Politics: A leftward lean

Scots tend to be further left on the political spectrum than most Britons, and experts say the new country probably would have a socialist bent, with policies such as progressive taxes, free college and a comprehensive social safety net for the poor.

Defense: No more nukes

The Scottish National Party, which leads the independence movement, has campaigned for a nuclear-free Scotland and said the Trident nuclear submarine program would have to go. (Where the subs would go is unknown.) Scotland would try to join NATO.

Borders: Control, to a point

While Scotland would have to police its own borders, the Scottish government has said it would not require passports for British citizens traveling to Scotland. Britain has left open the possibility of border controls for Scots crossing the other way.

Currency: New money?

Scotland could try to keep the British pound (against Britain’s wishes), apply to join the European Union and change to the euro, or create its own currency.

Queen: Keeps her job

As long as Scotland keeps the monarchy, the queen remains head of state, as she does in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Flag: New colors for the Kingdom?

The Union Jack is a combination of flags from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Geography: A smaller United Kingdom

The loss of Scotland (30,410 sq. mi.) would reduce the land area of the United Kingdom (94,060 sq. mi.) by almost a third, while its population of 63.7 million would drop by eight percent.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom now includes Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ireland has been an independent country since 1921–1922.

Great Britain

The moniker “Great Britain” refers to the island, not to any political union.


Scotland joined the United Kingdom amid controversy in 1707. Some Scots thought England bullied or bribed noblemen into the deal. Others liked the idea of a union’s economic safety after years of famine and the costly failure of a Scottish trade colony.

Economy: Oil money would stay in Scotland

Ninety percent of Britain’s North Sea oil and gas supply is in Scottish waters, and experts say Scotland would likely keep control.

That’s not a small thing: Scottish exports of oil, gas and refined hydrocarbons were estimated by the government to be about $49 billion in 2012. That would help make Scotland the 14th wealthiest economy by gross domestic product per capita.

Oil and gas probably would account for nearly a third of Scotland’s economy. Banking and insurance and food and beverages come next. The country exports 40 bottles of Scotch per second.

The long-term future of those reserves, however, is unclear, as production is in decline.

Annual U.K. oil production, in millions of metric tons

NOTE: Export figures based on “experimental” estimates for 2012. SOURCES: General Register Office for Scotland, National Records of Scotland, Global Connections Survey 2012 by the Scottish Government, Office for National Statistics, United Kingdom Department of Energy and Climate Change, published reports in Daily Mirror, The Independent, BBC, The Guardian.

GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Kevin Schaul and Gene Thorp. Published Sept. 17, 2014.