Scottish leader Alex Salmond unveiled on Tuesday what he called a “mission statement” for the country’s future: a 649-page paper detailing many of the terms for an independent Scotland. The country’s first minister released his Scottish National Party’s so-called white paper ahead of a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom set for next September.
The document seeks to address many unanswered questions: Would an independent Scotland keep the British pound? Would it raise its own army? Will there be passport checks at the border? And for the loves of God — will it have its own Eurovision contestant?
Remember March 24, 2016. That’s the day Scotland’s independence would become official if the referendum passes.
Scotland would remain in the European Union and its borders open to other EU nationals. Salmond has pledged that an independent Scotland would not “fling out talented people who want to work in this country,” and would have more liberal immigration policies than the UK’s.
But it will keep the pound and rely on the Bank of England for bailouts. Scotland would also assume a percentage of the British national debt that has yet to be worked out.
We’ll take those oil and gas reserves, thanks. The bulk of the UK’s oil and gas reserves are in Scottish territory, and an independent Scotland would claim control of those highly lucrative resources. Exports of oil and gas from Scotland were worth nearly $50 billion last year.
The white paper claims that an independent Scotland wouldn’t need to rely on energy revenues anyway. “Scotland’s economic output per head, even without oil and gas, is virtually the same as the UK as a whole. So oil and gas is a bonus,” it states.
Scotland would remain in the Commonwealth. Although Her Majesty would remain head of state, a Scottish prime minister — not the occupant of Number 10 Downing Street — would be head of government.
Brits who live in Scotland would be able to gain Scottish citizenship. So can Scots who live elsewhere in Britain. Scotland will issue its own passports both to British citizens “habitually resident” in the country and children and grandchildren of people who qualify for Scottish citizenship. The old UK passports would be valid until their normal expiration dates and dual citizenship between Scotland and Britain would be possible.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) says it wouldn’t institute border controls with England and Ireland. However, it’s possible the EU would force the country to join the passport-free travel zone known as the Schengen area, to which most EU countries belong. Since England and Ireland aren’t part of that scheme, Scotland would probably be forced to institute some border procedures. Nevertheless, the SNP says it doesn’t want Scotland to join Schengen, preferring it remain within the British Isles’ own free-travel zone.
Scotland will send its own singer to the Eurovision Song Contest. It may sound like a trivial point, but the annual camp fest is actually an important public coming-out for new European countries, says academic and contest expert Paul Jordan.
Participating as an independent nation in international showcases like the Olympics or Eurovision (the Olympics of cheesy dance moves) is a key step in building a nation’s identity, he says.