Scotland's Future

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Q&A

In the section that follows, we set out the answers to 650 questions about independence that have been asked of us.

Many of these questions have straightforward, factual answers. The answers to some others will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the Westminster Government, and here we set out what we consider to be the reasonable and common sense position, based on the interests of both the rest of the UK and of Scotland. Where the answer to a question depends on the policy decisions of a future government of an independent Scotland, we give the view of the current Scottish Government.

We expect you to find the answers to your questions here. However, if there is a question not covered, please visit www.scotreferendum.com/contact for details of how to submit your own question. We will then add your question and our answer to the Question and Answer section on the scotreferendum.com website.

The Case for Independence

1. What is the benefit of independence?

The referendum is a choice between two futures for Scotland. We can choose independence, which will put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands, or we can leave big decisions on Scotland's economy and the future shape of our society in the hands of Westminster. We believe independence is the right choice for Scotland because it is better for you and your family if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland: the people who live and work here.

Independence means that the decisions about Scotland that are currently taken by governments at Westminster - often by governments that have been rejected by the majority of people in Scotland - will be taken here instead.

The ability to take such decisions in Scotland has a direct impact on your life and the life of your family. With independence, Scotland's Parliament will be able to make sure that Scotland's wealth works better for the people who live here, and will mean a better quality of life for people in Scotland.

There is already good evidence that taking decisions in Scotland works. It is because the Scottish Parliament has power over the health service that the NHS in Scotland is not following the privatisation route favoured by Westminster, and it is because decisions on higher education are taken by the Scottish Government that students are not being charged £9,000 a year to go to university.

But because Westminster still controls tax and social security policy in Scotland, people in Scotland are subject to the "bedroom tax" today, just as they were to the "poll tax" in the 1990s.

It is also because Westminster makes decisions for Scotland that Scottish taxes will go towards the estimated £100 billion that a new nuclear weapons system will cost in its lifetime on the Clyde, that postal services are being privatised, and that the disabled and vulnerable are bearing the brunt of cuts to the welfare state. Not one of these decisions has been supported by the majority of people or politicians in Scotland.

If these powers transfer to Scotland, we will have a guarantee that - for the first time - decisions about taxes, social security, nuclear weapons and other key areas that affect life in Scotland will only be taken with the approval of a Parliament elected entirely by people in Scotland.

The ability to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland will be in the hands of the people of Scotland.

2. Why is becoming independent important?

Independence means that Scotland's future will be in Scotland's hands. It means we can make more of Scotland's wealth, talent and resources for the benefit of the people who live in Scotland - through a stronger economy, more jobs, and people getting a fairer return for their hard work and efforts.

It will allow Scottish governments to do specific things like improve childcare, make the tax system fairer, cut energy bills and scrap the "bedroom tax".

Independence is about improving the quality of life for all people across Scotland. We will be able to take decisions on our economy designed for Scotland's particular needs and based on our own priorities.

Similar countries to Scotland have seen higher levels of economic growth over the past generation. That is because they have the bonus of being independent, and are able to make the right choices for their nation and economy. If Scotland had matched the levels of growth of these other independent nations, between 1977 and 2007, GDP per head in Scotland would now be 3.8 per cent higher, equivalent to an additional £900 per head.

3. What will independence deliver for me?

With independence, the Scottish Parliament will have all the powers we need in Scotland to make life better for the people who live here. The present Scottish Government's policies for an independent Scotland include:

  • delivering a transformational change in childcare, so that every child from age one to starting school is guaranteed 30 hours of provision for 38 weeks of the year - this will reduce costs for families and improve support for people with children to return to work (see Chapter 5)
  • reducing your energy bills by an average of five per cent, by removing the costs of some environmental schemes from your energy bill and funding them from central government resources (see Chapter 8)
  • protecting your state pension, with stronger guarantees that the real value of your pension will not fall (see Chapter 4)
  • ensuring that the minimum wage rises in line with inflation (see Chapter 3)
  • protecting the value of benefits, tax allowances and tax credits by uprating these in line with inflation (see Chapter 3)
  • building a fairer Scotland by halting the roll out of Universal Credit, scrapping the "bedroom tax", and halting some of the most damaging welfare changes being introduced by the Westminster (see Chapter 4)

4. How will we become independent?

Scotland will become independent if the people of Scotland vote Yes in the referendum on 18 September 2014. After a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will reach agreement with Westminster and the EU on arrangements for the transition to an independent Scotland, based on our proposed date of 24 March 2016. You can find out more about the transition to independence in Chapter 10.

Finance and the Economy

The Economy

5. Can Scotland afford to be independent?

Yes. Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. In terms of our total economic output per head we ranked eighth out of the 34 developed countries in the OECD in 2011. We raise more tax and our public finances have been stronger than the UK as a whole over the past 30 years.

Despite all these strengths, many families in Scotland are struggling to make ends meet. We are a wealthy country and yet the full benefit of our vast wealth is not felt by the people who live and work here. With independence, we can make sure Scotland's wealth and resources work better for the people of Scotland. To find out more about Scotland's public finances see Chapter 2.

6. How would being independent benefit Scotland's economy?

The Scottish Government believes that independence is the key to economic success. Scotland needs control over economic and fiscal powers to unlock our potential, boost growth and create sustainable, fairly-rewarded jobs.

Full control of the most effective levers of growth - such as tax, welfare and regulation - will allow Scotland to develop policies designed to deliver sustainable economic growth.

Scotland is already a wealthy nation, but the full benefit of that wealth is not felt by people across the country. With independence, we can turn our rich country into a prosperous society, with the many strengths of our economy delivering more for the people who live and work here.

7. Will an independent Scotland continue to use the Bank of England?

Yes. The Bank of England is the central bank for Scotland, as well as for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was formally nationalised in 1946 and is therefore an institution and asset owned both by Scotland and the rest of the UK.

For day-to-day monetary policy, the Bank of England is operationally independent of government. It currently sets monetary policy according to the economic conditions across the UK as a whole. The Scottish Government supports the Fiscal Commission proposals that, after independence, monetary policy would be set by the Bank of England according to economic conditions across the entire Sterling Area and that the Bank should be accountable to both Scotland and the rest of the UK through a shareholder agreement.

Currency

8. What currency will an independent Scotland use?

We propose that the pound Sterling will continue to be the currency of an independent Scotland.

9. Will Scotland join the Euro?

No. The current Scottish Government is clear that Sterling should continue to be the currency of an independent Scotland.

10. Will an independent Scotland have control over fiscal policy?

With independence, Scotland will have full control over fiscal policy, with full powers on taxes, spending and borrowing. Currently, the Scottish Parliament is responsible for just 7 per cent of taxes raised in Scotland. Even with the new tax powers of the Scotland Act, this figure will only increase to around 15 per cent. Only with independence will Scotland have full control over 100 per cent of tax revenue and fiscal policy.

11. Will an independent Scotland have control over monetary policy?

Day-to-day monetary policy would be decided independently of government by the Bank of England as it is now, taking account of economic conditions across the Sterling Area. The Scottish Government would seek formal input into the governance and remit of the Bank of England.

12. Why would an independent Scotland wish to remain in a currency union with the rest of the UK?

A shared currency is in the economic interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK, as key trading partners. It will make it easier for people and companies to go about their business across the two countries.

13. How can Scotland be independent if we keep the pound?

Independent countries around the world share currencies. Countries like France, Germany, and the Netherlands do not have their own currency but are independent, and control their own resources. This approach makes sense for Scotland and the rest of the UK, because it will make it easier for us to trade with each other and will also mean that things like our mortgages and pensions will continue to be paid in pounds and pence, just as they are today. To find out more about keeping the pound, see Chapter 3.

14. What contribution would an independent Scotland make to the Sterling Area?

Scotland is the second largest export market for the rest of the UK. It would be damaging to jobs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to the economy of the rest of the UK, if Scotland did not continue to use the pound. It is estimated that the rest of the UK exported £59 billion to Scotland in 2012 - trade that supports tens of thousands of jobs elsewhere on these islands.

Continuing to share the pound with Scotland will also be beneficial for the value of Sterling. The Sterling Area's balance of payments will be supported by Scotland's broad range of assets and exports, including North Sea oil and gas. North Sea oil and gas production boosted the UK's balance of payments by £39 billion in 2012/13.

15. What would happen to Scottish banknotes in a Sterling Area?

Scottish banknotes will continue to be issued as at present.

Currently Scottish banknotes are issued by three authorised commercial banks in Scotland and are fully backed by Sterling balances held at the Bank of England - meaning they are recognised and accepted as being of equal value to Bank of England notes.

Fiscal Sustainability

16. Is Scotland a prosperous country?

Yes. An independent Scotland would be one of the top ten richest countries in the OECD - ranking eighth amonst the 34 member countries in terms of GDP per person, compared to the UK which would rank 17th.

The Scottish Government believes in independence because we want to turn this economic strength into tangible gains for individuals and families.

