Scottish independence referendum, 2014

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Scottish independence referendum
18 September 2014
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Result not yet known
Electorate4.1 million (as of April 2014, incl. 16-17 year olds)[1]
Results by Scottish Parliament constituencies
Scottish independence referendum 2014 results map.svg
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Scottish independence referendum
18 September 2014
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Result not yet known
Electorate4.1 million (as of April 2014, incl. 16-17 year olds)[1]
Results by Scottish Parliament constituencies
Scottish independence referendum 2014 results map.svg
Flag of Scotland.svg
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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.[5][6] The question to be asked in the referendum will be "Should Scotland be an independent country?" as recommended by the Electoral Commission.[7]

The principal issues in the referendum are the economic strength of Scotland and whether the rest of the UK will agree to share the pound sterling, defence arrangements, continued relations with the rest of the UK, and membership of supranational organisations, particularly the European Union (EU) and NATO.


Location of Scotland (dark pink) within the United Kingdom (white).

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[edit]

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 under the Conservative Thatcher and Major governments between 1979 and 1997. Soon after Labour returned to power in 1997, 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[edit]

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.[11][dead 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.[12][13]

After the National Conversation was concluded, a white paper for the proposed Referendum Bill was published on 30 November 2009.[14][15] The paper 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.[16][17] The 84-page document was titled Scotland's Future: Draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill Consultation Paper and 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.[20][21] The Scottish Government eventually opted to withdraw the bill after failing to secure opposition support.[12][22]

2011 SNP administration[edit]

The SNP repeated its commitment to hold an independence referendum when it published its election manifesto for the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election.[23] Days before the election, First Minister 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 available, thereby gaining a mandate to hold an independence referendum.[25][26]

In January 2012, the UK Government offered to legislate to provide the Scottish Parliament with the specific 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 an 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] Salmond described it as the "most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published", and argued it showed his government "do[es] not seek independence as an end in itself, but rather as a means to changing Scotland for the better".[29] The leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, described it as being "thick with false promises and meaningless assertions. Instead of a credible and costed plan, we have a wish-list of political promises without any answers on how Alex Salmond would pay for them."[29]


Date and eligibility[edit]

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 Bannockburn[30][31] and that Scotland will also host the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Ryder Cup.[31] Salmond admitted 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]

The Scottish Government has 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.[18][33][34] The move was supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Greens.[35][36] 16 has been the age of legal capacity in Scotland since the Age of Legal Capacity (Scotland) Act 1991.

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 Scots living in the other parts of the UK.[37] 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".[37]

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".[37] Wallace also pointed to the fact that only two of 11 referendums since 1973 had been across all of the United Kingdom.[37] Professor John Curtice has also argued the Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973, created a precedent for allowing only those resident in one part of the UK to vote on its sovereignty.[38]


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. Under the current system of devolution, the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to unilaterally secede from the United Kingdom, because the constitution is a reserved matter for the parliament of the United Kingdom.[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 Parliament[26][39] and that private individuals could challenge a Scottish Parliament referendum bill.[40]

The UK Parliament could temporarily transfer legal authority to the Scottish Parliament to prevent this, but the Scottish Government had objected to the attachment of conditions to any referendum by this process.[40] The two governments eventually signed the Edinburgh Agreement, which allows 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?"[41] This formulation was criticised by some, including the Electoral Commission, who argued that prefacing the question with "Do you agree" was intended to garner a positive response.[41] The Electoral Commission tested the proposed question along with three other versions. The commission decided that "Should Scotland be an independent country?" was the most neutral and concise of the versions tested.[42] The question was therefore amended to "Should Scotland be an independent country?"[41]

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.[41][43] During an election debate in Quebec, Liberal leader Philippe Couillard asked Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois whether she would use a "straightforward question" like the one agreed in Scotland, if there was to be another referendum in Quebec.[43]


Campaign funding and costs[edit]

In the original 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 be entitled to one free mailshot to every household or vote 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.[44]

In 2013, new proposals by the Electoral Commission were accepted; these will apply to the 16-week regulated period preceding the poll and allow for 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).[41]

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.[45]

Campaign organisations[edit]

The campaign in favour of Scottish independence, Yes Scotland, was launched on 25 May 2012.[46] Its chief executive is Blair Jenkins,[46] 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,[46] the Scottish Green Party (which also created "its own pro-independence campaign to run alongside Yes Scotland"[47]) and the Scottish Socialist Party. Its launch featured a number of celebrities and urged Scots to sign a declaration of support for independence.[46] Salmond stated that he hoped one million people in Scotland would sign the declaration.[48] By 24 May 2013, the number of signatories had reached 372,103.[49]

