Scotland politics

Would independence result in Scots having two passports?

Man holds passport Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption As well as a British passport, an independent Scotland would offer a separate Scottish passport

Everything is packed, currency has been exchanged and your airline tickets are safely tucked away - so all that is left to grab before you leave is your passport.

But if you were living in an independent Scotland, would you be using a British or Scottish passport?

At the end of last year the Scottish government outlined its plan for passports in its White Paper blueprint for independence.

It said....

  • all Scottish citizens would be entitled to a Scottish passport - but not required to have one
  • it would cost the same as a UK passport currently costs
  • it is expected they would last five years for children and 10 for adults
  • your UK passport would still be valid until its expiry date
  • a Scottish Passport Agency would be established
  • and there would be no need to take a passport when travelling to other parts of the United Kingdom, thanks to a shared Common Travel Area.

The Holyrood administration's belief is that "many people will wish to hold a Scottish passport as a symbol of their Scottish citizenship".

However, those against independence believe the British passport is always going to be the best option for Scots.

A spokesperson for Better Together said: "For Scots working abroad or travelling on holiday, we know that the British passport is recognised all across the world. It guarantees Scots support in almost every country in the world when things go wrong.

"As a recent international report concluded, the British passport is among the best in the world. Why would we want to give that up?"

The international report referred to by Better Together is the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, 2013.

It acknowledged that passport holders from the United Kingdom (alongside Finland and Sweden) can visit the greatest number of countries in the world without the requirement of a visa (with 173 countries accessible visa-free, compared to Ireland's 170, USA's 172 and Afghanistan's 28).

However, a Scottish government spokesperson has said: "A Scottish passport would be as valuable as a UK passport.

Image copyright Thomas Widmann
Image caption Could a Scottish passport look like this?

"Both would allow the holder the same freedom of movement within the EU. In addition, as Scotland would be a UN recognised country the Scottish passport would be recognised by the international community."

Certainly, the design and layout of the passport would be relatively unchanged - provided Scotland was a member of the European Union.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "As Scottish passports will follow the EU model, they will follow the current look of UK passports in layout and it is likely that the personal details would be at the back of the passport."

That model is for EU passports to be....

  • burgundy-red
  • have "European Union" written on the front (in the national language)
  • include the country's name
  • the national coat of arms
  • the word "passport" (again, in the national language)
  • and finally the symbol for a biometric passport underneath.

As things stand, the UK allows dual citizenship, and the Scottish National Party would expect this to be extended to allow UK/Scottish citizenship in the event of independence.

However, it would ultimately be for the UK government to decide whether that would be the case.

Mark Harper, the former immigration minister, said in the UK government's latest analysis paper on Scottish independence: "There are no easy answers to the question of what could happen if Scotland goes it alone. There would be a new international border and - however close our cooperation - that could mean more bureaucracy and extra controls for people travelling to visit family, go on holiday or do business.

"It would also be an unprecedented experiment with nationality and identity that would reverse centuries of common UK citizenship. It would affect not just millions of people today but also generations to come."

Immigration policies

On the issue of a border after a "yes" vote in the referendum, a Better Together spokesman said: "The idea that a separate Scotland could have a significantly different immigration policy to the rest of the UK without there being any need for some form of border control isn't credible."

But Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the UK government's border analysis completely ignored the reality of the Common Travel Area, in which the UK and Ireland already had no border controls but differing immigration policies.

She added: "Thankfully, people in the rest of the UK are far more reasonable than Mr Carmichael [Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Secretary] and his colleagues, with polls showing that the vast majority would expect their government to work with an independent Scotland to ensure continued co-operation within the Common Travel Area."

Voting rights

Scots living outside Scotland will not have a vote in the referendum, taking place on Thursday, 18 September.

However, they would - under the Scottish government's definition of citizenship - be able to purchase a Scottish passport.

This would not entitle them to a vote in any future Scottish elections in an independent Scotland though. As things stand, only British, EU and Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland have the vote in Scotland.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The Scottish government's only proposed change to voting rights to the Scottish Parliament is that they should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds in future elections. Therefore the franchise for these elections will remain largely the same.

"The Constitutional Convention, which would be appointed by the Scottish Parliament after a vote for independence, could consider whether the rules on who can vote should be changed as part of the development of Scotland's permanent written constitution."

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