Five of the seven countries that would rank above Scotland in the OECD are small independent nations, such as Norway, with many similarities to Scotland. With the skills and natural resources at our disposal we have the potential to grow faster and in a more sustainable manner.

17. What will Scotland's share of national debt be and how will it repay it?

The UK national debt is expected to peak at 86 per cent of UK GDP, almost £1.6 trillion in 2016/17.

The national debt could be apportioned by reference to the historic contribution made to the UK's public finances by Scotland. Using 1980 as the base year, Scotland's historic share of the UK national debt in 2016/17 is projected to be approximately £100 billion. This is equivalent to 55 per cent of Scottish GDP.

Other methods for dividing responsibility for the national debts would produce different results. For example the Fiscal Commission's first report looked at an apportionment based on population. On this basis, Scotland's notional share of UK debt in 2016/17 is projected to be approximately £130 billion, equivalent to approximately 75 per cent of GDP - still less than the UK.

Under any realistic scenario, Scotland's projected share of the UK debt as a percentage of Scotland's GDP will be less than the debt of the rest of the UK expressed in the same terms.

18. Would an independent Scotland increase national debt in an attempt to grow the economy?

Independence will bring the important decisions about the economy - including responsible borrowing to fund growth - to the Scottish Government and Parliament. It will allow decisions to be made in the interests of the people of Scotland and be based on Scotland's strengths and opportunities.

The most effective way to reduce national debt is by increasing sustainable economic growth, a priority of the current Scottish Government. Further details of our proposed approach are outlined in Chapter 3.

19. How important will North Sea oil revenues be to an independent Scotland?

Scotland is endowed with significant oil and gas reserves. The tax revenues from these, which currently go to the UK Treasury, would remain in Scotland, generating significant tax revenues for Scotland.

But Scotland's economy is not dependent on oil and gas. Oil and gas revenue makes up a smaller part of Scotland's economy than is the case for other oil producing countries. For example, over the period 2000/01 to 2011/12, oil and gas revenues accounted for 15 per cent of Scotland's overall tax income, compared to 30 per cent for Norway.

Without offshore oil activity, GDP per person in Scotland is 99 per cent of the UK average (within the UK, only London and the South East have higher levels of GDP per capita). This rises to about 120 per cent when a geographic share of North Sea output is included.

The position is similar for tax receipts, with estimated onshore tax receipts per person in Scotland broadly in line with the UK, but £1,700 per person higher than the UK average with the inclusion of offshore revenues.

20. Will Scotland have a sovereign wealth fund?

We propose that, and as recommended by the Fiscal Commission, an independent Scotland should establish a Scottish Energy Fund to stabilise revenues in the short-term and to ensure that a proportion of oil and gas tax receipts are invested for the long-term benefit of the people of Scotland.

The decisions of successive Westminster governments to spend Scottish oil revenues rather than investing a proportion of them represent a major lost opportunity. Norway began transferring money into its oil fund in 1996. The fund is now worth £470 billion, equivalent to around £90,000 per person in Norway, and is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Analysis by the Fiscal Commission concluded that, had it used its oil wealth to establish an oil fund in 1980, Scotland could have eliminated its share of UK public sector net debt by 1982/83. By 2011/12 Scotland could have accumulated financial assets of between £82 billion and £116 billion. That would be equivalent to between 55 per cent and 78 per cent of GDP.

21. Is Scotland's economy dependent on oil?

Not at all. Scotland has a mixed and varied economy that supports employment right across the country. Scotland's economy is diverse, with key strengths across a range of sectors such as food and drink, tourism, creative industries, life sciences, universities, financial services and manufacturing.

Oil and gas revenue makes up a smaller part of Scotland's economy than is the case for other oil producing countries. For example, over the period 2000/01 to 2011/12, oil and gas revenues accounted for 15 per cent of Scotland's overall tax income, compared to 30 per cent for Norway.

Taxes and Taxation

22. How would an independent Scotland use tax powers?

The UK tax system is one of the most complicated in the world. With independence Scotland will have the ability to develop a simpler tax system that is better suited to our economy.

With its current powers, the Scottish Parliament has frozen council tax and delivered the most competitive business rates in the UK. The current Scottish Government has already legislated to replace UK Stamp Duty Land Tax with a new and fairer Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and has made clear its intention to use the opportunities of independence to reduce Air Passenger Duty and Corporation Tax to boost the economy.

Independence will make the Scottish Parliament responsible for its own finances and will provide access to the key economic levers, including taxation, to give Scotland the opportunity to develop policies to stimulate the economy, sustain Scotland's public services and build social cohesion. Full details of our proposed approach are set out in Chapter 3.

23. What will tax rates be in an independent Scotland?

On independence, Scotland will inherit the tax system and the prevailing UK rates and thresholds for all taxes. Decisions on specific taxes - including tax rates, allowances and credits - will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland. For the first time ever there will be a guarantee that taxes will be set by a government that has the support of the people of Scotland.

Independence will provide the Scottish Government and Parliament with the powers to set tax rates and thresholds which are right for Scotland, allowing Scottish Ministers to develop policies that will deliver sustainable economic growth and a fair society.

24. Would the current rates and thresholds for personal income tax be altered or would there be any significant changes in the rates of insurance premium tax, VAT or employers' National Insurance contributions?

Detailed policies on tax and spending will be set out in party manifestos for the 2016 election and thereafter in the first budget in an independent Scotland. There is no requirement to increase the general rate of taxation to pay for the services we currently enjoy in Scotland.

The current Scottish Government's approach to tax is focused on fairness and economic growth. In Chapter 3 of this paper we set out our early priorities for taxation, were we to form the first government of an independent Scotland.

25. How much tax does Scotland currently pay into the UK?

In 2011/12, Scotland contributed £56.9 billion in tax revenue to the UK including a geographic share of North Sea oil. This is the equivalent of £10,700 per person and compares to £9,000 per person in the UK as a whole.

Scotland is estimated to have paid more tax than in the UK as a whole every year since 1980/81, averaging over £1,350 a year higher over that period when adjusted for inflation.

26. Will the way I pay tax change if Scotland becomes independent?

Initially on independence, you will continue to pay your tax and receive tax credits in the same way as you do now. Behind the scenes, we will be working to transition the administration of the tax system to Revenue Scotland, the Scottish tax authority, with a view to making the system simpler and more efficient for the taxpayer.

27. How would an independent Scotland improve on the UK tax system?

Independence will enable the Scottish Parliament to set all taxes in a way which stimulates economic growth, sustains the public services of Scotland and builds social cohesion. The design of a tax system will be decided by the elected Government and Parliament of an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government is already reforming aspects of the Scottish taxation system with the new powers devolved by the Scotland Act 2012. This process has been informed by the knowledge and participation of a range of experts and representatives of civic Scotland. The current Scottish Government plans to follow this model of collaborative tax policy development to design a simpler Scottish tax system to replace the complex UK tax code.

28. How will tax collection be improved in an independent Scotland?

The opportunity to create a tax system that is less cumbersome and less open to avoidance is a benefit of independence. The Scottish Government is setting up a tax authority in Scotland, Revenue Scotland, which will provide the foundations for a tax administration system for all taxes in Scotland. Revenue Scotland will be collecting devolved taxes from April 2015.

There will be a transition phase after independence where, by agreement with HM Revenue & Customs, taxes would continue to be collected through existing HMRC systems. Scotland-specific arrangements will be put in place for the collection of all taxes in Scotland as quickly as possible.

Following independence we plan to build on the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission report on tax. These include deploying modern technologies, such as online filing. Over the course of the first independent Parliament, the Scottish Government and Revenue Scotland would work together to pursue opportunities for simplification of taxes and tax collection, with the aim of collecting up to £250 million a year of additional revenues, without increasing tax rates.

29. How long will it take to set up a distinct Scottish tax system following independence?

The Scottish Parliament will have formal legal responsibility for all taxes upon independence. The Scottish Government will make arrangements that will maximise its discretion over the tax system while HMRC continue to collect tax revenues for a transitional phase.

After the transition, Revenue Scotland will collect all taxes in Scotland. We plan that the collection system for personal taxes in Scotland will be in place within the first term of the Scottish Parliament in an independent Scotland.

We will maintain stability of collection for business taxes while we carry out fundamental work with businesses to implement a streamlined collection system.

30. How much will it cost Scotland to run its own tax system?

The UK tax system is complex and costly. It is widely accepted that there is considerable room for improvement in its design and operation.

Revenue Scotland, working with Registers of Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, will set up the necessary administrative systems for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax and cover the basic cost of administration for the first five years of operation for £16.7 million. This is 25 per cent less than HMRC estimated for the cost of setting up and operating for five years in Scotland like-for-like equivalents of Stamp Duty Land Tax and UK Landfill Tax.

Building on that, we will create a tax system in Scotland that is simpler and costs less to administer than the current UK system.

