Belfast Telegraph

Will Rod Stewart abandon his love for Scotland? Will the Krankies sing for their country at Eurovision? And what would independence mean for Northern Ireland?

On the eve of the Scottish referendum, Ivan Little answers all your constitutional, financial and royal questions (and ponders a few celebrity ones too)

The question is simple. And so is the answer. On the surface, at any rate. Scots will either say Yes or No to independence in tomorrow's referendum, but the implications – particularly of a vote in favour of a breakaway – are mind-boggling and a quantum leap into the unknown in terms of constitutional, financial and governmental issues.

A Yes for independence would bring to an end 300 years of historical ties between countries in the British Isles, yet for months the No campaign was so far ahead in the opinion polls that few people seriously questioned what would happen in terms of a dis-United Kingdom.

Live Scotland results: Referendum counts from 32 councils on day of reckoning for Yes and No voters

But the dramatic closing of the gap between the pro and anti-independence camps in the last few weeks has suddenly thrust everything into the bounds of the possible as the prospect of an independent Scotland has become less of a fanciful Tartan notion and more of a serious contender for change.

Independence and a reshaped relationship between England, Wales and Northern Ireland would inevitably have a huge impact on this part of the world, where unionists and nationalists would find themselves in the previously unprecedented situation of both having their nearest physical and spiritual neighbours across the sea and across the border as separate entities and identities.

But just what would a Yes vote mean for your average Northern Irishman, Englishman and Scotsman (which sounds like the start of a joke, but won't be remotely funny for anyone in the British Isles if it all comes to pass at the polls next week).

So let's look at the questions behind the Yes/No question.


Q. Why did the Government in London offer the Scots a referendum in the first place

A. A landslide win by the Scottish National Party in the 2011 elections for the Holyrood parliament was the spark that lit the flame for the referendum, with David Cameron saying he would hold one, but would campaign to keep the UK together with "every single fibre I have". At the time he must have thought he was onto a winner, because opinion polls put backing for independence at between 25% and 35%.


Q. What's the first thing that would happen immediately after a Yes vote?

A. Hardly surprisingly, it would be the money men who would spring into action first amid all the uncertainty of how the new climate would affect the economy. The experts say the powers-that-be and the new powers-to-be would have to act quickly to stop a total meltdown in the financial markets.


Q. OK, once the monetary considerations have been sorted out, when would the real talking start?

A. Fairly quickly, one assumes. The Westminster Government and the existing devolved administration in Edinburgh have already agreed to negotiate like grown-ups about a way forward. Nothing would happen overnight. Edinburgh's First Minister Alex Salmond wants the new Scotland to become a reality by March 2016.


Q. What would happen to the Queen and the royal family, who have so many close ties to Scotland?

A. The SNP have always insisted they aren't a republican party and they don't want to banish the royals. They say they would encourage the Queen to continue to serve as the monarch, as she does with 16 other Commonwealth countries. The Queen has even issued a statement saying she wouldn't be taking sides in the referendum argument.


Q. The Yes campaigners say they also want the Queen's head to stay on their currency. But is the good money on the pound sterling staying?

A. You flip a coin here. Heads – the SNP say they want to keep sterling in a currency union with what would remain of the UK and take responsibility for their portion for the UK national debt. Tails – the boss of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said it wouldn't be possible for the Scots to have their own sovereignty and keep the pound sterling. The euro crisis showed that currency unions rarely work without political ones.


Q. Staying with monetary matters, what would happen to the financial services sector over the long-term?

A. Big banks, insurance firms and investment companies have already drawn up contingency plans for a move south of a new border. Even the Bank of Scotland bigwigs say they would relocate their headquarters out of Scotland. The major institutions couldn't entertain the possibility of losing access to the Bank of England as their ultimate saviour in a crisis.

Q. Would the Scots be responsible for their own security and defence?

A. Yes to both. But as Scottish regiments are so integral to the British Army, there would have to be a lot of talking about the future. The pro-Yes campaigners say they want to stay in Nato, but want to get rid of the four nuclear-armed Trident submarines at Faslane on Loch Gare, which would cost billions to move to England.


Q. Another water-based question: what would happen to all that lucrative Scottish oil – especially as the UK have been accused of getting involved in foreign wars to ensure the continuity of oil supplies?

A. This is the big one for the whole viability of a new independent Scotland. Speculation is that Scotland and the remainder of the UK would divvy up the oil fields, with an internationally recognised median line drawn out into the sea. But Scotland would undoubtedly get the lion's share of the taxes, perhaps up to 91%.


Q. Would Scotland stay in the European Union?

A. The EU has said Scotland mightn't find it as easy as they imagine to get approval for that. But Alex Salmond believes the will is there. David Cameron, of course, has promised a referendum on UK membership of the EU and, with Ukip upping the ante for an exit, it's just possible that Scotland might be in while England Scotland and Northern Ireland could eventually be out.


