Scotland

If Scotland votes for independence from the United Kingdom on Thursday, the consequences would be enormous. Here are some of the most pressing issues:

ScotlandMARKETS: The British would have to calm the markets in order to stabilize the pound. Statements would be expected early on Friday from UK Chancellor George Osborne, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

RESIGNATIONS: UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted he will not resign in the event of Scottish independence, but after the loss of a third of Britain’s landmass and about a tenth of its population he may be forced to. Since parliament is currently in recess for the party conference season, an immediate vote of no-confidence in him is unlikely. The future of Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, would also be in question as his party has been very prominent in the pro-union campaign in Scotland.

NEGOTIATIONS: Edinburgh has said it wants to become independent by March 24, 2016 in the event of a “yes” vote, giving it 18 months to negotiate the split with London. The agenda would be long, including issues such as currency, the removal of Britain’s nuclear weapons from Scotland, border controls, oil, and the pensions and social security systems.

BUILDING A STATE: Among many things, Scotland would have to build up its own army and open its own embassies abroad. It would also have to issue passports for its citizens, negotiate international trade agreements and apply for – or try to retain – membership of institutions such as the European Union and NATO.

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: Britain is due to hold parliamentary elections to Westminster on May 7, 2015. Scotland would still be entitled to send 59 parliamentarians, of which 40 are currently Labour. If Labour won the UK election based on Scottish support, it could then lose its majority when Scotland became independent the following year. The prospect has led to suggestions that the elections be postponed, something which has only previously happened in wartime.

Questions have also been raised about the potential for Scots to be sitting on both sides of the Westminster-Holyrood negotiating table.

REFERENDUM ON EU MEMBERSHIP: If the Conservatives win re-election as the UK government next year, Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU by 2017. If the Scots, who are much more pro-EU than their compatriots elsewhere in the UK, decide to leave the UK, it becomes much more likely that Britain will in turn leave the EU.
What happens if Scotland votes No?

Even if Scotland rejects independence, Westminster has promised to hand over more powers to the devolved parliament in Edinburgh, Holyrood. The next steps would be as follows:

September 19, 2014: The main parties in Westminster – the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – have said that planning would begin on the devolution of powers concerning finance, welfare and taxation the day after the referendum takes place.

Late October, 2014: London to publish a “command paper”, a first draft of the proposals to be discussed by Scottish civil society and politicians.

Late November 2014: A “white paper” to be published with the final proposals.

January, 25, 2015: Draft legislation for the devolution of powers to be published on Burns Night, the day Scotland celebrates the birth of its national poet, Robert Burns.

May 7, 2015: Elections for Westminster. The second reading of the new Scotland Act to take place immediately after the new government is formed.

May 5, 2016: Elections for Holyrood.

2017: If UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is re-elected next year he has promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership by 2017. If Britain votes for an exit it could rekindle the nationalist campaign in Scotland, where the population is more pro-EU than the rest of the UK.

GNA

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