The campaign in favour of Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom, Better Together, was launched on 25 June 2012.[50] It is led by Alastair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and has support from the Labour Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats.[50]



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 are then living in Scotland. British citizens "habitually resident" in Scotland will also be considered Scottish citizens, even if they already hold the citizenship of another country. Every person who would automatically be considered a Scottish citizen will be able to opt out of Scottish citizenship, if they so wish, provided they already hold the citizenship of another country.[51] 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.[51]

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.[52]


Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

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.[53] First Minister 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,[54] owing to a 1997 SNP conference resolution to hold "a referendum in the term of office of the first independent Parliament of Scotland on whether to retain the monarch", but Salmond claims the policy has changed since then.[55]

Some other pro-independence political parties and organisations favour a republic, including the Scottish Green Party[56] and the Scottish Socialist Party.[57]


The Scottish Government and pro-independence campaigners have argued that a "democratic deficit" exists in Scotland[58][59][60] because of the centralised nature of the UK and its lack of a codified constitution, and that this could be resolved through independence.[61] 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".[62]

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.[63] Alex Salmond has argued that instances such as this, where Westminster governments and parliaments implement policies which are opposed by Scottish politicians, 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".[64]

In February 2014, Salmond wrote in the New Statesman: "[...] in Scotland today we are subject to a Westminster coalition government led by the Tories, who do indeed have the grand total of one MP north of the border. This affront to democracy gets to the heart of the independence debate. It cannot be right for a party that is overwhelmingly rejected in election after election (in the four most recent UK elections the Tories have returned zero, one, one and one MP from Scotland) to form a government pursuing policies that very few people support. In fact, for half the time since the end of the Second World War, Scotland has been governed from Westminster by parties with no majority here."[65]

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."[66]

In his New Year's message at the start of 2014, Colin Fox argued that independence would end "the democratic failure at the heart of UK politics".[67]


Underlying economics[edit]

A principal issue in the referendum is the economy.[68] In February 2014, the Financial Times noted that Scotland's GDP per capita is bigger than that of France when a geographic oil and gas is taken into account, and still bigger than that of Italy when it is not.[69]

The Barnett formula has resulted in public spending being higher per head of population in Scotland than England,[70] but, if North Sea oil revenue is calculated on a geographic basis, Scotland also produces more tax revenue per head of population than the UK average.[71][72] 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.".[72]

Given the uncertain nature of any independence agreement, matters such as what portion of the UK's public debt would be passed to Scotland, its credit rating and borrowing rates are also issues.[73][74] Fitch, a major credit rating agency, stated in October 2012 that it could not give an opinion on what rating Scotland would have, because the state of Scottish finances would largely depend on the result of negotiations between the UK and Scotland on the division of assets and liabilities.[74] Standard & Poor's, another significant credit rating agency, published a report in February 2014 that said 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".[75]

As of spring 2014, Scotland has a lower rate of unemployment than the UK average[76] and a lower fiscal deficit (including as a percentage of GDP)[77] 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.[78] The Scottish government's annual expenditure and revenue for 2012/13 found that North Sea oil revenue had fallen by 41.5% and that Scotland's public spending deficit increased from £4.6 billion to £8.6 billion.[79][80]

Impact of UK Government policy[edit]

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.[81][82]

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". Margaret Cuthbert, the economist who authored the paper, said its conclusions were a direct challenge to the Better Together campaign, which says Scotland would be better off in the UK.[83] 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".[81]

In November 2013, Chic Brodie MSP of the Scottish National Party 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.[84]


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.[53] The principal options are to establish an independent Scottish currency, join the European single currency, or retain the pound sterling.[53]

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".[85] 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".[86]

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."[87] However, he warned that this could lead to Scottish banks relocating to the UK.[87]

The Scottish Socialist Party favours an independent Scottish currency pegged to the pound sterling in the short-term,[88] with its national co-spokesperson Colin Fox describing a sterling zone as "untenable"[89] as it leaves too much power with the UK state.[90] However, the party believes Scotland's currency should be determined in the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament instead of in the referendum.[91]

Other notable proponents of an independent Scottish currency include Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan and former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars.[92]

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,[93] though this was relegated to a long-term rather than short-term goal by the party's 2009 conference.[94][95] There is disagreement over whether Scotland would be required to join the euro if it wished to become a European Union 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".[96] 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.[97][98]

At present, the SNP favours continued use of the pound sterling in an independent Scotland through a formal currency union.[99] In Scotland's Future, the Scottish Government identifies five key reasons it believes a currency union "would be in both Scotland and the UK's interests immediately post-independence":[100]

