From China to the Vatican, Scotland's bid for independence is being closely watched around the world.
This September, the Scots will simply vote “yes” or “no” to stay part of the United Kingdom, putting in question just how United the Kingdom really is.
Take a look below at the ten surprising things you may not yet know about the historic vote:
Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images
The BBC notes that the U.K. is one of only three countries
that do not have a written constitution (the other two being Israel and New Zealand).
The Scottish government wants to assert sovereignty with a constitutional document and has already proposed a draft for public consultation.
First Deputy Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the case in a recent speech:
"A written constitution is an important part of a nation's identity - it defines who we are and sets out the values that we hold dear."
Scottish independence advocates say oil reserves off the country's northern coast could help bankroll an independent Scotland. Alex Salmond, the head of Scotland's government and a champion of Scottish independence, told the BBC that using ten percent of tax revenues from the North Sea oil and gas industry for a Norwegian-style oil fund could create £30 billion ($50 billion) in sovereign wealth
over a generation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, argues that the North Sea's lucrative energy industry depends for its success on the backing of the U.K.
Both U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond are trying to win the hearts and minds of the Scots, but not always to great success.
The BBC reports
that Scotland's tabloids have had a field day comparing their differing campaign styles. The Daily Record wrote about Cameron: "If you believe Scotland will be taken in by a token charm offensive from your Con-Dem Cabinet of elitists who hammer the poor while lining the pockets of their millionaire pals . . . scuttle off homewards to think again." The Scottish Sun also criticized the Prime Minister's efforts, terming him "David Camouflage."
President Obama ruffled a few feathers when he announced
that the U.S. supports a "strong, robust, united and effective" United Kingdom. Obama added, however, is that it is "up to the people of Scotland" to decide on potential independence from the United Kingdom.
Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, brushed off the comment
, before responding with a tweet re-appropriating the American president's election campaign slogan,
writing: "Our message to the people of Scotland is: ‘Yes We Can.'"
There was outrage when a Scottish charity tweeted that Harry Potter author JK Rowling was "a bitch"
for donating £1 million ($1.7 million) to a campaign in favor of keeping Scotland part of the U.K. (The charity later said its Twitter account had been hacked.)
In fact, Rowling is only one out of a long list
of celebrities that have commented on the referendum, including actor Sean Connery, singer and reality television star Susan Boyle and actress Emma Thompson. Pope Francis is another public figure that added his two cents. He suggested
a "case-by-case" basis for countries that wish to break away from larger states and suggested Scotland's case was not clear cut.
Roughly 5 million people
living in Scotland will vote in September's "yes"/"no" referendum. While 1.15 million Scots
who are living outside of the country won't be allowed to vote -- Sean Connery is one of them -- certain foreign nationals living in the country
, as well as 16- and 17-year-old are allowed to register. As Bloomberg notes
, the inclusion of resident non-Scots is unusual, as referenda are usually based on nationality, not where you live.
One of the central issues surrounding the Scottish bid for independence is the question of whether an independent Scotland would retain the Sterling Pound
. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has advocated keeping the British currency to assure smooth business transactions.
However, the British government in London has said that Scotland will not be able to keep the pound if it breaks away from the U.K., leading to accusations of "bullying" from Scottish nationalists.
The official site of the "Yes Scotland" independence movement devotes a page
to quell the fears of any monarchy-loving folks: "The Scottish Government’s proposal is that the Queen remains Head of State in Scotland." (Quick history lesson: they have shared a monarch since 1603
; they merged into a single state of Great Britain a century later with the 1707 Act of the Union.)
However, if Scotland does vote "yes" for independence, it will have the option to break off ties to the monarchy in the future. Some people have even speculated that an independent Scotland could create its own monarchy, in which case one of the richest women in Spain could reclaim the Stuart legacy
The "Union Jack" flag was born out of the union of the Scottish and English monarchies in the 17th centuries, and was updated when Ireland united with Great Britain in 1801. But with the possibility of Scotland's independence from the U.K., the future of the flag could be in jeopardy since it consists of overlays of the English, Scottish, and Irish designs.
Brits who are not paying attention to the independence debate might sit up and take notice when they see some of the more zany alternative designs
suggested by flag experts.
CLARIFICATION: The language of this post was changed to reflect that the design of the "Union Jack" changed after Ireland united with Great-Britain in 1801.