointed out that Scotland would need to obtain United Nations membership and may want to set its own Olympic qualifying standards, which would need to be done in the period between independence (March 2016) and the closing date for 2016 Summer Olympics entries (July 2016).246247

Gordon Brown has pointed to the 2012 medal count for Great Britain, saying that it showed the success of a union that included the two nations.248 Scottish athletes were involved in 13 of the 65 medals won by Great Britain in 2012, but only three of those were won by Scots without assistance from other athletes.249 Sir Chris Hoy said in May 2013 that it could "take time" for Scottish athletes to "establish themselves in a new training environment", indicating that the good performance of Scottish athletes in the Great Britain team would not automatically translate into that of an independent Scotland team.250 Hoy also said that he believed the lack of facilities and coaching infrastructure in Scotland would have to be addressed by an independent state.250

Status of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles

The prospect of an independent Scotland has raised questions about the future of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, three island groups off the Scottish mainland. Some islanders have called for separate referendums to be held in the islands on 25 September 2014, one week after the Scottish referendum.251252253 In March 2014, the Scottish Parliament published the online petition it had received calling for such referendums, which was supported by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.254 The referendums would ask islanders to choose from three options: that the island group should become an independent country; it should remain in Scotland; or (in the event of Scottish independence) it should remain in the UK.255

The third option would implement the conditional promise made in 2012, when an SNP spokesperson said that, in the event of Scottish independence, Orkney and Shetland could remain in the United Kingdom if their "drive for self-determination" was strong enough.256 Politicians in the three island groups have referred to the Scottish referendum as the most important event in their political history "since the inception of the island councils in 1975". Angus Campbell, leader of the Western Isles, said that the ongoing constitutional debate "offers the opportunity for the three island councils to secure increased powers for our communities to take decisions which will benefit the economies and the lives of those who live in the islands".257

In a meeting of the island councils in March 2013, leaders of the three territories discussed their future in the event of Scottish independence, including whether the islands could demand and achieve autonomous status within either Scotland or the rest of the UK. Among the scenarios proposed were achieving either Crown Dependency status or self-government modelled after the Faroe Islands, in association with either Scotland or the UK.258 Steven Heddle, Orkney's council leader, described pursuing Crown Dependency status as the least likely option, as it would threaten funding from the EU, which is essential for local farmers.258 Alasdair Allan, MSP for the Western Isles, said independence could have a positive impact on the isles, as "crofters and farmers could expect a substantial uplift in agricultural and rural development funding via the Common Agricultural Policy if Scotland were an independent member state of the EU".259

In July 2013, the Scottish Government made the Lerwick Declaration, indicating an interest in devolving power to Scotland's islands. By November, it had made a commitment to devolve further powers to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles in the event of independence.260 Steven Heddle called for legislation to that effect to be introduced regardless of the referendum result.261

United Nations

David Cameron has suggested an independent Scotland would be "marginalised" at the United Nations, where the UK is a permanent member of the Security Council.262 John Major has suggested that, after Scottish independence, the remaining UK could lose its permanent seat at the UN Security Council.263


Scientific research

In 2012–13, Scottish universities received 13.1% of Research Councils UK funding.264 Dr Alan Trench of University College London has said that Scottish universities receive a "hugely disproportionate" level of funding and would no longer be able to access it following independence. Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has suggested that independence would mean Scottish universities losing £210m in research funding.265 The Institute of Physics in Scotland warned that access to internationally renowned facilities such as the CERN Large Hadron Collider, the European Space Agency, and European Southern Observatory could require renegotiation by the Scottish Government.266 It also said an independent Scotland would need to consider how funding from influential UK charities such as the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust would be maintained, and there are "major uncertainties" about how international companies with bases in Scotland would view independence.266

The Scottish Government's Education Secretary, Michael Russell, has said that Scotland's universities have a "global reputation" that would continue to attract investment after independence.267 In September 2013, the principal of the University of Aberdeen said that Scottish universities could continue to access UK research funding through a "single research area" that crossed both nations' boundaries.268 Professor David Bell, professor of economics at the University of Stirling, said that cross-border collaboration might continue, but Scottish universities could still lose their financial advantage.269 Roger Cook of the Scotland Institute pointed out that although Scottish universities do receive a higher share of Research Councils funding, they are much less dependent on this as a source of funding than their counterparts in England.106

Student funding

Tuition fees for students domiciled in Scotland were abolished in 2001.270 The fees were replaced by a system of graduate endowments, which were themselves abolished in 2008.270271 Students domiciled in the rest of the UK are charged fees of up to £9,000 per annum by Scottish universities,272 but those from other EU member states are not charged fees, in order to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.273

If Scotland became an independent state, students from the rest of the UK would be in the position that students from the rest of the EU presently are.272 A University of Edinburgh study found that this would cause a loss in funding and could potentially squeeze out Scottish students.272 The study suggested three courses of action for an independent Scotland: introduce tuition fees for all students; negotiate an agreement with the EU where a quota of student places would be reserved for Scots; or introduce a separate admissions service for students from other EU member states, with an admission fee attached.272 It concluded that the EU may allow a quota system for some specialist subjects, such as medicine, where there is a clear need for local students to be trained for particular careers, but that other subjects would not be eligible.272 The study also found that their third suggestion would run against the spirit of the Bologna agreement, which aims to encourage EU student mobility.272