31. Will I pay more tax after independence?

The process of becoming independent will not, in itself, change the tax you pay. There is no requirement to increase the general rate of taxation to pay for the services we currently enjoy in Scotland.

As is the case in any country, overall tax levels will be set by the government and parliament of the day in response to the needs of the economy and the public services that the Scottish people want.

32. How will taxes be administered for businesses with headquarters in Scotland but offices in England or elsewhere?

In the interconnected global economy many companies already operate across a number of different countries without difficulty. The Scottish Government has made clear its intention to ensure an independent Scotland remains an attractive and competitive place to do business.

The Scotland Act 2012 means that by 2016, whatever the result of the referendum, there will be differences between the tax systems in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Preparations are in hand to make sure that administration is as simple as possible for businesses in Scotland and elsewhere.

Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will seek a double taxation agreement with the Westminster Government. It will be in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to ensure that cross-border tax affairs for companies and individuals operating in both jurisdictions are as fair and simple as possible.

33. Will Scottish taxpayers with overseas interests continue to be protected from double taxation after independence?

Yes. The Scottish Government is committed to a tax system that will ensure fairness for cross-border taxpayers, including those due to pay tax in both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

An independent Scotland will signal its intention to adhere to all international tax treaties in force between the UK and third party states, so that these treaties can continue in force between Scotland and that state. This was what happened, for example, when the Czech Republic and Slovakia adopted the double taxation agreement between the United Kingdom and Czechoslovakia in 1993.

34. What tax relief would be available to specific sectors in an independent Scotland?

At the moment of independence, Scotland will inherit the tax system and the prevailing UK rates and thresholds for all taxes, including tax reliefs. Thereafter decisions on the tax system and all specific taxes - including tax rates, allowances and credits - will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

35. Would the main business rates in an independent Scotland continue to match England?

The Scottish Government has committed to match the poundage for business rates in England for the rest of this parliamentary term. The Scottish Government is also delivering the most competitive business rates regime in the UK with our support for the Small Business Bonus, which currently helps 92,000 businesses.

Our policy is that taxes in Scotland should be competitive to create an attractive business environment, while ensuring that companies pay their fair share of taxes.

36. Would the fuel duty rate be altered following independence?

With independence we will examine the benefits of introducing a fuel duty regulator mechanism to stabilise prices for business and consumers.

37. Who would be liable to pay Scottish taxes?

The Scottish Government will build on the existing definition set out in the Scotland Act 2012 and general international protocols to establish a definition of a Scottish taxpayer based on residence. In general, this means that people who live in Scotland for most of the year will pay their taxes here. Where people split their time between Scotland and other countries, including England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there will be clear rules set out in statute to determine which tax authority they pay their taxes to.

Banks

38. What about bank bail-outs if there is another financial crisis?

A priority of all governments is to ensure that there is no further banking crisis. Improvements to financial regulation and crisis management are taking place in the UK, the EU and globally. The emerging system reduces risk of exposure to the taxpayer. For example, in the UK, the most risky and speculative financial activities will be separated from retail and high street banking following the recommendations of the Vickers Report.

If in the future wider support from governments is required to stabilise the financial system, this would be coordinated through the governance arrangements agreed between the governments of the Sterling Area.

39. Could an independent Scotland protect depositors on the same basis as the UK deposit guarantee scheme?

Yes. An independent Scotland will comply with EU rules to provide a deposit guarantee of a minimum of €100,000 (£85,000).

40. What impact will independence have on the basing of the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh?

The UK Green Investment Bank plc was created in 2012 as a UK funding institution to attract funds for the financing of the private sector's investments related to environmental preservation and improvement. Under our plans, the Green Investment Bank will continue to be shared between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK and continue to be headquartered in Scotland.

Lender of Last Resort

41. Who will be the lender of last resort to Scottish financial institutions?

In the Sterling Area, lender of last resort arrangements for financial institutions will continue to operate on a common basis across Scotland and the rest of the UK. This will reflect the reality of our integrated financial system. The Bank of England, as the institution responsible for financial stability, will continue to play its role in the effective functioning of the banking system using its operations under the Sterling Monetary Framework.

Banks receive lender of last resort facilities from across the world, and it is normal for countries to act in a coordinated way to secure financial stability. For example, the RBS and Barclays received significant liquidity support from the US Federal Reserve at the height of the financial crisis.

Macroeconomic Policy

42. What credit rating would an independent Scotland have?

Countries of a comparable size to Scotland, such as Norway, Finland and Sweden, currently enjoy very low levels of borrowing costs through careful management of the public finances. We expect Scotland to have the top credit rating.

To manage debt and borrowing, Scotland will establish a debt management function. Further detail on debt management is set out in Chapter 3.

43. What will the cost of government borrowing be in an independent Scotland?

The cost of government borrowing will reflect the underlying fundamentals of the economy. Scotland has a strong economy and is in a stronger fiscal position than the rest of the UK. For example, it is estimated that the total amount of tax raised per person in Scotland, including North Sea taxes, has been higher than the equivalent figure for the UK in every single year since 1980/81.

In order to keep borrowing costs low, a government must have clear and credible commitments to maintain sustainable levels of public sector debt. Scotland is well placed, therefore, to have a top credit rating and government borrowing will be undertaken in an affordable and sustainable manner.

Although the expectation would be that Scotland will receive the top credit rating, the example of the UK, which has lost its triple-A rating without a subsequent meaningful increase in borrowing costs, demonstrates that the most important factors are the fundamental strengths and assets of the Scottish economy.

44. How will an independent Scotland boost the economy when there are pressures on public finances?

Independence will allow Scotland to design policies on tax, spending and regulation for the particular needs of the Scottish economy, to support the growth and innovation that will deliver prosperity and jobs.

All developed economies need to address the challenges posed by changing social and economic circumstances. Scotland, with its strong asset base and skilled workforce, will be in a strong position to face these challenges.

Spending on social protection (on things like welfare benefits and pensions), as a share of GDP, has been lower in Scotland than in the UK in each of the past five years - and lower than in the majority of EU-15 countries during 2011.

45. What deficit will an independent Scotland inherit and how would this be managed?

Scotland's deficit is forecast to fall to between 1.6 per cent and 2.4 per cent of GDP in 2016/17 with a historic share of UK debt and to be between 2.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent of GDP if we take on a population share of UK public sector debt. The Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts that the UK will run a deficit of 3.4 per cent of GDP in the same year. The IMF estimates that the average deficit across the G7 economies will be 3.2 per cent in 2016. Based on this approach, the net fiscal balance for an independent Scotland in 2016/17 is therefore forecast to be better than for the UK as a whole.

When assessing a country's finances an important figure to consider is the current budget balance. This measures the degree to which current taxpayers meet the cost of paying for the public services they consume today and includes a contribution to debt interest payments. If a country is running near to a current budget balance or surplus it may still have to borrow to fund capital expenditure. However, such borrowing will be for long term investment which can be expected to increase the economy's productive capacity in future years. Such borrowing can therefore be part of a sustainable approach to managing public finances.

Assuming a share of debt interest payments based upon Scotland's historic contribution to the UK public finances, Scotland's Current Budget Balance is estimated to be between 0.1 per cent (i.e. a surplus) and -0.7 per cent of GDP in 2016/17. Assuming a population share of debt interest payments, Scotland's current budget balance in 2016/17 is projected to be between -0.8 per cent and -1.5 per cent of GDP. This compares to a forecast for the UK as a whole of -1.9 per cent.

Business

Support to Business

46. How can Scotland improve business growth?

With independence, the Scottish Government and Parliament will have control over the full suite of economic levers, including taxation, business regulation, infrastructure and investment.

The government of an independent Scotland will be able to create a more supportive, competitive and dynamic business environment. Full details of the current Scottish Government's proposals on this are set out in Chapter 3.

Within the powers currently available the Scottish Government is pursuing a range of actions supporting sustainable economic growth and higher quality jobs, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme, supporting Foreign Direct Investment, the Scottish Investment Bank and investment in infrastructure.

With independence, future Scottish Governments will be able to develop these policies further to enable Scotland's businesses to reach their full potential. Future Scottish governments will have the ability to make choices over tax, use measures to boost innovation and exports, promote good industrial relations and support small and medium enterprises.

For example, corporation tax rates remain an important tool for securing that competitive advantage. Following independence we will announce a timetable for a reduction in the corporation tax rate of up to three percentage points. Modelling has already suggested that such a cut could increase the level of output by 1.4 per cent, boost overall employment in Scotland by 1.1 per cent (equivalent to 27,000 jobs) and raise overall investment in the Scottish economy by 1.9 per cent over the long term.

Other key policies to support business that we plan to introduce include:

  • supporting investment, including research and development
  • strengthening the role of the Scottish Investment Bank
  • expanding skill development, bringing together employment and skills policies and putting modern apprenticeships at the heart of our approach
  • expanding manufacturing, with a particular focus on manufacturing opportunities through the development of our offshore energy potential
  • targeted use of loan guarantees
  • reduce Air Passenger Duty by 50 per cent to boost international connections

47. Will Scotland still trade with the rest of the UK?

Yes. The rest of the UK is Scotland's main trading partner and this will continue following independence.

