Hamish Macdonell: How would the division work? It's complicated...

Examining the practicalities of an independent Scotland

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The Independent Online

One SNP figure was sure yesterday what Scottish independence would look like. "Palm trees," he said with a grin. "And sunshine, lots of sunshine. And milk and honey, of course, and manna from heaven."

But what will it really be like if Alex Salmond gets his way?


There will have to be checkpoints on the roads in and out of Scotland. Visitors may not need to present passports as they cross over but there would have to be stop-and-search posts on crossings along the border, because the two countries would have different immigration policies. As for passports, Scots would get a new version, probably with the slightly different Scottish coat of arms.


Scottish residents of England and English residents of Scotland at the time of independence would become citizens of the country in which they were living. Those moving after that would have to apply for citizenship.


The Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane will disappear. But the Nationalists are also very aware that thousands of jobs are at risk, which is why they have been careful to insist that Faslane will continue to exist as a naval base – for the Scottish navy – even after the submarines have gone.


A line drawn across the North Sea from the border would hand most of the UK's oil fields to Scotland and most of the gas fields to England. The Nationalists seem to think there is up to £1 trn of oil left. Others are not so sure...


Mr Salmond insists that Scotland would slot seamlessly into the EU as a new member state. Others believe Scotland might have to apply, and there have been suggestions that Europe might demand that Scotland enter the euro.


The SNP put Scotland's share of the national debt at around £40bn. Some on the English side put it at more than £100bn. There is also disagreement about how much of RBS's debt Scotland should shoulder – some say all, some say 8-9 per cent, in line with Scotland's share of the UK population.


Mr Salmond used to be keen on the euro – when he also wanted Scotland to join the so-called Arc of Prosperity from Ireland to Iceland. But with that group now more of an "Arc of Insolvency", he now backs sterling until a possible referendum on the euro. Other nationalists argue for the dollar, or a new currency – maybe the groat?


If the two countries do end up with different tax regimes, Edinburgh could conceivably decide to lure business to Scotland by lowering corporation taxes. We might also see large numbers of people living on one side of the border and working on the other.

The Queen

Scots are generally more republican than their English counterparts, but most, including Mr Salmond, seem to want to keep the Queen as the head of state.

Armed Forces

Scotland would have its own defence forces taken from its 10 per cent share of the UK armed forces. The SNP believes the existing Scottish regiments would simply transfer allegiance. The air force would be based at Lossiemouth, Moray.


Many Scotland-based BBC staff would likely transfer to a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation. Any licence fee levied in Scotland would go to support the new body. But BBC output would still be available.

Culture, sport and language

English would share space on road signs with Gaelic and possibly even Scots, both of which would be promoted. Scotland would be able to compete in its own right at the Olympics. Finally, there would be a competition to find a national anthem to replace the current (unofficial) song: "Flower of Scotland".