Exactly a year from today, Scotland will hold a referendum to decide its independence from the United Kingdom.
The big question
The question to be asked at the referendum will be “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
An agreement was signed on 15 October 2012 by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister and Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. This agreement provides the legal framework for the referendum.
The referendum bill setting out the arrangements was put forward on 21 March 2013.
Who gets to vote?
Everyone above the age of 16 who lives in Scotland is eligible to vote. This means that the 800,000 Scots living in other parts of the UK will not be eligible to vote.
Eligibility to vote will also include members of the armed forces serving overseas who are registered to vote in Scotland.
What happens after Scotland gets a “Yes” vote?
If Scotland gets a “Yes” vote, the Scottish “Independence Day” will be in March 2016 just before the start of the May 2016 Scottish election campaign. Scotland will get its own written constitution.
Scotland will retain cultural ties with the UK and will join the Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union and the NATO. The British monarch will be the ceremonial Head of State in Scotland as is the case with Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Scotland will continue to retain the pound sterling currency.
The Scottish National Party objects to having nuclear weapons on Scottish territory. However, Scotland will inherit the naval base of Faslane in the Firth of Clyde and the Trident Nuclear Missile System at Coulport.
The Scottish economy
Opinion polls have indicated that Scotland would perform better economically as an independent state. The public spending in Scotland is higher than England but Scotland also produces higher tax revenue compared to the UK average mainly due to production of oil from the North Sea.
The research paper Scotland Analysis: Macroeconomic and fiscal performance states that Scotland’s economic performance is stronger because it forms a part of the UK.
If Scotland becomes independent, a proportion of the UK national debt will be inherited, thereby starting a new nation with existing debt.