48. Will financial services firms still be able to operate across the UK and EU?

Yes. Firms and institutions based in Scotland will continue to operate across UK and EU markets.

49. Will Scotland keep its trading relationships in Europe and across the world?

Yes. Scotland will maintain its trading relationships as an independent member of the European Union. As an EU member state Scotland will continue to benefit from participation in the World Trade Organisation and other relevant international trade organisations.

50. Will an independent Scotland improve exports?

Independence will enable the Scottish Government to focus investment in Scotland's overseas representation in ways that will deliver key gains for Scotland's economy, including more targeted support for companies wishing to export for the first time or increase their existing level of exporting.

51. Will Scottish industries be promoted in the EU?

Yes. As an independent member of the EU, Scotland will have a seat at the top table in the European Institutions. This will enable the Scottish Government to better promote our economic and social interests in EU affairs.

52. Will companies be able to make a public share offering in an independent Scotland?

Independence will have no impact on Scottish companies' ability to make a public share offering. Companies from any country can be listed on a stock exchange provided that they meet the criteria of that exchange.

53. Would companies based in an independent Scotland still be able to float on the London stock exchange?

Yes. Businesses and individuals in an independent Scotland will retain access to capital markets in the UK and globally. For example, around 2,500 companies from over 70 jurisdictions are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

54. Will an independent Scotland need new systems for trading on international financial and stock markets?

No. In the Sterling Area, existing domestic and global systems and infrastructure would continue to facilitate Sterling-based transactions.

Global trading activity in any stock will remain as it is now, and continue to depend on the market on which that particular company's stock was traded.

55. How will independence help Scottish businesses to win public sector contracts?

Under EU public procurement law, Scottish firms will continue to have access to procurement opportunities across Europe. Independence will give Scotland our own voice in the EU in order to secure improvements for business. At home we will continue the distinctive Scottish approach to generate training and employment opportunities through public procurement.

56. What will happen to Scottish firms if other countries (such as England, Wales and Northern Ireland) begin favouring their locally domiciled companies?

Under EU law, this is not allowed.

Employment

57. How would independence help create jobs?

A country's people are its greatest asset and it is vital that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Well rewarded and sustained employment is the best route out of poverty and to tackle inequality.

The actions outlined in Chapter 3 are designed to improve job opportunities and long-term economic resilience. With independence, we will focus on creating better work opportunities, with the aim of creating maximum employment for the entire workforce for the long-term success of Scotland's economy.

58. What will happen as a result of independence to people in Scotland employed by companies from other parts of the UK?

Nothing will change as a result of independence. Employers based in the rest of the UK, or further afield, will be able to continue operating in Scotland, and people employed by them will not notice any difference. Today, around 16 per cent of Scotland's private sector employees work for enterprises that are owned outside the UK.

59. Will the national minimum wage in an independent Scotland remain aligned to the UK level?

The minimum wage has failed to increase in line with inflation in almost a decade. In every single year since the recession of 2008 the minimum wage has failed to keep up with the cost of living. If it had, some of the lowest paid Scots would be earning the equivalent of £675 more.

We plan that the minimum wage will rise at least in line with inflation. Further information is set out in Chapter 3.

60. Will a living wage be introduced?

The current Scottish Government fully supports the Living Wage campaign and its principle of encouraging employers to reward their staff fairly. We have led by example by ensuring all staff covered by the public sector pay policy are paid the Scottish Living Wage. This covers the 180,000 people in Scotland working for central government, its agencies and the NHS.

This is part of the Scottish Government's "social wage" - the contract between the people of Scotland and their Government. Our commitment to support the Scottish Living Wage for the duration of this Parliament is a decisive, long-term commitment to those on the lowest incomes. However, over 400,000 people in Scotland are working for less than the living wage and the majority of these are women.

A priority for action in an independent Scotland for the current Scottish Government would be to fund the Poverty Alliance to deliver a Living Wage Accreditation Scheme to promote the living wage and increase the number of private companies that pay it to make decent pay the norm in our country. We will continue to support and promote the living wage if Scotland becomes independent.

61. How would the labour market work more effectively in an independent Scotland?

Our view is that in order to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland we need to combine employment law that protects the rights of employees with a regulatory regime that encourages companies to grow and create jobs.

A partnership approach to addressing labour market challenges is important. The Scottish Government has already, within the devolved settlement, adopted a strong social partnership approach, working with the voluntary sector, unions, employer associations and employers directly. We will continue that approach after independence, for example by ensuring that there is high quality, readily available childcare supporting parents to find sustained employment and the use of active labour market policies to get people into good quality, sustainable work. This is particularly important for supporting young people into the labour market.

62. Would laws around unfair dismissal, employment tribunals, industrial relations and trade union rules change in an independent Scotland?

The laws that are in place immediately before independence would remain in place on independence. After that, decisions on specific laws, including in relation to employment, will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

63. What difference would independence make to laws on unfair dismissal, employment tribunals, industrial relations and trade union rules?

While each element of employment regulation has individual impacts, taken together as a system, they need to balance the twin objectives of protecting the rights of employees and encouraging companies to grow and create good quality jobs.

The current Scottish Government would reverse recent changes introduced at Westminster which reduce key aspects of workers' rights. For example on independence we will restore a 90 days consultation period for redundancies affecting 100 or more employees. Further detail of the current Scottish Government's proposed approach in this area is set out in Chapter 3.

Employers

64. Why should companies base their headquarters in an independent Scotland?

Companies base their decisions on where to locate their headquarters on a range of factors. Many successful companies are already headquartered in Scotland, benefiting from our highly skilled workforce. We believe that the economic benefits that independence will bring will further enhance the attraction of Scotland.

With independence, Scotland will be able to send a clear signal that it is one of the most competitive and attractive economies in Europe, with tax rates designed to boost economic activity and support the fast-growing industries that already have a comparative advantage here in Scotland. Corporation tax rates remain an important tool for securing that competitive advantage and for offsetting competitive advantages enjoyed by other parts of the UK, notably London. We plan to announce a timetable for a reduction in Corporation tax rate of up to three percentage points. Full details of this Government's proposed approach are set out in Chapter 3.

65. Will businesses still be able to brand their products as 'British made'?

Yes. "Britain" is a geographical term and, as such, businesses could choose to continue to refer to themselves as "British" if they wished. However, "Scotland" and "Scottish" already have strong international brand recognition associated with quality goods and services and innovation. This has resulted in Scotland's brand being regarded highly in measurement tools such as the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI). Independence also provides us with opportunities to grow Scotland as a brand.

66. Will intellectual property rights be protected?

Yes. Intellectual property will continue to be protected. As an EU member state, Scotland will meet European regulations and directives on IP rights protection, as well as international patent and trademark protections.

67. Will independence offer improved intellectual property services?

Yes. Independence will allow Scotland to offer a simpler, cheaper and more business-friendly model than the current UK one which is seen as bureaucratic and expensive, especially for small firms. The UK is one of very few EU countries which does not offer a "second tier", or "utility" protection scheme which covers the basics of IP protection and is cheaper and quicker to access. Scotland could follow, for example, the German utility model which is more a protection of technical innovations.

Entrepreneurs and the Self Employed

68. Would the UK Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme continue?

Yes. The current Scottish Government proposes that this scheme will continue on independence. Future decisions on the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme will be made by the Government of an independent Scotland.

69. What can be done to increase Venture Capital Investment in an independent Scotland?

Independence will allow future Scottish governments to explore new approaches to encourage higher levels of equity financing and venture capital, responding to the needs of Scottish SMEs and building on the significant private sector partners in place under the Scottish Co-investment Fund and Scottish Venture Fund.

70. How could commercialisation of research be enhanced in an independent Scotland?

Innovation policy alone cannot deliver a wholesale increase in innovation activity and impact. It needs to interact effectively with other policies, such as tax, business regulations and environmental policies. Independence will enable the Scottish Government to integrate approaches across public policy to provide better support for the commercialisation of research.

Consumer Protection

71. Will an independent Scotland be able to offer consumers the same level of protection as the UK currently does?

Yes. Scottish consumers will continue to have the same rights as they currently do, and there will continue to be organisations that offer consumers help and advice when they need it. Independence will enable the Scottish Parliament to tailor consumer protection legislation for Scotland. We have published our full proposals for consumer protection, which are laid out in the paper Consumer Protection and Representation in an Independent Scotland: Options.