  1. the UK is Scotland's principal trading partner accounting for 2/3 of exports in 2011, whilst figures cited by HM Treasury suggest that Scotland is the UK's second largest trading partner with exports to Scotland greater than to Brazil, South Africa, Russia, India, China and Japan put together
  2. there is clear evidence of companies operating in Scotland and the UK with complex cross-border supply chains
  3. a high degree of labour mobility – helped by transport links, culture and language
  4. on key measurements of an optimal currency area, the Scottish and UK economies score well – for example, similar levels of productivity
  5. evidence of economic cycles shows that while there have been periods of temporary divergence, there is a relatively high degree of synchronicity in short-term economic trends

Yes Scotland maintains 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.[101] 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: "All that is likely to happen if the continuing UK loses those foreign exchange revenues is that the pound falls, boosting exports and curbing imports until a balance is once again restored."[102]

The Scottish Government has also claimed a currency union would benefit the rest of the UK as businesses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland would otherwise face £500m in transaction costs while trading with Scotland,[103] which Plaid Cymru treasury spokesperson Jonathan Edwards agreed was a "threat to Welsh business".[104]

Leading politicians in the rest of the UK have been sceptical or hostile towards the idea of a currency union. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, stated that the UK would be unlikely to agree to such an arrangement, as it would compromise its sovereignty and open it up to financial risk.[105] Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the plans are "economically incoherent"[106] and that any currency option for an independent Scotland would be "less advantageous than what we have across the UK today",[107] though later invited Salmond to discuss the specifics of currency union with him ahead of the referendum.[108] 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.[109]

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".[110] Darling said voters in the rest of the UK could choose not to be in a currency union with Scotland[111] and criticised the proposal by suggesting that Salmond was asserting that "everything will change but nothing will change".[112]

If Scotland joined a currency union with the UK, some fiscal policy constraints could be imposed on the Scottish state.[53] Banking experts have argued that being the "junior partner" in a currency arrangement could amount to "a loss of fiscal autonomy for Scotland".[113] 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."[114] Salmond, however, has insisted an independent Scotland in a currency union would retain tax and spending powers.[115]

Financial sector[edit]

The UK Treasury issued a report on 20 May 2013 that suggested Scotland's banking systems would be too big to ensure depositor compensation in the event of a bank failure and that it would be less able to guarantee the deposits. The report indicated that Scottish banks would have assets worth 1,254% of GDP, which is more than Cyprus and Iceland before their financial crises. It suggested Scottish taxpayers would each have £65,000 GBP of potential liabilities during a hypothetical bailout in Scotland, versus £30,000 GBP as part of the UK.[116]

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.[117] In this manner, Fortis Bank and the Dexia Bank were bailed out collectively by France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The US federal reserve, in co-operation with the UK Government, made emergency loans to the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland on this basis.[117][118]


The Yes campaign has argued that control of welfare policy would be a major benefit of independence.[119] 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".[120]

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 Credit[121] and the bedroom tax.[122] The SNP has also criticised Rachel Reeves, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for saying[123] a future UK Labour government would be even tougher on benefits than the Cameron ministry.[124][125] Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it is "abundantly clear that it is only with independence that we can safeguard pensions and welfare in Scotland".[126]

Opinion polling has consistently shown a majority in favour of giving control of welfare policy to the Scottish Parliament,[127][128][129][130] which Yes Scotland says can only be guaranteed by voting for independence.[131] In September 2013, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), which represents charities, called for a separate welfare system to be established in Scotland.[132]

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,[133] though Liberal Democrat Michael Moore said in August 2013 that devolution of parts of the welfare budget should be "up for debate".[134]



In July 2013, the SNP advocated a £2.5 billion annual military budget in an independent Scotland.[135] They have argued that there has been a defence underspend in Scotland in the last decade and that independence would allow the Scottish Government to correct this, claiming that the total underspend was "at least £7.4 billion" between 2002 and 2012 and "continues to fundamentally undermine any remaining defence case for the union".[136] 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".[137]

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.[138] 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:[139]

The Scottish Government plans that by 2021 the defence forces will have increased in strength and capability to a total of 12,030 personnel (10,350 regular and 1,680 reserve), with the addition of two additional frigates and several maritime patrol aircraft.[140]

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee—composed of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Democratic Unionist MPs[141]— criticised the SNP's proposals and argued that the £2.5bn budget was too low.[142] 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."[142] 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."[143]

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.[144]

Dorcha Lee, a former colonel in the Irish Army, has 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".[145] Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute has 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."[146]

Nuclear weapons[edit]

The Trident nuclear missile system is based at Coulport weapons depot and naval base of Faslane in the Firth of Clyde area. The SNP objects to having nuclear weapons on Scottish territory. Salmond has stated that "it is inconceivable that an independent nation of 5,250,000 people would tolerate the continued presence of weapons of mass destruction on its soil." British military leaders have claimed that there is no alternative site for the missiles.[147][148]

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.[149] 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.[150] 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 United Kingdom to maintain good diplomatic relations and expedite NATO entry negotiations.[151]

NATO membership[edit]
Current map of NATO, member states shown in dark blue.

