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Scottish independence: Who would get the nukes, and other questions

As it considers a 2014 referendum on independence from Britain Scotland still has a litany of issues that must be resolved beforehand, including its role in the EU and NATO.

By Correspondent / October 1, 2012

Pro-independence supporters take part in a march in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 22. Thousands of independence supporters took part in a march and rally in Edinburgh, calling for a yes vote for independence in a referendum that could take place in Scotland in 2014.

David Moir/Reuters

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Outside on an ancient stone plaque on the wall of Scotland's Parliament building, lines penned by Sir Walter Scott reminisce about an independent Scotland, lamenting rule from London. Inside, on Sept. 27, opposition leaders and Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon fired off salvos at each other in a debate reminiscent of Westminster exchanges, complete with customary jeers and catcalls from each side.

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If Scottish nationalists have their way, such discussions will soon be a feature of an independent Scottish state, as per Sir Walter's s wistful lines etched on the wall outside. Ms. Sturgeon's Scottish National Party is campaigning on the back of a big 2011 election win for Scotland to secede from Britain. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the SNP's name.]

Although the vote is two years away, it is already generating heated debate – unsurprisingly, given the stakes. If Scotland, which currently has a devolved government, votes for independence, it would dissolve a union in place since 1707, during which Britain built the largest empire the world has ever seen.

Now pro-independence voices say that Scotland is better off outside Britain. “Scotland, under Westminster control, is not realizing its potential and that is why becoming independent is so important,” says Stephen Noon, chief strategist of Yes Scotland, the nationalist party-backed independence campaign.

Nationalists say that Scotland has the resources to fend for itself economically – something that many opponents of independence do not dispute.

“We are the EU's largest oil and gas producer and have growing and successful industries including food and drink, tourism, and life sciences and a worldwide reputation for excellence in engineering and innovation,” says Mr. Noon.

It remains to be seen whether or not enough Scots believe that economic security warrants a break with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Only 32 percent of Scots would vote to leave Britain if the vote were held tomorrow, according to the results of a recent British Social Attitudes survey. Though the nationalists hold 67 of the 129 parliamentary seats and say they have a mandate to push for independence because it was a core campaign plank in the election that brought them to power, Scotland's other main parties are against breaking away.

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