72. When consumers are harmed, will there be systems in place to help them?

Yes. We propose that in an independent Scotland there will be:

  • a single consumer body, which would advocate for consumers' interests, as well as provide information and education for general consumer matters and regulated industries
  • local community hubs, overseen by the consumer body, where consumers could go to ask for help and receive advice on more than just the consumer issues initially raised - a consumer who is struggling to meet energy bills may, for example, have related, underlying financial or employment issues
  • a more efficient model of trading standards, so that the same level of service exists and the same rules apply, no matter where a consumer lives or a business operates
  • a single ombudsman for consumers to turn to when they cannot resolve disputes with traders, so that they can quickly and easily seek redress without going through the courts

73. Will steps be taken to ensure all consumers, including the most vulnerable, will be able to access independent advice and education when they need it?

Yes. Under this Government's proposals, Scottish consumers will be able to receive personalised advice by phone, online, or face-to-face, and while we will take advantage digital technology, we will continue to help those consumers who cannot easily use or access such technology.

74. How will independence help consumers in practice?

With independence, the Scottish Government will be able to act on issues that are of particular concern for Scottish consumers, such as pay day lending and nuisance calls. For example, this Government would introduce a cap on short-term interest rates, similar to those in place in many countries in Europe, Japan, Canada and some US states. The current Scottish Government plans to regulate the advertising of pay day lenders and place restrictions on the 'rolling over' of loans.

75. After independence, would consumers who suffer damage as a result of cross-border sales with the rest of the UK be protected?

Yes. As an EU member state, an independent Scotland will continue to meet all EU consumer requirements, including those covering cross-border transactions. The current Scottish Government intends to set up an EU Consumer Centre, and consumers will be able to go there for help when they have problems with goods bought from other EU countries.

76. Will an independent Scotland continue to protect consumers and businesses from unfair trading practices, such as price fixing?

Yes. Scotland will continue to meet all EU rules and regulations designed to ensure competitive markets, and we will set up a competition authority to ensure these rules are applied.

Personal Finances

Financial Products and Services

77. Will people in an independent Scotland still have access to a wide choice of financial products and services?

Yes. The EU Single Market ensures that products can be sold across borders. Under the European Single European Market, consumers should be able to choose products and services which have been designed by companies anywhere in the EU.

78. Will independence affect my mortgage rate?

In an independent Scotland mortgages rates will continue to be based on the interest rate set by the Bank of England, which in a Sterling Area will be exactly the same for Scotland as for the rest of the UK, just as it is now.

79. Will Real Estate Investment Trusts continue in an independent Scotland?

Yes, Scotland will inherit these and similar schemes from the date of independence. Thereafter decisions on specific schemes and support structures - such as Real Estate Investment Trusts - will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland. The current Scottish Government recognises the positive impacts of such schemes.

80. How will my bank account be affected by independence?

Where you have financial products with companies, like banks, these arrangements will continue. Within the Sterling Area, your current account or savings accounts, or your credit cards and mortgages, will continue to be based on the Bank of England base rate which will be the same across the Sterling Area.

81. Will I still have access to banks and banking services based in the UK?

Yes. In an independent Scotland business and personal customers will continue to have access to banks and banking services in the same way as they do now.

82. Will bank deposits and other financial products still be protected?

Yes. An independent Scotland will have effective protection for bank deposits and other financial products, maintaining the level of protection currently provided by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. An independent Scotland will comply with EU rules to provide a deposit guarantee of a minimum of €100,000 (£85,000).

Regulation and Regulators

83. How will services such as energy, post, telecommunications, rail and water be regulated in an independent Scotland?

We propose that, in an independent Scotland, these industries will be regulated by a combined economic regulator.

84. What will be the benefit of that?

A single economic regulator will reduce the number of regulatory bodies business has to deal with in Scotland, while increasing the consistency of decision-making. It will also be a more powerful regulator, with a stronger voice to act on behalf of consumers and ensure that Scottish markets work efficiently.

85. Does Scotland have the necessary experience to deliver economic regulation?

Yes. Scotland already has responsibility for economic regulation in the water and sewerage sector, and we have an extremely good track record. For example:

  • the average household bill for water services in Scotland for 2013/14 is £54 cheaper than in England or Wales and standards of service are amongst the highest in the UK.
  • the Scottish Parliament, in what was a world first, introduced retail competition for non-domestic customers. Two thirds of business customers now have lower bills as a result.

86. Will the combined economic regulator have a role to play in protecting consumers?

Yes. We plan to task the Scottish regulator with ensuring open and competitive markets to protect the interests of Scottish consumers while ensuring a fair return on investment for business.

87. Will independence impose burdens on businesses by making them deal with another regulator in an independent country?

No. There are 27 independent EU countries with their own regulators, and multinational companies operate in several of them already. Industry also frequently deals with a wide range of regulatory bodies even in the same country, such as environmental, planning, and health and safety regulators.

88. What will independence mean for the regulation of professionals - such as architects and auditors?

The professional regulation systems in place immediately before independence will remain in place on independence. After that, decisions will be made by the government of an independent Scotland.

89. What will independence mean for the production of official and national statistics?

Scotland is already part of a UK-wide statistical service that meets professional requirements nationally and for the EU, so we can build on the expertise already in the Scottish statistical service. Following a vote for independence, Scotland will require a designated National Statistics Institute. We propose that the National Records of Scotland should take on that role.

90. Will freedom of information and data protection be regulated in an independent Scotland?

Yes. The functions of the Scottish Information Commissioner will be extended into the areas currently dealt with by the UK Information Commissioner, including data protection, from independence.

Financial Regulation

91. How will financial services be regulated in an independent Scotland?

We propose that the key elements of prudential regulation will be discharged on a consistent basis across the Sterling Area.

Major financial institutions operating in the Sterling Area will therefore be subject to the same prudential supervision and oversight in both Scotland and the UK. As the Fiscal Commission Working Group made clear, such an approach is in the clear economic and financial interests of Scotland and the UK.

Macro-prudential policy and micro-prudential regulation of the most significant Sterling Area institutions will be discharged, by the Bank of England, as the shared central bank, or by the regulatory arm of the Scottish Monetary Institute in partnership with the UK body. Full details of our proposals are set out in Chapter 3.

92. Who would be responsible for financial stability?

As part of the proposed Sterling Area framework, the Bank of England will retain its remit for financial stability.

93. Who will regulate financial conduct?

With independence, we will ensure that all firms incorporated and authorised in Scotland comply with the highest standards expected of the financial industry. The key elements of financial conduct will be co-ordinated with the relevant UK bodies.

Independence will enable Scottish governments to act on issues that are of particular concern for Scottish consumers, such as pay day lending and nuisance calls. For example, we will introduce a cap on short-term interest rates, similar to those in place in many countries in Europe, Japan, Canada and some US states. We will also regulate the advertising of pay day lenders and place restrictions on 'rolling over' of loans which saddle those unable to pay off debt with an even bigger loan.

As is the case in all other EU countries, Scotland will be able to design its own institutional framework for financial regulation and have its own regulator. A Scottish regulator will work with the regulator for the rest of the UK to set equivalent standards, for instance where there are significant cross-border markets. Further detail is set out in Chapter 3.

Health and Safety Regulation

94. Would the people of Scotland still be protected by strong health and safety measures?

Yes. The legal system that is in place immediately before independence will continue on independence. Thereafter, decisions on health and safety law, including corporate homicide, will be made by the parliament and government of an independent Scotland.

Health Industry Regulation

95. How will an independent Scotland access services from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency?

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is an Executive Agency established by the Department of Health in England. The MHRA takes forward reserved issues around the licensing, safety and efficacy of medicines and functions on a UK-wide basis. The Scottish Government plans to continue using the services of MHRA in an independent Scotland, unless and until the Scottish Parliament decided to make changes in this area.

96. Will current legislation to regulate doctors, nurses and other health professionals continue to be in force in an independent Scotland?

Laws which are in force in Scotland prior to independence will continue in force after independence until such times as that legislation is amended or repealed by the Parliament of an independent Scotland.

The regulation of all health professionals will become the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament on independence. The Scottish Government will seek to work in cooperation with Westminster, and the devolved administrations, to ensure that health professional regulation is maintained in the best interests of patient safety and the consistent treatment of healthcare professionals.

The Scottish Government will seek to maintain the current professional current healthcare regulatory bodies, which are funded by fees from registrants, which will continue to operate in Scotland after independence.

Energy Regulation

97. How will the energy market in an independent Scotland be regulated?

As an independent member of the European Union, Scotland will be required to create a national regulatory authority for energy. The Scottish Government's proposal of a new combined economic regulator will bring together the economic regulatory functions of communications, energy, transport and water. The energy arm of the Scottish Regulator could, in principle, be based at the Scottish offices of Ofgem. This Scottish regulator will work in partnership with the energy regulator in England and Wales in a model of shared regulation of the integrated GB-wide market. Further detail of this is set out in Chapter 3.

98. Will independence allow Scotland to have greater influence on key regulatory matters, such as energy prices?

Yes. Powers over key regulatory decisions, currently exercised by Westminster, will transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. After that, decisions on the energy market will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

99. Will an independent Scotland be able to take steps to ensure that consumers' interests are taken into account when energy policy is set?

