Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What’s Going on with Scotland?

scotland-independenceWhat’s going on in Scotland?

On September 18, voters in Scotland will vote in a referendum whether they want the nation to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.

What is the reason for the push for Scottish independence?

Mainly for political and economic reasons. Scotland is more economically liberal than the rest of the UK and in favor of a broader welfare state. And because of offshore oil resources, many believe an independent Scotland would not only be wealthier than the rest of the UK, but would put the them in the top 20 of countries globally.

What’s the argument against independence?

As the Better Together campaign explains, “We think that the case for staying a part of the UK is a compelling one – and it is based around a simple notion: We have the best of both worlds in Scotland.”

The idea is that Scotland currently benefits from the safety and security of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world. They also have their own Scottish Parliament making decisions about many domestic policy issues, so leaving the UK wouldn’t be much of a benefit for the small country.

Wait, what’s the United Kingdom? Is that the same as Great Britain?

The UK is a “country of countries,” that contains four co-equal and sovereign nations. Watch this video for an explanation of the differences between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England.

How long has Scotland been a part of the UK?

Since 1707. On May 1, 1707, the UK came into being, the result of Acts of Union. The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland.

How would Scottish independence affect the UK?

One thing it would do is shift the balance of British political power toward the Conservatives’ favor. Scotland has 40 Labour members in the British Parliament in London and just one Conservative. “If Scotland leaves Britain, it will reshape Britain completely, turning it into a country with virtually permanent Conservative Party control of the government in Westminster,” says Thomas Hirst.

What would happen if Scotland becomes independent?

If the referendum passes, then Scotland will become an independent country after an extended negotiating process (that would last at least a year). Those negotiations would need to resolve a list of major issues, including how much of the UK’s national debt Scotland would take, whether they’d be able to join the EU and NATO, dual citizenship, etc.

Will this affect the United States?

Probably not, at least not directly. “The Scottish referendum is being watched very closely by secessionist movements all over the world—from Catalonia in Spain, to Flanders in Belgium, to Quebec in Canada and even Puerto Rico in the United States,” notes Emma Elliott Freire. “If things go smoothly, other groups will certainly be lining up to try to become ‘the next Scotland.’”

Does Scottish independence have anything to do with Braveheart?

No. Braveheart was a film about William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England. But Braveheart is usually the first thing that comes to mind when Americans think of Scotland and independence.


Other posts in this series:

Obamacare Subsidies Ruling •  Border Crisis • What’s Going on in Iraq? • EPA’s Proposed New Climate Rule • VA Scandal • What is Going on in Vietnam? • Boko Haram and the Kidnapped Christian Girls • The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Government Prayer • Earth Day? • Holy Week? • What’s Going On in Crimea? • What Just Happened with Russia and Ukraine? • What’s Going on in Ukraine • Jobs Report • The Hobby Lobby Amicus Briefs • Net Neutrality? • Common Core? • What’s Going on in Syria? • What’s Going on in Egypt?

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).