UK

Scottish independence: BBC correspondents on key issues

With just over a week until the referendum on Scottish independence, BBC correspondents explore what a "Yes" and "No" vote would mean for areas such as defence, business, international affairs, sport and the constitution.

Business editor Kamal Ahmed

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Image caption The currency clash has been a central part of the debate

For business, the battle over the Scottish referendum has been neatly encapsulated in two letters published last month.

The first was from businesses worried about a "Yes" vote. The second was from those companies that say a vote for independence would be good for the Scottish economy.

For businesses worried about an exit, there are three key issues:

  • What currency Scotland would use?
  • What would be the cost of separation? Would taxation, for example, be different north and south of the border?
  • Will Scotland be able to rejoin the European Union?

For those that support independence, this is all about control.

They argue that policies formulated in Edinburgh will be far better for innovation in Scotland.

They say:

  • The currency argument is a bluff
  • Of course Scotland will be able to rejoin the EU
  • With vast oil wealth, there will be better investment in Scottish business if the country is independent

For those with businesses in Scotland, whatever the outcome of the vote on 18 September, it will certainly be of vital importance.

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Defence correspondent Jonathan Beale

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Media captionJonathan Beale explains what may happen to the British military after the referendum

If Scotland votes for independence, it would expect a fair share of Britain's armed forces.

An independent Scotland would spend about 10% of the Ministry of Defence's current budget of £33bn on defence.

It would have its own air force - with about a dozen typhoon fast jets. There would be a Scottish navy with two of the Royal Navy's 19 frigates and destroyers, as well as a fleet of smaller patrol boats.

And there would be a Scottish army of at least 3,500 regular troops - much smaller than the British army's current strength of just over 80,000.

Those Scots currently serving in Britain's armed forces would be given the choice as to whose military they want to serve in.

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Image caption The "Yes" campaign says the UK's nuclear deterrent would not be welcome in Scotland

And then there are the bigger strategic issues. What happens to the UK's nuclear deterrent? An independent Scotland would be free of nuclear weapons within four years. That would mean moving the current Trident fleet of four submarines from their base on Faslane. That would cost billions of pounds.

And would an independent Scotland be a member of Nato? The Scottish Government says: "Yes", but others say it would have to reapply to join.

If Scotland votes "No", there would of course be little change - but Britain's armed forces have been shrinking in recent years and there may still be painful cuts ahead.

During his time as UK Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond insisted the Scottish Government's defence plans under independence were not credible, believing a "separate Scotland could not hope to develop the same level of protection and resilience".

What might a Scottish defence force look like?

Daily question: What is Nato and would a Yes Scotland join it?

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What might independence mean for Trident?


  • A referendum on whether Scotland should become independent is to take place
  • People resident in Scotland will be able to take part in the vote, answering the "Yes/No" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
  • The referendum will take place on Thursday, 18 September 2014
  • Go to the BBC's Scotland Decides page for analysis, background and explainers on the independence debate.

Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall

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Media captionBridget Kendall explains what may happen to international relations after the referendum

At the Foreign Office they like to think of the UK as medium-sized but powerful - a nation that punches above its weight. Without Scotland, it would certainly look smaller on the map - losing a third of its territory, though with only five million fewer people.

But the perception that this is a country whose clout has been gradually shrinking would probably be reinforced.

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Image caption President Barack Obama has said the US wants to ensure it retains a "strong, robust, united and effective partner"

That sense of decline comes partly from the recent rise of emerging powers, such as China, Russia and Brazil. It is also because on some foreign policy decisions - sanctions, for instance - the UK is these days only one voice in 28, as a member of the European Union.

Already there have been calls to rethink the UK - and France's - right to be permanent members of the UN Security Council when other bigger countries are not. Expect that criticism to grow.

Meanwhile, whether or not Scotland votes to break away, the sense among allies that this country is an uncertain partner may also increase.

That is because, however momentous the consequences of this referendum, there may be more to come. The possible referendum in 2017 could also sail the UK - with or without Scotland - into uncharted waters, if the electorate votes to leave the EU.