At their annual conference in October 2012, SNP delegates voted to drop a long-standing policy of opposition in principle to NATO membership.[152] 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.[153]

The Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party, which participate in the Yes Scotland campaign for independence, remain opposed to continued membership of NATO.[154] MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart resigned from the SNP over the policy change.[155] 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".[156]

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,[157] and Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party.[156] However, Salmond has said it would be "perfectly feasible" to join NATO while maintaining an anti-nuclear stance, and that Scotland would only pursue NATO membership "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".[158]

Lord Robertson, a former NATO Secretary General, said NATO has a "central nuclear role" and that the SNP should either accept it or keep Scotland out of the alliance.[159] 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.[160]


In 2013, Allan Burnett, former head of intelligence with Strathclyde Police and Scotland's counter-terrorism co-ordinator until 2010, told the Sunday Herald 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.[161] 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".[161]

European Union[edit]

Status of an independent Scotland in the European Union[edit]

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 European Union 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.[162][163]

Spain may block Scottish membership of the EU, amid fears of repercussions within its own Catalonia and Basque country.[164][165][166] This was initially denied by the Spanish government,[167] but, in October 2012, the Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Scotland would have to apply to join as a new member: "In the hypothetical case of independence, Scotland would have to join the queue and ask to be admitted, needing the unanimous approval of all member states to obtain the status of a candidate country [...] and to sign the final treaty [of accession]".[168]

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."[169] 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,[170] but that he would not seek to block an independent Scotland's entry.[169]

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said Rajoy's comments had "blown Alex Salmond's case for EU entry out of the water" and that "we need to know what advice the SNP received before they laid out their threadbare case in the White Paper",[170] while Darling said: "This is another blow to Alex Salmond's claims that nothing would change if we vote to go it alone. The Spanish Prime Minister has just made it clear that everything would change."[170] A spokesperson for Nicola Sturgeon responded to the Spanish PM's comments by saying "Scotland is already an integral part of the EU, and there is nothing in the entire body of EU treaties which provides for the expulsion of an existing territory or the removal of its inhabitants' rights as EU citizens".[169][170] Salmond cited a letter from Mario Tenreiro of the European Commission's secretariat general that said "It would, of course, be legally possible to renegotiate the situation of the UK and Scotland within the EU. Of course, this would imply a change of the treaties which could only be done by unanimity of all member states."[171]

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, has suggested that an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership, but the rest of the UK would continue to be a member.[172] In a response to a question from the House of Lords economic committee, Barroso stated: "If part of the territory of a Member State would cease to be part of that state because it were to become a new independent state, the Treaties would no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties would no longer apply on its territory."[173] In a BBC interview he further 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."[174]

In September 2013, the European Commission's Spanish vice-president, Joaquin Almunia, stated "if one part of a territory of a member state decides to separate, the separated part isn't a member of the European Union" in a comment made regarding Catalonia.[175] In response to further questioning from the Spanish media, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed: "Scenarios such as the separation of one part of a member state or the creation of a new state, as we have recall[ed] on numerous occasions, would not be neutral as regards to the EU treaties [...] So in other words, an independent state, because of this independence, would become a third country vis a vis the EU and as of the day of the independence the EU treaties will no longer apply".[176]

The European Commission offered to provide an opinion to an existing member state on the matter, but the British Government confirmed it would not seek this advice on the ground that it did not want to negotiate the terms of independence ahead of the referendum.[177]

Professor Sir David Edward, a former European Court judge, has argued that the EU institutions and member states "would be obliged to enter into negotiations, before separation took effect, to determine the future relationship within the EU of the separate parts of the former UK and the other Member States. The outcome of such negotiations, unless they failed utterly, would be agreed amendment of the existing Treaties, not a new Accession Treaty." [163][178]

The former Taoiseach John Bruton has said that he believes Scottish membership would require a new treaty of accession ratified by all 28 member states.[179] "If an area were to secede from an existing EU member, that area would thereby cease to be a member of the EU. It would have to apply anew to become an EU member state, as if it had never been a member of the EU, and was applying for the first time."[180]