Yes. The powers of independence will allow energy policy to be designed to protect the interests of consumers and make sure people are treated transparently and fairly. Appropriate information on energy tariffs will help customers decide which company to go with, and help make prices competitive.

The Scottish Government plans that, in an independent Scotland, funding for 'green investment' would transfer from energy bills to central government budgets. By passing on these cost reductions to their consumers, energy companies would be able to reduce bills by around five per cent or approximately £70 every year. Further detail on this proposal is set out in Chapter 8.

Telecommunications Regulation

100. Will there be a Scottish telecommunications regulator in an independent Scotland?

Regulation of broadcasting is currently carried out by Ofcom, which also regulates telecommunications and postal services. We propose that the economic regulatory functions of Ofcom are included in a combined economic regulator. Capacity will be developed within the new regulator to advise on the regulation of broadcasting content. We also propose that an independent Scotland co-operates with the rest of the UK on managing the spectrum, in the same way that Ofcom and Ireland's ComReg co-operate at present.

101. What approach will be taken to spectrum management and licensing and the universal service obligation in an independent Scotland?

Powers over these issues will transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. Thereafter decisions on spectrum management and licensing and the universal service obligation will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

It is the intention of the current Scottish Government that the universal service obligation will operate at least at the same level as the rest of the UK in an independent Scotland. Independence also offers the opportunity for Scotland to set higher coverage obligations on spectrum licences.

Rail Regulation

102. How will Network Rail be regulated in an independent Scotland?

We propose that, on independence, the Office of Rail Regulation will continue to operate in Scotland while the options for regulation are examined further, although the proposed combined economic regulator will cover aspects of its functions. This will ensure there is no disruption to the operations and safety of rail services.

Aviation Regulation

103. Will an independent Scotland still be covered by the Civil Aviation Authority?

Powers over civil aviation will transfer to the Scottish Government and Parliament as a result of independence. After that, decisions on this will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

We propose to retain the current regulatory framework governing aviation on independence through a memorandum of understanding with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA will report to the Scottish Government on regulatory matters affecting aviation in Scotland.

Building on this initial arrangement an independent Scotland can develop its own regulatory body in due course.

104. How will a Scottish aviation regulator be funded?

The current Scottish Government has no plans to change the current model for the funding of aviation regulation, where the industry covers the cost of regulation.

Regulation of Outer Space Activity in an Independent Scotland

105. Will Scotland continue to participate in international space agencies?

Yes. Scotland will continue to work with the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency.

106. Will Scottish businesses be able to compete for contracts to the UK Space Agency?

Yes. An independent Scotland will continue to be part of the European Union. In line with EU Public Procurement Law companies in Scotland will be able to compete for contracts to the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency.

Videogame Regulation

107. Will an independent Scotland use the UK's videogame age rating system or create its own one?

Powers over videogame age rating system and other age rating systems will transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. The rating system in place immediately before independence will be inherited on independence. After that, decisions on these systems will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

Weights and Measures

108. Would Scotland develop its own legislation on weights and measures, and would this be metric or imperial?

The existing system will continue on independence.

Time

109. What impact will independence have on the time zone that applies in Scotland?

None. As a matter of common sense the current time zone will be retained.

Transport

Rail

110. What will independence mean for Scotland's rail services?

Since 2005, powers to specify and fund work on the Scottish rail network have been devolved. However, discussion about the overall structure of the rail industry remains reserved to Westminster, along with safety and standards.

Independence will not result in any immediate change to rail services. However, future governments of an independent Scotland will have greater flexibility over the budgets available to support rail services and over franchise arrangements and ownership models.

111. Will railways in an independent Scotland be re-nationalised?

The existing ScotRail franchise ends on 31 March 2015 and competitions for the replacement ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises are underway. The ScotRail franchise will be let for 10 years with a review after five years. The Caledonian Sleeper franchise will be let for up to 15 years.

After these franchises have completed, the government of an independent Scotland will, under existing European legislation, have the opportunity to consider all options for the delivery of passenger services, including public sector options.

112. Will cross-border services still run?

Yes. Cross-border rail services operate throughout Europe every day, linking cities and people across national boundaries. Governments work in partnership to deliver rail services of economic and social importance. Scotland and the rest of the UK will be no different in that respect.

113. Will Scottish customers be disadvantaged over fare pricing for these services?

No. An independent Scotland will have the opportunity of a greater role in determining cross-border franchise arrangements. Today in Europe, passengers can book a ticket on services connecting the Netherlands, Belgium and France without nationality playing a factor in fares costs. There is no reason why a similar situation should not apply between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

114. What will happen to rail fares in Scotland post-independence?

The Scottish Government is already responsible for specifying regulated rail fare increases within its franchise agreements. Independence will not change these arrangements.

The current policy in Scotland has led to lower rail fare increases than in England. As of January 2013, the maximum rail fare increase for regulated fares was 3.1 per cent in Scotland, compared to an average increase of 4.1 per cent in England. In addition, off-peak fares will be frozen in Scotland. Within the next franchise period from April 2015, the Scottish Government has committed to bearing down further on the cost of fares for passengers by ensuring that ScotRail peak fares do not increase by more than inflation, and ScotRail off-peak fares will rise not greater than one per cent below inflation.

115. Will franchises being let now still apply?

Yes. The Scottish Government proposes no change to current plans for the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises and these will continue to operate as planned.

116. Will UK franchises for cross-border services have to be renegotiated with the Government of an independent Scotland?

With the exception of the Caledonian Sleeper, the Westminster Government is currently responsible for cross-border franchises and receives all of the money paid by operators. This arrangement will need to be renegotiated. Negotiation will not, however, affect the day to day delivery of the franchises. Given the importance of these routes to Scotland and the rest of the UK, it will be in both countries' interests to put in place arrangements to ensure the continued operation of cross-border services.

117. Will plans for high speed rail between Glasgow and Edinburgh be affected by independence?

No. The Scottish Government is currently developing plans for high speed rail infrastructure in Scotland. This will improve the journey times for future Scotland to England services and also provide a fast, dedicated capacity in high speed rail service between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It will also free up the central belt so more services to other areas of Scotland can be created.

The current planning is independent of what is being developed in England, but will clearly be designed to be compatible. Independence will have no impact on these plans.

118. Will plans for high speed rail between Scotland and England be affected by independence?

Current confirmed Westminster plans exclude Scotland and Northern England, with the next phases of high-speed rail only due to connect London with Birmingham in 2026 and then Leeds and Manchester by 2033.

While this investment will bring some benefits between the Central Belt and London, the economic benefits to Scotland, the North East and far North West of England are marginal compared to those which will accrue to other areas of the UK. Indeed, Westminster's own analysis shows that the economies of Aberdeen and Dundee may suffer from such a partial approach.

Despite a much stronger business case from a network that includes Scotland and previous calls, not just from the Scottish Government but councils in the North of England and civic and business Scotland too, it is only now that Westminster has agreed to plan for high speed to go beyond Manchester and Leeds.

Consistent with the Borderlands initiative, an independent Scotland could work together with northern English councils to argue the case more strongly for High Speed to go further North faster. High Speed Rail will also attract air travellers from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London, freeing air slots to maintain air access to Aberdeen and Inverness, which with rail improvements will maintain and enhance the connectivity of these economically vibrant cities.

119. What will happen to Network Rail in Scotland?

Network Rail is a private company limited by guarantee and will continue to operate as it does now, regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation. The Scottish Government will expect to become a member of Network Rail with membership rights equivalent to those currently held by the Department for Transport to ensure it best meets its obligations with respect to an independent Scottish Government.

120. What will happen to Network Rail's debt, which is currently guaranteed by the Westminster Government?

An independent Scotland will continue to meet its rail financing obligations - including the servicing of regulatory debt for Scotland. This is in line with the determination made by the Office of Rail Regulation for the period 2014 to 2019. The Scottish Government will continue to meet any obligations with respect to the financing of Network Rail in Scotland, and, if required, the Scottish Government will provide its own Financial Indemnity Mechanism (FIM) to support this. Under these circumstances Network Rail would pay a fee to the Scottish Government to reflect the benefit it received from the FIM.

121. If I buy a travel pass or season ticket before independence that continues into independence will it be valid for the whole period?

Yes. The Scottish Government proposes no change to the ScotRail franchise, which will operate as normal. All passes and tickets will remain valid.

Roads

122. Who will be responsible for the road network in an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government is already responsible for roads. This will not change with independence.

123. Will there be road charging in an independent Scotland

The current Scottish Government has no plans to introduce road charging.

Buses and Trams

124. Who will be responsible for public transport, such as buses and trams, in an independent Scotland?

Many powers relating to public transport are already devolved and in an independent Scotland decisions on them will continue to be made as they are now by the Scottish Parliament and Government.

However, some further powers will also transfer to the Scottish Parliament on independence. For example, the registration and funding of bus services is already devolved but the responsibility for licensing and permits for bus operators, drivers and vehicles currently rests with Westminster.