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Deputy political editor James Landale

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Media captionJames Landale explains what may happen to Britain's constitution after the referendum

If Scotland votes "Yes", there would be huge constitutional uncertainty. It would mark the beginning of the end of one of the most successful multinational political unions in history. Hundreds of constitutional ties that bind Scotland to the rest of the UK would have to be unstitched.

Image caption A "Yes" vote would lead to uncertainty over the next general election

There would be uncertainty over the next general election. Would a government elected in 2015 with the temporary support of Scottish MPs be legitimate? Would there have to be another general election in 2016 when independence comes into force and Scottish MPs leave?

In the short term, how much pressure would there be on David Cameron and Ed Miliband to resign? And in the longer term, would Labour struggle ever to win power here at Westminster without its 41 MPs from Scotland?

If Scotland votes "No", there would still be constitutional implications. Westminster - we know - is promising to devolve even more powers to Scotland, above all more control over tax and welfare.

And if that happens there would be calls for Northern Ireland, Wales and England to have a greater say over their affairs. Specifically, English MPs would demand the right to decide English legislation by themselves, transforming the way this place works.

So either way, constitutional change is on the way.

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What changes if Scotland votes 'No'?

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How would 'Yes' vote affect Northern Ireland?

Home affairs correspondent Mark Easton

Image copyright AFP

These days, at the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland there's not much to see. There's no passport control and no customs office though there was for quite some time - and that indicates some of the challenges that a border presents.

If you have any variation in terms of duties - on petrol, cigarettes or alcohol - or even just food prices, people will move backwards and forwards across the border.

In some cases that has presented problems - we have seen in the past customs houses trying to stop people taking advantage of the variation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

If an ambulance is coming from the north and there's a hospital in the south, will it go there or will it take the longer journey to stay in the same health area?

Even if Scotland votes 'No' there's still going to be issues here because devolution is also going to see changes between both sides of the border far greater than we have now. Cross-border relations in terms of England and Scotland is going to be something that's here to stay.

Would the Scottish border change post-Yes?

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Personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz

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There are a lot of questions about who will end up better off if there is a Yes vote - Scotland or the rest of the UK.

They've run some of the numbers at the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies and they say that Scotland receives £1,200 more per head in public spending. On the other hand, the tax take from Scotland is higher - £900 higher roughly per head than in the rest of the UK if you take into account North Sea oil and the tax on that.

There are also lots of questions about the consequences of Scotland having its own currency if that were to come to pass.

Would interest rates be higher, for instance? Some people say they would be a percentage point or more higher because international markets would ask for a higher rate of interest from Scotland. Of course, higher interest rates might be welcome for savers.

What would happen if a Scottish currency went down in value against the pound? Imagine if you had a mortgage in sterling, making the payments in pounds, but your wages were in the Scottish currency. You'd be worried that you might lose out.

And finally - deposit protection. At the moment £85,000 of our money in the bank is guaranteed in the UK and in the EU if there is a bank failure. The Scottish government has said that would be maintained, but it would be up to Scotland on its own to cover it.

All of these things would be subject to negotiations after a Yes vote, so for 18 months or so the Bank of England and the pound would remain in Scotland.

What about Scotland's pensioners?

How might a currency change affect UK?

Is the pound the best currency for Scotland?

Sport reporter Chris McLaughlin

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Image caption A Scottie dog leads Team Scotland during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Sport has provided Scotland with an outlet to celebrate national identity for well over 100 years. It is very much part of the Scottish psyche. So how would it be affected in an independent Scotland?

Football probably would not be affected - it already is recognised internationally, as is rugby, although there could be a name change for the British and Irish Lions.

It's at Olympic level - Team GB level - where the big change could come. The Scottish Government is adamant they could have a Team Scotland in time for the next Olympics in Rio in 2016, but current athletes would have to choose for whom to compete.

Andy Murray, who won gold at London 2012, says he would represent Team Scotland. Lynsey Sharp, hero of Glasgow 2014, says she would prefer to stay Team GB purely because of funding concerns.

So where previously Scots could compete under two flags, if it is "Yes", the current stars would have to nail their colours to the mast.

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