Q. And now for the news. It's the British Broadcasting Corporation at the moment. What would become of it in the event of a Yes vote?

A. The Holyrood government want a Scottish Broadcasting Service to take on the Beeb's resources and £320m in licence fees. But the idea would be that the SBS would pay for BBC programming similar to the way things are organised in the Republic of Ireland.


Q. What would a Yes vote mean for Northern Ireland?

A. In the short-term, a vote for independence would be an emotional earthquake for unionists, in particular. They see the Scots as blood brothers and would fear that the relationship with a downgraded UK would leave them weaker, especially as the English would have more sway and swagger than they already do. The emotional embrace with Ulster-Scots culture would inevitably be affected by a go-it-alone approach across the North Channel.


Q. Thousands of people, including hordes of Rangers and Celtic football fans, are regular visitors to Scotland. Are they going to have to pack their passports as well as their scarves?

A. That's a tricky one. The last thing anyone wants is a border control. But officials at Westminster are worried by Edinburgh's already stated willingness to welcome more immigrants, so the fear would be that an open border could be an open sesame.


Q. With the centenary of the Easter Rising fast approaching, could a Yes vote in Scotland reopen the debate about Irish unity?

A. It wouldn't quite be a Tiochfaidh ar La moment, but it would be naive to suggest that a Yes vote wouldn't increase the pressure on Westminster to call a referendum on Irish unity. Peter Robinson's recent comments that arrangements for devolved government here are no longer "fit for purpose" have only made the instability at Stormont even more serious and if there were to be a collapse of the institutions, the constitutional issue would undoubtedly find its way back on the agenda.


Q. Let's face it, the people who always seem to know what's what in the world aren't the political analysts, but rather the bookies. Who are they backing as the winner of the referendum vote?

A. Normally, you pays your money and you takes your chance. But on this occasion, no matter what the opinion polls say – and they've said a lot about the Yes vote strengthening – the bookies think the outcome of the referendum will be a resounding No. One bookie was recently offering 2-5 on voters backing the Union and 12/5 for independence. One man has gambled £800,000 on a No vote. He stands to make a £100,000 profit if the electorate reject independence (the punter is English).


Q. What are the odds on political upheaval at Westminster and what will be the impact on David Cameron if the Scots say Yes to independence tomorrow?

A. David Cameron says he isn't entertaining the prospect of defeat, or resignation.

But pressure on him to go after a Yes vote would be enormous.

If he does quit, cynics say he could spend some of his spare time researching his family tree... in Aberdeen, where his father was born.

If the Tory-hating Scots allow him in to their country, of course.

Stories you might just read in the papers after a Yes vote ...

  • The Queen is forced to abandon her Scottish holidays, particularly to her beloved Balmoral. But fearing it will be too much of a wrench and not wanting to be cooped up in Hillsborough, she sends off for brochures to Balmoral Hotels in west Belfast and Warrenpoint, which might offer alternative breaks.
  • The Duke of Edinburgh is to be rebranded to a more English sounding appellation. He draws the line at The Duke of East Grinstead, however.
  • A vindictive Westminster Government tells Scottish people they can no longer speak English. The Scots reply that they never did, anyway.
  • Frightened of crippling new taxes in Scotland, London-born Rod Stewart renounces all his saltire-waving patriotic nonsense and insists he was English all along. He switches his footballing allegiance to Stalybridge Celtic in the Conference North in England.
  • Alex Salmond denies that Scotland will be run like a dictatorship. North Korea leader Kim Jong-un sends fraternal greetings; offers a twin town arrangement between Edinburgh and Pyongyang and reveals he's been modelling his hairstyle on the SNP boss.
  • Fans of Glasgow Rangers organise a crisis conference to debate what to sing instead of Rule Britannia at home games. And what to do with all those Union flags?
  • A 'Song for Scotland' Eurovision contest is announced. Following the success of Israeli transgender Dana International and the bearded Austrian drag star Conchita Wurst in recent years, little Jimmy Krankie is enlisted to revive a Gallic version of his family's major hit Fandabidozi.
  • Stranraer seeks advice from Calais on how to deal with thousands of illegal immigrants who are hell-bent on getting to Larne.
  • The British Olympic curling team is iced because no one from anywhere but Scotland has a baldy notion of what the sport is all about.
  • The Scottish Pipe Bands Association welcomes the Yes vote and bans all British bands (ie Northern Irish ones) from competing in their tournaments, saying independence will at last give the Scots the chance to win their own titles.
  • Kick the Pope flute bands from Scotland seek a relaxing of the Twelfth rules in Belfast which say only 'loyal and true' British musicians can march to the field.

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