In January 2013, the Republic of Ireland's Minister of European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, stated in an interview with BBC News that "if Scotland were to become independent, Scotland would have to apply for membership and that can be a lengthy process".[181] 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". She said: "I think it is clear that a newly independent state would have to (and would have the right to and indeed should) negotiate the terms of membership, as they would undoubtedly be somewhat different to the existing terms. I did say that this would take some time, which I expect it would." Creighton also agreed with comments by the SNP's Angus Robertson, who said that "the EU would adopt a simplified procedure for the negotiations, not the traditional procedure followed for the accession of non-member countries" and that negotiations could be completed in the two-year period between the referendum in 2014 and planned independence in 2016.[182] Scottish Labour's Johann Lamont later accused the Scottish Government of "bombard[ing Creighton] with abuse" over her original comments.[183]

In May 2013, Roland Vaubel, an Alternative für Deutschland politician,[184] published a paper titled The Political Economy of Secession in the European Union, which 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 Barosso's comments on the status of Scotland after independence had "no basis in the European treaties".[185]

In July 2013, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, a member of the Danish Parliament's European Affairs Committee, and opposition party Venstre's spokesperson on European Affairs, said it would "only be natural for Denmark to acknowledge [Scotland's] independence and to welcome Scotland in both the EU in accordance with the Copenhagen Criteria and also in NATO". Lars Bo Kaspersen, Head of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, added that he believed independence "could be a fairly quick transition". He continued: "I'm sure that the European Union in general would strongly support Scottish membership and the same goes for NATO. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't think it was a good idea."[186]

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 of the existing member states, particularly Spain: "Spain uses uncertainty over EU membership to deter Catalonia from even holding a referendum on independence", he warned. "It is hardly likely she would happily wave in Scotland. Spain will not be alone in being wary of separatist tendencies."[187]

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said in December 2013 that Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership: "It is very important to understand that if Scotland left the United Kingdom, it would also be leaving the organisations the United Kingdom is a member of, including the European Union." [188]

Future status of the United Kingdom in the European Union[edit]

In January 2013, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, committed the Conservative Party to a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union in 2017 if they win the 2015 general election,[189] seen largely as an appeal to the increasing number of UKIP supporters in England.[190] Legislation for this referendum has already been approved by the House of Commons.[191]

Yes Scotland claimed this has caused "economic uncertainty" for Scotland.[192] SNP MSP Christina McKelvie added that this showed "the hypocrisy at the heart of the anti-independence campaign [...] This legislation passing through Westminster opens up the very real prospect of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our wishes if there is a No vote next year. That would be a disaster for Scotland and shows quite clearly why Scotland needs responsibility for our own relationship with our European neighbours".[193]

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 from between 1999 and 2005 found that people in Scotland reported "broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole",[194] 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.[195]

In June 2013, The Guardian reported that the Labour Party was considering backing calls for a referendum on membership of the European Union before the next British general election.[196] In response, the SNP reiterated its belief that "[the] biggest source of uncertainty on Scotland's future is clearly coming from Westminster parties who are more interested in their own political games than responding to what people in Scotland want".[197]

Relationship between a Scotland within the EU and a UK outside[edit]

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. Brian Ashcroft, economics professor at Strathclyde University, has criticised the SNP's assumption that Scotland should remain in the EU if the UK voted to leave. "Scottish exports to rest of UK are four times bigger than exports to the EU (ex UK). Moreover, the importance of rest of UK exports to Scotland is rising while the share of exports to the EU has fallen...Given these data, it would appear to be exceptionally foolhardy of any Scottish government to risk trade, investment and migration links to the rest of UK by staying in the EU if the UK left."[198]

Dr Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre has written that "Scotland would face a stark choice if the UK chooses to leave the EU. The fundamental (and yet untested) question is whether a country can be part of a currency union (with binding fiscal commitments) with a currency outside the EU and simultaneously be part of European Economic and Monetary Union (with a strengthened fiscal/economic governance framework), even if the country in question is outside the Euro for the time being. It is difficult to envisage such an arrangement, as a clash between two sets of rules could occur, creating legal uncertainty. With a UK facing restrictions in entering the Single Market, Scotland would also be required to implement them on English goods and services, potentially imposing very substantial costs on the Scottish economy.[199]

Writing in The Guardian, Angus Roxburgh said: "Until now, the working assumption has been that an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would both remain in the EU [...] Instead of the cosy arrangement with England that most independence supporters envisage (Queen, currency, open borders, "social union"), there could be passport controls and bureaux de change along the Tweed. Scotland might have to have its own currency, or adopt the euro. The prospect of a Scotland cut adrift from England and dangling on a very long European anchor might worry even diehard bravehearts."[200]

United Nations[edit]

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.[201]

John Major has suggested that, after Scottish independence, the remaining UK could lose its permanent seat at the UN Security Council.[202]


Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, suggested that independence would mean Scottish universities losing £210m in research funding. Rennie argued that "we could not do all of this exciting new research without the extra bonus funding that we receive from across the border".[203] The Scottish Government's Education Secretary, Michael Russell, responded by insisting Scotland's universities have a "global reputation" that would continue to attract investment after independence: "This year [2011] alone, we are investing £289m in research and knowledge exchange through the Scottish Funding Council. This is expected to lever in an additional £500m from Research Councils, Europe, charities and business."[204]

In 2009–10, Scottish universities received 14.7% of UK research council money, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute. Dr Alan Trench of University College London said this level of funding from Research Councils UK was "hugely disproportionate", and would no longer be accessed by Scottish institutions following independence. A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said "Scotland has an unrivalled record of success in attracting funding, reflecting the excellence and global reputation of our universities, and that will continue with independence".[205]

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. He said: "There's no question – if that was what was wanted. I can't see it's in the interests of anyone in the rest of the UK to want to exclude Scotland, nor is it in the interest of Scotland to be excluded from collaboration. You need to freely and easily be able to collaborate across the UK. Knowledge does not know state boundaries. It seems to me it could be done fairly straightforwardly."[206]

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.[207]

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. 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.[208]


There have also been suggestion that the 2014 Commonwealth Games, taking place two months before the election, in Glasgow could be used to showcase Scotland; though the SNP denied and criticised any links between the Games and the referendum, Scott Stevenson, the director of sport at Commonwealth Games Canada, related the Canadian experience with Quebecois nationalism and said: "I'm pretty optimistic there'll be greater interest in Glasgow than some recent Games. I've asked in meetings […] how we can expect the political issues to play out and that politics won't be put into the Games. Athletes want to come in and compete, unencumbered by politics."[209]

This also came in light of the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the last time Scotland hosted the Games, which was boycotted by a majority of countries due to British support for South Africa amidst a backdrop of the sporting boycott of South Africa.[210]

Similarly, during the 2012 Summer Olympics, Salmond said that this would be Scotland's last appearance as part of Great Britain at the Olympics before it competes as an independent Scotland in the 2016 Summer Olympics.[211] International Olympic Committee representative Craig Reedie suggested that Scots would have to continue to represent Great Britain in 2016, as international recognition of an independent Scotland would not be immediately conferred after the referendum.[212] He also questioned whether an independent Scotland could support its athletes to the same extent as Great Britain.[212] Scotsman and former Prime Minister 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.[213]

Sir Chris Hoy suggested 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 as part of Team GB in the Olympics would not automatically translate into a leading Scottish Olympic team. He commented that he had to make use of facilities in Manchester because there was no Scottish equivalent, and that lack of facilities and coaching infrastructure would have to be addressed in an independent Scotland.[214]

Status of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles[edit]

The prospect of an independent Scotland has raised questions about the future of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, three island groups off the coast of the Scottish mainland. Some islanders have called for separate referenda to be held in the islands on 25 September 2014, one week after the Scottish referendum.[215][216][217]

In March 2014, the Scottish Parliament published the online petition it had received calling for such referenda, a petition which received prompt support from Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.[218] The referenda would ask islanders to choose between following options:

In the event that the result of the Scottish referendum was "yes", there would also be a third option:

The third option would implement the conditional promise made in 2012, when a spokesperson for the SNP 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.[220]

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".[221]

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.[222] Steven Heddle, Orkney's council leader, described pursuing Crown Dependency status as the least likely option, as it would threaten funding from the European Union, which is essential for local farmers.[222]

Early in 2013, an opinion poll commissioned by the Press and Journal found only 8% of people in Shetland and Orkney supported the islands themselves becoming independent countries, with 82% against and a further 10% did not know.[223]

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 during a meeting with council leaders to devolve further powers to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles in the event of independence.[224] Steven Heddle, convenor of Orkney Islands Council, called for legislation to that effect to be introduced regardless of the referendum result.[225]

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".[226]



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.[227] 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 Federation[228] claimed between 20,000 and 30,000 people took part in the combined march and rally.[229]

The March and Rally was criticised in both 2012 and 2013 for the involvement of groups like the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement[230] and Vlaamse Volksbeweging.[231]


Debates over the issue of independence have taken place on television, in communities, and within universities and societies since the announcement of the referendum.[232] [233][234][235][236]

Scotland Tonight, a current affairs programme by STV, has broadcast a series of debates.[237][238][239][240] On 21 January 2014, BBC Two Scotland broadcast the first in a series of special debates on independence, which was filmed in Greenock and chaired by James Cook.[241][242]

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 the Prime Minister[243][244] 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".[245] Salmond has likewise been accused of "running scared" from debating with Alistair Darling (who has refused a public debate with his opposite number in Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins[246]) instead,[247] though Sturgeon stated in October 2013 that a Salmond–Darling debate would also take place at some point.[248]



