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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.

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“It is not normal for successful countries to be broken up to create smaller countries,” says Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish wing of the party that shares power in London as part of David Cameron's Conservative-led government.

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There are several international and military gray areas that will need clarifying before the 2014 referendum, contend opponents of independence.

“The nationalists have not yet told us what an independent Scotland would look like,” says Labour's Patricia Ferguson, citing a lack of clarity over nuclear weapons stationed in Scotland and whether or not the independent country would be part of NATO.

Moreover, an independent Scotland's position in the European Union might not be automatic, believes Ms. Ferguson, whose party has sought clarification from the nationalists about what legal advice they have been given on the matter, amid speculation that Scotland might have to apply anew to Brussels if it wants to remain in the EU after voting for independence.

Reapplying to Brussels could mean ditching the pound for the euro, which in turn could sway Scots against independence, and business leaders agree that the EU confusion needs sorting out.

“The position of Scotland with regard to the EU has to be clarified before the vote,” says David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors of Scotland, and member of the Future of Scotland campaign, which wants politicians to provide more detailed information about Scotland's options.

Watt says that the debate over independence could revolve as much around national identity as around harder political and economic issues. And even if some Scots feel a greater affinity for Scotland rather than Britain, other Scots are comfortable maintaining both identities. Scottish athletes showed well as part of Britain's third place medal haul at the London Olympics, enhancing a sense of Britishness among Scots, says Mr. Rennie.

Rory Stewart, a Westminster Conservative Party parliamentarian representing an English border constituency. “I am a Scot and also British,” he says, adding that “creating a separate Scotland is a diminishing effort.”

Speaking in Ayr, a windswept coastal town where Scotland held its first-ever Parliament in 1315, author and filmmaker Neil Oliver – whose "A History of Scotland" was a 2009 BBC TV hit – summed up the choice facing Scotland with a marital analogy. Pointing out that an independent Scotland will remain geographically part of Britain, he said, “Scotland and England have been married for 300 years. At least if people get divorced, one person can move out of the house. If we break up, we will have to share the kitchen and the bathroom.”

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