Aviation

125. What will happen to Air Passenger Duty in an independent Scotland?

Air Passenger Duty is currently set by the Westminster Government. With independence, the Scottish Parliament will be able to set Air Passenger Duty at a level that suits Scotland - or abolish it entirely.

It is estimated that Air Passenger Duty will cost Scotland more than £200 million a year in lost tourism spend alone by 2016. In addition to the direct losses to the Scottish economy, another report earlier this year found that reducing Air Passenger Duty would increase receipts from other taxes, such as VAT.

As an early priority for action following independence the current Scottish Government proposes a 50 per cent reduction in APD, with a view to eventual abolition of the tax when public finances allow.

126. Will an independent Scotland protect links to London airports?

The number of flights to London from Scotland has been reducing.

With independence, the Scottish Government will be able to protect routes. The present Government would propose to promote Public Service Obligations on routes that benefit the economy most. The current Scottish Government will prioritise a 50 per cent reduction in APD, with a view to eventual abolition of the tax when public finances allow.

127. Will there be more direct flights into an independent Scotland?

More long haul flights operate into independent countries, for example into Denmark and Ireland which are similar in size to Scotland.

The government of an independent Scotland will be able to develop an aviation policy that suits the people of Scotland. This could include the develop of new routes to strategically important markets, such as Asia, boosting tourism by encouraging the use of direct flights to Scottish airports, and working at the top table in the European Union - as an independent member state - to develop more efficient and co-operative international regulation.

128. How will air traffic services be managed in an independent Scotland?

Airspace will be managed in the same way as it is currently managed with the emphasis on allowing the free and safe movement of aircraft.

The Westminster Government has a 49 per cent shareholding in National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and one of its two operational centres is based at Prestwick.

On independence, it is the intention of the current Scottish Government that NATS will continue its services for Scotland. The Scottish Government will negotiate an appropriate share for Scotland of Westminster's stake in NATS.

Freight

129. What will independence mean for regulation of the road freight sector in Scotland?

The road freight sector is governed primarily through European legislation, which is aimed at ensuring the free movement of goods and fair competition across Europe. EU rules govern drivers' hours and working time regulations; common rules on international movement of goods across member states; vehicle standards; vehicle weights and dimensions; initial driver training and drivers Certificate of Professional Competence; the operator licensing regime; health and safety requirements; and a range of regulations aimed at improving road safety including rules governing the carriage of dangerous goods.

As an independent Member State of the EU, Scotland will continue to comply with European regulations. Implementation of EU legislation into UK law (and exercise of any aspects where there is a degree of discretion) is currently a reserved matter, however, and so this responsibility would transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. Given the extent of EU regulation, the scope for significant change to the rules is limited but the current Scottish Government plans to achieve a healthy and sustainable freight industry in Scotland that would be able to compete effectively in the European single market.

130. Would relevant regulations be aligned with the rest of the UK? Would a Scottish Government want to pursue a distinct course over time?

As a member of the EU, an independent Scotland will meet its obligations under EU law with regards to the haulage industry. Regulation that is in place immediately before independence will be inherited on independence. Thereafter decisions on the regulatory framework will be made by the Parliament and government of an independent Scotland in line with Scotland's interests and to suit Scotland's circumstances.

131. What effect would independence have on the movement of goods by road between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and between Scotland and other countries?

Under EU regulations, all hauliers carrying out the movement of goods under 'hire and reward' between member states must have a standard international operator's licence and a community authorisation licence.

In a modern global economy many companies already operate across a number of different countries without difficulty. The Scottish Government has made clear its intention to ensure an independent Scotland remains an attractive and competitive place to do business.

Motoring Services

132. Will an independent Scotland have its own driver and vehicle licencing and driving standards agency?

Powers over these issues will transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. It is the current Scottish Government's intention to continue to use the services of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Driving Standards Agency, and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency in the immediate post-independence period. These agencies are currently self-funded through user fees. Scottish users, therefore contribute fully to the cost of providing these services.

Independence will allow the Scottish Parliament to determine the best way to deliver these services in the future. The current Scottish Government proposes the creation of a new, streamlined Scottish Motor Services Agency, which will bring together the functions of DVLA, DSA, VOSA, and Vehicle Certification Agency. By the end of the first term of an independent Parliament, the current Scottish Government would plan to have completed the design and development work, with a view to the Agency going live early in the second Parliament.

133. Will we need to reapply for driving licences if Scotland becomes independent?

No. The Scottish Government intends that the driver licensing regime will remain in place at the point of independence. This will ensure all licences granted by the DVLA are recognised in Scotland.

134. Will an independent Scotland change the UK legislation for bus, coach and lorry drivers' Certificate of Professional Competence training?

This is a decision for future elected Governments of an independent Scotland. This Government has no plans to change the present regime for Certificate of Professional Competence training.

135. Will Scotland retain the role of Traffic Commissioner?

Yes. The Scottish Government's intention is that an independent Scotland will retain the Traffic Commissioner's role.

Ferries

136. How will ferry services be managed in an independent Scotland?

Ferries are an essential part of Scotland's transport network. The quality of our ferry services impacts on us all, affecting both island and mainland communities. The Scottish Government is fully committed to delivering first class sustainable ferry services to our communities, stimulating social and economic growth across Scotland.

The planned improvements to Scotland's ferry services, as set out in our recently published Ferries Plan will enable our rural and remote communities to thrive, and continue to make a significant contribution to Scotland's economy. With the fully integrated transport system that independence will deliver, we can ensure the best alignment between ferries and other modes of transport.

Maritime

137. How will maritime services be delivered in an independent Scotland? What will change in maritime functions with independence?

Scotland has approximately 60 per cent of the seas and coastline of Great Britain. However, the essential maritime institutions (the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Northern Lighthouse Board and Marine Accident Investigation Branch) are currently controlled by Westminster. The Scottish Government currently has no say in how these essential services are delivered.

Independence will let Scotland shape and develop maritime services that reflect our unique coastline and give the people who use our seas the support they need. The Scottish Government intends that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will continue to provide its services for the safety of mariners. It also plans that the Northern Lighthouse Board and Marine Accident Investigation Branch will continue its role unchanged in an independent Scotland, funded by existing arrangements for the collection of light dues at Scottish ports through Trinity House.

It will then be for future governments of an independent Scotland to look at how these services would be provided in the years ahead. This may, if appropriate, include developing a distinct Scottish organisation to deliver some or all of these functions.

138. Will an independent Scotland remain a member of international organisations like the International Maritime Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation when independent?

Aviation and maritime regulations will continue to apply in an independent Scotland as these activities, by their nature, are subject to international regulations. The Scottish Government intends that Scotland, as an independent state, will become a member of these organisations.

139. Will the Royal National Lifeboat Institution continue to provide services?

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is totally independent of government and serves the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well as the United Kingdom. The RNLI is an integral part of the maritime search and rescue structure. Its purpose is to save lives at sea and the organisation has a proud history of providing lifeboat services and volunteer crews. Decisions about the RNLI are for the Institution itself, but we can see no obstacle to it continuing to play its vital role around the coasts of Scotland as it does around the rest of these islands.

There is a long history of maritime search and rescue being co-ordinated across borders and boundaries with all available resources and vessels deployed to assist in any incident. This will continue to be the case after independence.

140. Will Scotland register ships?

Yes. The present Scottish Government intends that an independent Scotland will set up a Shipping Register.

141. Will the standards for vessels be the same as in the rest of the UK?

Most standards for shipping and vessel safety are set by international agreement through the International Maritime Organisation and the EU and these will continue to apply in an independent Scotland as they do for the rest of the UK.

142. Will there be any changes to the operation or structure of harbour authorities?

All of the Statutory Harbour Authorities in Scotland operate under their own local legislation. There is no reason for this to change with independence.

Health, Wellbeing and Social Protection

Welfare

The current Scottish Government's approach to the design of our future welfare system is set out in Chapter 4.

143. What will happen to the welfare system in an independent Scotland?

Governments of an independent Scotland will be able to use welfare powers to deliver a system that helps people into work and protects the vulnerable.

144. How will my benefits be paid in an independent Scotland?

Benefits to which people are entitled will continue to be paid in exactly the same way as they are now.

145. What will happen to Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment introduced by the Westminster Government?

The current Scottish Government proposes that the further roll-out of Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment should be stopped. Following a vote for independence, we will ask Westminster to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment in Scotland.

146. Will I get the same benefits after independence?

Yes. We plan that, on independence, there will be a transitional period when the Scottish and Westminster Governments will share the administration and delivery of benefits and State Pensions. It is in both countries' interests that this should happen.

Following independence, the immediate priorities will be to reverse the most damaging and counterproductive of the UK welfare changes. We propose to:

  • abolish the "bedroom tax" within the first year of the first independent Scottish Parliament
  • halt the further rollout of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments in Scotland
  • ensure that benefits and tax credits increase in line with inflation to avoid the poorest families falling further into poverty

Full details of the current Scottish Government's proposed approach are set out in Chapter 4.