Canon Kenyon Wright, who led the Scottish Constitutional Convention campaigning for a devolved parliament, said that the terms of the election should be governed by Holyrood and not dictated by Westminster.[249]

Mary Lockhart, chair of the Scottish Co-operative Party and long-time member of the Scottish Labour Party, wrote in The Scotsman that she would be voting for independence in 2014 from a belief that independence would "deliver the chance for socialists to help shape a Scotland which reflects the identity of its people".[250]

Sir Charles Gray, former Labour leader of Strathclyde Regional Council (from 1986–1992) and President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, with over 68 years of continuous Labour party membership,[251] announced in November 2013 that he planned to vote 'Yes' in the referendum and urged all Labour supporters to do the same.[252] John Mulvey, the former Labour leader of Lothian Regional Council, announced his support for a Yes vote in January 2014[253]

Former Scottish Green co-convenor and MSP Robin Harper, who was the first elected Green parliamentarian in the UK, announced in December 2013 that he would "absolutely vote No" in the referendum and offered his backing to the Better Together campaign. He quipped: "If I really wanted independence, I would have joined the SNP". This puts him at odds with official Scottish Green Party policy and its present leadership.[254]

Outside Scotland[edit]

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood expressed support for the Yes Scotland campaign.[255] She also added that British history was at "a hinge point" and that Wales would follow with independence within a generation but continue to be a part of a "neighbourhood of nations".[256] She further said that England is a sister nation with which all three nations[which?] have a "common Britishness".[257]

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in Northern Ireland have spoken out against Scottish independence. The DUP leader and Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson said he had "a massive interest in what happens and what decision the people of Scotland will take", and that, "I don't think we can sit idly by and simply indicate that it's a matter for Scotland – it will have implications for us all".[258] Former UUP leader and peer Lord Taylor of Kilclooney wrote that the regions of Scotland with large populations of resettled Scots-Irish should "repartition" if independence were achieved.[259]

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley opined that the people of Scotland "probably would greatly appreciate it if we left them alone to make their own decision".[260] Similarly, Sinn Féin leader and Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness commented to Stormont: "I think all of us should resist the temptation to be drawn into something that will be decided elsewhere. We have our own duties and responsibilities [...] What happens elsewhere has to be a matter primarily for the people concerned and my attitude to it is we would be best advised to stay clear of it."[261]


Sir Tom Hunter, Jim McColl, and Sir Tom Farmer are among entrepreneurs and businessmen who have called for more clarity in the referendum debate to best make a decision.[262] Later in the year, McColl chose to back the Yes side, describing a vote against independence as indicative of a "very sad future". He characterised the referendum debate as a "London vs rest of the UK issue" rather than a "Scotland-English issue", and promoted the democratic advantages of independence, claiming "we [in Scotland] don't have a real democracy just now because we have a government we didn't elect".[263] In June 2013, McColl told an Edinburgh conference that Scottish independence would lead to "an independent Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom", arguing that the term "United Kingdom" pertains to the Union of the Crowns, which would be retained with an independent Scottish state. The statement has been likened to the SNP's attitude towards preserving a "social union" after independence because of "shared culture and institutions like the monarchy".[264]

A business-oriented campaign for Scottish independence called Business for Scotland was formally launched in May 2013 with the support of Tony Banks.[265] In July 2013, a survey of around 500 small and medium enterprises (SME) in the UK found that 52% of the Scottish SMEs thought independence would benefit them, compared to a third who thought it would not; across the UK, 25% thought Scottish companies would benefit.[266]

Trade unions[edit]

The traditional association of trade unions in Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole with the Labour Party, which is campaigning against Scottish independence, did not result in an outright declaration of support for the Union from leading trade unions. In 2012, the Scottish Trades Union Congress refused an offer to join the Better Together campaign.[267] The STUC instead published a report called A Just Scotland, which laid out "challenges for both sides of the debate", in particular calling on Better Together to "outline a practical vision of how social and economic justice can achieved within the union".[268]

The Scottish Government's plan to convene a National Convention on Employment and Labour Relations[269] in the event of independence was noted with interest by the general secretaries of Unite and STUC. Unite's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said he hoped it "reflects a long-term desire for a more pluralistic approach to employment relations from the Scottish Government".[270]

Favouring a 'Yes' vote[edit]

In April 2013, a branch of the Communications Workers Union covering Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife, Falkirk, and Stirling voted to back a motion describing independence as "the only way forward for workers in Scotland", and agreeing to "do all in our power to secure such an outcome".[271]

