Scots Free?

WORLD

On September 18, Scottish voters will answer a simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the referendum. (Guardian)

Use our resources to get an idea about how long England and Scotland have been debating this issue.

Photograph courtesy United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (Union Jack) and flickrtickr2009 (Scotland), courtesy Flickr. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Photograph courtesy United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (Union Jack) and flickrtickr2009 (Scotland), courtesy Flickr. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Discussion Ideas

  • Scots will go to the polls next week to answer Yes or No to a simple, six-word question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The ballot initiative originally read “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” Why do you think the language was changed?
    • The language is leading. It implies that people already think Scotland should be independent, and the voter is simply agreeing with them.

 

  • Read through this BBC FAQ—or settle in to follow their exhaustive coverage here. Who is going to vote in the Scottish referendum? How is this different the voting qualifications required in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections?
    • In the U.S., voters have to be at least 18 years old. For the Scottish referendum, the voting age has been lowered to 16.
    • In the U.S., only American citizens can vote. Nearly all legal residents of Scotland (at least 16 years old) will be allowed to vote. This includes citizens of other members of the Commonwealth of Nations who live in Scotland, citizens of European Union countries living in Scotland, and government employees (including members of the military) who are serving abroad but are registered to vote in Scotland.

 

 

  • Would Scotland develop its own currency (the Scottish pound)?
    • Eh, probably not? Depends on the people you ask. This pro/con article gives a good outline. Pro-independence leaders have said they would seek a “currency union” with the rest of the United Kingdom, keeping the pound as the Scotland’s unit of currency. British leaders are not so enthusiastic about this plan, saying it is “‘highly unlikely’ that Scotland will be allowed to keep using the currency after independence” and that Scotland “‘could not force the UK into a currency union against its will’.”
    • Pro-independence leaders have also suggested retaining the Bank of England as Scotland’s central bank. Such a relationship would mean the Bank of England would continue to “set Scotland’s interest rates, have influence over its borrowing and overall spending and be dominated by the UK’s interests.” It would also mean the Bank of England would be at least partially responsible for the financial policy of a foreign country.

 

 

  • Would Scotland be a member of the European Union? of NATO?
    • Probably both. Pro-independence leaders have supported maintaining membership in both international organizations, and the organizations have not raised any real objections.
      • European Union: Scotland may have to apply for EU membership, just like any other nation. Right now, the UK has an unusual relationship with the EU—it’s a member, but does not use the euro as a unit of currency. An independent Scotland would not have the bargaining power of the UK, and some analysts think the EU may force Scotland to accept the euro if it wants to be a member.
      • NATO: An independent Scotland will likely remain a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the powerful Western military alliance. Many pro-independence leaders have traditionally opposed membership, questioning the presence of UK nuclear weapons in Scottish territory.

 

  • What does oil have to do with Scottish independence?
    This nice map displays nations with oil interests in the North Sea. The majority of UK interests (in green) would fall under Scottish territorial waters—its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—if Scotland votes for independence. Map by Inwind, courtesy Wikimedia. This work has been released into the public domain.

    This nice map displays nations with oil interests in the North Sea. The majority of UK interests (in green) would fall under Scottish territorial waters—its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—if Scotland votes for independence.
    Map by Inwind, courtesy Wikimedia. This work has been released into the public domain.

 

  • Will there be economic consequences for Scotland and the rest of the UK if the Scots vote for independence?
    • Of course! Both sides would have to accept both positive and negative economic consequences. Here are just a few:
      • Positive
        • Scotland would have much greater control of its own economic policy. This includes deciding how tax revenues are spent—on education, health-care, or infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
        • The UK would have a significantly lower national debt, as British leaders have supported transferring a percentage of the UK national debt to Scotland upon independence.
      • Negative

 

  • Why are voters in Northern Ireland and Wales keeping a close eye on this referendum? They can’t vote in it.
    • Those are other countries in the United Kingdom. If Scotland can vote for independence, some analysts wonder if Northern Ireland or Wales might try to get a similar referendum on the ballot in the future.

 

  • How do James Bond and Harry Potter feel about the referendum? (Click the links for images of handsome men in kilts.)
    • Well, Sean Connery is one of the Scottish celebrities who support independence. Gerard Butler, Alan Cumming, and Annie Lennox are others.
    • J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series, opposes independence. (Rowling is not Scottish, but was living there while writing the first Harry Potter novel.) Tennis ace Andy Murray, actor Ewan McGregor, and singer Susan Boyle also oppose the referendum.
    • The most prominent non-Scottish critic of the referendum is U.S. President Barack Obama. “From the outside at least,” he said, “it looks like things have worked pretty well, and [we in the United States] obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.”

 

  • The Union Jack (sometimes called the Union Flag) is the current flag of the United Kingdom. It combines the flags of England (cross of St. George), Scotland (cross of St. Andrew), and Northern Ireland (cross of St. Patrick). Take a look at this lovely diagram for an illustration.
    Illustration by JW1805, courtesy Wikimedia. This work has been released into the public domain.

    Illustration by JW1805, courtesy Wikimedia. This work has been released into the public domain.

    Will the flag change if Scotland gains independence?

2 responses to “Scots Free?

  1. Pingback: What Is a Referendum? Who Decides? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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