The Scottish Government stated in its white paper, Scotland's Future, that the present tuition fees arrangement would remain in place in an independent Scotland, as the EU allows for different fee arrangements in "exceptional circumstances".274 Jan Figel, a former EU commissioner for education, said in January 2014 that it would be illegal for an independent Scotland to apply a different treatment to students from the rest of the UK.275 A report by a House of Commons select committee stated that it would cost an independent Scottish Government £150 million to provide free tuition to students from the rest of the UK.274 A group of academics campaigning for independence has expressed concern that the present arrangements would not continue if Scotland stayed within the UK, due to public spending cuts in England and the consequential effects of the Barnett formula.276


The Yes campaign has argued that control of welfare policy would be a major benefit of independence.277 According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, independence would "give the opportunity for more radical reform, so that the [welfare] system better reflects the views of the Scottish people".278 Yes Scotland and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have said the existing welfare system can only be guaranteed by voting for independence.279280 In September 2013, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), which represents charities, called for a separate welfare system to be established in Scotland.281

In November 2013, the Scottish Government pledged to use the powers of independence to reverse key aspects of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which was implemented across the UK despite opposition from a majority of Scotland's MPs. It said it would abolish Universal Credit282 and the bedroom tax.283 The SNP has also criticised Rachel Reeves, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for saying284 a future UK Labour government would be even tougher on benefits than the Cameron ministry.285286

In January 2012, sources close to the Prime Minister told The Scotsman that "a unified tax and benefit system is at the heart of a united country" and that these powers could not be devolved to Scotland after the referendum,287 though Liberal Democrat Michael Moore said in August 2013 that devolution of parts of the welfare budget should be "up for debate".288 Labour politician Jim Murphy, a former Secretary of State for Scotland, has argued that he is "fiercely committed" to devolving welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament, but also warned that independence would be disruptive and would not be beneficial.289 Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission recommended in March 2014 that some aspects of the welfare state, including housing benefit and attendance allowance, should be devolved.290



A number of demonstrations in support of independence have been co-ordinated since the announcement of the referendum. The March and Rally for Scottish Independence in September 2012 drew a crowd of between 5,000 and 10,000 people to Princes Street Gardens.291 The event was repeated in September 2013; police estimated that over 8,000 people took part in the march, while organisers and the Scottish Police Federation292 claimed between 20,000 and 30,000 people took part in the combined march and rally.293 The March and Rally was criticised in both 2012 and 2013 for the involvement of groups like the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement294 and Vlaamse Volksbeweging.295


Debates over the issue of independence have taken place on television, in communities, and within universities and societies since the announcement of the referendum.296297298299300 The current affairs programme Scotland Tonight has televised a series of debates: Nicola Sturgeon v Michael Moore,301 Sturgeon v Anas Sarwar,302 Sturgeon v Alistair Carmichael303 and Sturgeon v Johann Lamont.304 On 21 January 2014, BBC Two Scotland broadcast the first in a series of round-table debates, which was filmed in Greenock and chaired by James Cook.305306

The Yes campaign has repeatedly called for there to be a televised debate between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond. These calls for a one-on-one debate have been dismissed by Cameron307308 on the basis that the referendum is "for Scots to decide" and the debate should be "between people in Scotland who want to stay, and people in Scotland who want to go".309 Calls for such a debate were also supported by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said it would be a "good idea".310 Salmond has likewise been accused of "running scared" from debating with Better Together chairman Alistair Darling instead,311 although Sturgeon stated in October 2013 that a Salmond–Darling debate would take place at some point.312 After weeks of negotiation, a debate between Salmond and Darling was arranged for STV on 5 August 2014.313 Darling refused a public debate with Yes Scotland chairman Blair Jenkins.314 UKIP leader Nigel Farage challenged Alex Salmond to debate, but Farage was dismissed by an SNP spokeswoman as “an irrelevance in Scotland”.315

Opinion polling

Professor John Curtice stated in January 2012 that polling showed support for independence at between 32% and 38% of the Scottish population, a slight decline from 2007, when the SNP first formed the Scottish Government.316 To date there has been no poll evidence of majority support for independence, although the share "vehemently opposed to independence" has declined.316 According to Curtice, the polls were remarkably stable during most of 2013, with the "no" camp leading by an average of 50% to 33% for "yes" with one year to go.317 American polling expert Nate Silver said in August 2013 that the yes campaign had "virtually no chance" of winning.318 The polls tightened after the release of the Scottish Government white paper on independence, with an average of five polls in December 2013 and January 2014 giving 39% yes and 61% no, once 'don't knows' had been excluded.319 The polls again tightened after George Osborne stated in February that the UK Government was opposed to a currency union, with the average yes support increasing to 43%, once 'don't knows' had been excluded.320 There has been little movement in the following few months, with the average showing 43% yes and 57% no in July 2014 (excluding don't knows).321

There is disagreement between the pollsters as to the state of public opinion.322 Professor Curtice has observed that ICM, Panelbase and Survation show higher yes support and TNS BMRB, YouGov and Ipsos Mori show less support for independence.322 Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov, noted in July 2014 that the average results for YouGov and TNS BMRB showed 41% support for independence (excluding don't knows), whereas ICM, Panelbase and Survation showed 45 or 46% support.323 Kellner said that he believed the latter pollsters were overstating support for independence due to some SNP supporters being "passing nationalists" who had supported other parties (particularly Labour) in other elections.323 Patrick Briône, director of research for Survation, said in response that adjusting for these SNP ex-Labour voters would require too much upweighting of these voters in their sample.324

See also


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  2. ^ a b "Scotland to hold independence poll in 2014 – Salmond". BBC News (BBC). 10 January 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
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