The Prison Officers Association in Scotland has voted to back independence.[272][273]

There exists a Labour for Independence movement made of supporters of the Scottish Labour Party, which has a historical affiliation with the labour movement. The group has been the source of some controversy owing to accusations by senior figures in Scottish Labour that it is an "SNP front",[274] as well as reports that former SNP members bears offices within the group.[275]

Favouring a 'No' vote[edit]

In May 2013, ASLEF became the first trade union to back the Better Together campaign.[276] It has since been joined by Community[277] and USDAW.[278]

In November 2013, GMB announced it would campaign against independence,[279] but caused controversy because of allegations it had not properly consulted its Scottish members.[280]


In November 2013, Better Together launched a campaign group called Academics Together.[281] Three of its members wrote an open letter claiming that academics were being gagged by Scottish Government ministers.[282]

In February 2014, Yes Scotland launched a rival group called Academics for Yes, with 60 leading academics on board.[283] The group claimed that a "No" vote in the referendum would threaten university funding in Scotland.[284]


During the première of the Pixar movie Brave, actress Emma Thompson, who lives half the year in Scotland, warned against dividing Great Britain "in an ever-shrinking world", despite recognising relations being strained at times between Scotland and England.[285] Comedian Billy Connolly, who lives in New York City full-time but retains his home residence in Aberdeenshire, has expressed scepticism towards nationalism in the past,[285] but has since stated that he wished to remain neutral, saying "I don't like showbusiness people lecturing the public on how they should vote".[286] Sir Sean Connery, who has lived abroad for many years and has stated he will not return to live in Scotland until it is independent,[287] was present at the launch of the Yes Scotland campaign.[288]

Simon Neil of Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro suggested "we may as well give Scottish independence a shot" in an interview with NME in January 2013.[289] He added: "Scotland has really good oil money, we've got renewable energy, we have ways of moving forward and we're in a strong position to make it happen. [...] I don't know what we're getting from London apart from a lack of control over our own future. It doesn't mean we don't love England or Wales." Actor Kevin McKidd said he would vote yes if he could.[290]

Actor David Tennant, best known for role as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, has expressed scepticism towards Scottish nationalism and Scottish independence, stating in an interview: "I had no great sense of nationalism when I was in Scotland, and I could never understand why the SNP were banging on about it. I was like, why do we want to become smaller?"[291]


National poet Liz Lochhead read a poem at the launch of Yes Scotland dealing with the English-Scottish rivalry during the 16th century. Author Harry Reid suggested a rejection of independence would depend on the ability of Labour to revive its traditional popularity in Scotland.[288]

In an article published by Bella Caledonia, Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, said Scottish independence would "promote the cultural unity that the UK state is constantly undermining", suggesting that strained political relationships between Scotland and England were causing tension and harming the two nations' ability to amicably co-exist. He pointed to the example of Scandinavia, saying that "Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like", despite the lack of a single Scandinavian state.[292]

Award-winning Scottish playwright Alan Bissett joined National Collective, an organisation campaigning for Scottish independence, in 2012 and is counted among its "Cultural Ambassadors". Bissett described National Collective as "a great place for artists to come together and talk about the benefits [...] of independence".[293]

Glasgow-born film producer Iain Smith suggested in May 2013 that independence could make Scotland "more competitive on the world stage", and better place it to "promote its talent, crafts and services internationally for the economic and cultural benefit of the country".[294]

Opinion polling[edit]

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.[295] To date there has been no poll evidence of majority support for independence, although the share "vehemently opposed to independence" has declined.[295]

Potential effects[edit]

Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen from the University of Copenhagen has said an independent Scotland would be "a natural member of the Nordic Council".[296]

Irvine Welsh suggested that Scottish independence could further the Northern Ireland peace process. On the Bella Caledonia website, he wrote: "If we rid ourselves of the political imperialist baggage of the UK state, new possibilities emerge. For example, it would become feasible for Ireland, as an established sovereign nation, to see itself as part of a shared geographical and cultural entity. This, in turn, brings potential opportunities for the continued development of the peace process in Northern Ireland".[292]

Scottish Socialist Party politicians have also spoken about the impact of independence. Alan McCombes wrote that "the dismantling of the 300-year-old British state would [be] a traumatic psychological blow for the forces of capitalism and conservatism in Britain, Europe and the USA", and that it would be "almost as potent in its symbolism as the unravelling of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s". He also claimed that while the break-up of the United Kingdom would not result in "instant socialism", it would cause "a decisive shift in the balance of ideological and class forces".[297]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Scotland to hold independence poll in 2014 – Salmond". BBC. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government on a referendum on independence for Scotland" (PDF). 15 October 2012. Retrieved May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Response to referendum consultation". Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
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