EDINBURGH, Scotland – Scots held the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands Thursday as they voted in a referendum on becoming an independent state.
What will happen if Scotland decides to leave the United Kingdom and reestablish itself as a sovereign nation? Here are 10 possibilities:
1. Will Queen Elizabeth II lose her crown in Scotland?
No. The Scottish nationalist camp has said the queen will continue to reign in Scotland. However, many supporters of independence favor a republic form of government and might move someday to eliminate the monarchy.
2. What will happen to Britain’s nuclear submarines, which are based in Scotland?
Unclear. The four Trident submarines, based at Faslane near Glasgow, eventually will have to leave, say Scottish government leaders, who want a nuclear-free country. British defense officials have said that’s what’s left of the United Kingdom – England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – might have to ask the United States to provide a base.
3. Will the British pound continue to be the currency in Scotland?
Up in the air. Scottish nationalists want to use the pound, but financial officials in London are warning that this won’t work. The Scots say they might use the pound anyway, without London’s OK, similar to Panama’s use of the US dollar.
4. What about the border?
There are no plans for a new Hadrian’s Wall between the two countries. The border, by most accounts, will continue to be open but any differences over immigration could complicate an agreement.
5. What happens to the North Sea oil revenues?
This is a big and lucrative question going forward. An independent Scotland conceivably could be entitled to 90 percent of future oil revenues, but the division of riches is certain to be subjected to intense, hard-headed negotiations between Edinburgh and London.
6. What would a new United Kingdom look like?
Much smaller. Scotland comprises one-third of the island’s land mass but has only 8 percent of its people. Instead of being comparable in size to New Zealand, the new UK would look more like Tunisia.
7. Would there even be a place called the United Kingdom if Scotland secedes?
Maybe not, and certainly not in the literal sense. The ancient kingdoms of Scotland and England formally united in 1707 to form the country. Without Scotland, there would be only one kingdom left. And the Scottish saltire, the diagonal cross in the Union Jack, presumably would be removed from the flag.
8. Would Scotland still be a part of the European Union and NATO?
Not initially. The new country would need to apply for membership, and acceptance is not a slam-dunk.
9. Who stands to benefit from independence, no questions asked?
Lawyers. Expect at least a decade of tough, nasty, down-in-the-weeds negotiations to untangle the countries in nearly every legal aspect of everyday life.
10. When is the vote?
The polls open nationwide at 7 a.m. Thursday and close at 10 p.m. (2 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Boston time). An astonishing 97 percent of Scotland’s eligible voters, 4.2 million people from 16 years old and up, have registered. The binding result is expected by early Friday morning.