147. Will I still need to go to the Jobcentre?

Yes. Scotland will inherit the Jobcentre structure and its functions but the Scottish Government and Parliament will have powers to look at welfare to work programmes in a different way, enabling them to develop a new approach to supporting people based on joint rights and responsibilities and a culture of respect.

148. Will I still get my benefits on the same day of the week?

Yes.

149. Will I get the same amount of benefit?

On independence our proposals mean you will continue to receive benefit payments and tax credits in the same way as you do now. Becoming independent will not, in itself, change your entitlement. However, future Scottish governments can choose to do things differently from the rest of the UK. For example, this Government will stop the damaging changes to our welfare system being introduced by Westminster, including scrapping the "bedroom tax" and stopping the roll out of Universal Credit. Full details of our proposals for a fairer welfare system are set out in Chapter 4.

150. Will I need to apply again?

No. We will make sure that independence does not disrupt benefits payments, and that existing claims will continue as now.

151. Will I need to be assessed again?

No. Scotland becoming independent will not result in a need for reassessment.

We propose that, on independence and for the transitional period, the benefits system will continue to be administered in the same way as it is now. Once Scotland establishes its own distinct system, the Scottish Government will be able to review the application process we inherit.

152. If I am from another country and move to Scotland, will I be entitled to benefits?

At the moment, the UK rules for benefits entitlement vary depending on which country you move from. These rules will continue to apply in an independent Scotland until such times as the Parliament of an independent Scotland decides to change them.

153. How will I apply for benefits if Scotland is independent?

On independence and for the transitional period, the Scottish Government proposes that the administration of the benefits system will continue to work in the same way as it does now. Governments in an independent Scotland will be able to review the application process we inherit.

154. Will benefits change for disabled people?

We intend that people living in Scotland and in receipt of Disability Living Allowance will not be migrated to Personal Independence Payment.

We have also committed to abolishing the "bedroom tax", saving 82,500 households in Scotland - including 63,500 households with disabilities and 15,500 households with children - an average of £50 per month.

In addition, this Government proposes to launch an urgent review of the conditionality and sanctions regime, and review the system of assessments for disability benefits. Then, as the new independent benefits system is developed, we will work with disabled people and others with an interest in how to improve things further.

155. Will work be an important feature of welfare and benefits?

Yes. Where people can work they should work. Work is important for people's health and wellbeing, as much as for their economic position. This Government is committed to seeing an independent Scotland improve support for people that are out of work and create a welfare to work plan that is based on an individual's circumstances and on the support they need to move towards, and into, sustainable work.

156. Will the forms be the same for new benefits applicants?

During the transitional period, the benefits forms will remain the same.

When Scotland has its own welfare system, the government in an independent Scotland will be able to review the application process to make it simpler.

157. When will the benefits system change in an independent Scotland?

The first government of an independent Scotland can start to plan for major changes during the transitional period, with a view to implementing them after the transitional period ends, which this Scottish Government intends should be in 2018.

We set out our full proposals for early changes to the benefits system in Chapter 4.

158. Why won't Scotland run its own benefits system from the first day of independence?

We accept the Expert Working Group on Welfare's recommendation that there should be a transitional period of shared administration for delivery of benefit payments. As highlighted by the Group, this offers the best arrangement in the short-term. It also ensures continuity of payments for millions of benefit recipients elsewhere in the UK whose applications and payments are currently processed in Scotland. However, it is our intention that such a system of shared administration will last only until 2018 and be organised in such a way that will:

  • allow the first government of an independent Scotland to introduce its priorities for change from 2016
  • allow that government also to begin work towards creating a welfare system that better reflects Scotland's priorities and needs

159. Can an independent Scotland afford its own welfare system?

Yes. Scotland spends proportionally less on welfare and State Pensions than the UK as a whole. Spending on social protection as a share of overall spending is estimated to have been lower in Scotland for each year of the past five years.

Scotland's Balance Sheet demonstrates that social protection expenditure, which includes welfare payments and State Pensions, accounted for 14.4 per cent of our economic output (GDP) in Scotland compared to 15.9 per cent in the UK as a whole in 2011/12.

160. How long would the transition take to establish welfare administration in an independent Scotland?

It is our intention that a system of shared administration will last until 2018.

The Scottish Government understands people's concerns about the changes Westminster is bringing in. That is why we propose to give Westminster immediate notice, after a vote for independence, that further roll-out of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment should be stopped in Scotland.

161. What will change in the first years of independence, during the transitional period?

During a transitional period, Scotland will start to develop a welfare system better suited to Scottish needs and priorities. Immediate priorities for change that the current Scottish Government will pursue are set out in Chapter 4.

162. What would be different about the welfare system after the transition period?

The political parties will put forward their proposals for the people of Scotland to consider in the 2016 election. That means decisions on the future shape of our welfare state will be taken by the elected representatives of the people of Scotland.

The current Scottish Government's approach to the design of our future welfare system is set out in Chapter 4.

163. Even if welfare is more affordable now, doesn't Scotland's ageing population mean that in the long run welfare will become unaffordable?

The longer-term demographic challenge of an ageing population affects every western country, including Scotland and the UK as a whole. The particular challenge Scotland faces is projected lower growth in our working-age population, although Scotland's total dependency ratio (working age population compared to pensioners and children) is projected to be more advantageous than the UK's for at least 15 years. The Government Economic Strategy sets out a target to match average European (EU-15) population growth over the period from 2007 to 2017, supported by increased healthy life expectancy in Scotland over this period.

What is clear is that this challenge is best addressed in an independent Scotland. An independent Scotland can address population growth by creating new opportunities for young people to build their careers and families within Scotland, and through action to attract people to Scotland the right people with the right skills - either Scots who have moved away or new migrants.

These matters are currently reserved to Westminster, which has different priorities for the UK economy and migration, so without independence, Scotland will not have the mechanisms to address its projected demographic issues.

164. How will an independent Scotland afford higher levels of spending on disability-related benefits?

Scotland does spend proportionately more on disability-related benefits than the UK as a whole. But this needs to be set against other areas, such as housing benefit, where we spend less. Overall, welfare is more affordable in Scotland.

Scotland is the eighth wealthiest nation in the developed world in terms of GDP per head, which means we have the money we need to support our most vulnerable people. As an independent country, we will be able to choose how to spend our money, based on the needs and values of the Scottish people, not on choices made at Westminster. The current Scottish Government's approach will continue to be that Scotland should prioritise spending on protecting vulnerable citizens over spending on policies that we do not agree with.

165. Will immigrants and asylum seekers have access to the welfare system?

Yes. Asylum seekers and immigrants will have access to the welfare system. On independence, existing UK rules will apply. With Scotland continuing as a member of the European Union, the rules on free movement of labour within Europe will also still apply.

166. What will happen to the "bedroom tax" in an independent Scotland?

Our proposals include a commitment to abolish the "bedroom tax" if elected as the government of an independent Scotland. This will happen within a year of the first election to the Parliament of an independent Scotland.

167. Would the welfare system in an independent Scotland tackle poverty?

Yes. We can only deal with an issue as complex as poverty with access to the full range of powers available to an independent country. Future Scottish governments can choose to do things differently from the UK.

Pensions

State Pensions

Full details of the Scottish Government's proposed approach to State Pensions are set out in Chapter 4.

168. Can an independent Scotland afford the State Pension?

Yes. Scotland is in a strong position to afford a high quality pensions system. Scotland is already better able to afford the current levels of social protection spending (which includes pensions) than the UK as a whole, on the basis of government revenue and share of GDP:

  • expenditure on social protection as a share of GDP has been lower in Scotland than in the UK in each of the past five years - in 2011/12, social protection expenditure accounted for 14.4 per cent of GDP in Scotland and 15.9 per cent in the UK
  • a smaller percentage of Scotland's tax revenues are spent on social protection compared to the UK. Figures from 2011/12 show that 38 per cent of Scottish tax revenues were spent on social protection, compared with 42 per cent for the UK

169. How would an independent Scotland manage State Pension responsibilities with an ageing population?

All western countries need to take account of ageing populations, which brings with it pension affordability issues. Addressing these issues in Scotland requires targeted action to improve growth, boost productivity, and in particular, to increase the working-age population as a share of overall population. An independent Scottish Government would be best placed to take such targeted action to meet Scotland's specific circumstances.

170. What will happen to my existing State Pension in an independent Scotland?

Under our proposals, pensions will continue to be paid in full and on time, as now. The current Scottish Government intends that with independence, Scotland will keep the best of the existing State Pensions system, making genuine improvements where necessary. Our approach if in government under independence will be as follows:

  • the Basic State Pension will be increased each year by the 'triple-lock' - average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent - whichever of these is the highest. This protection will stay in place for at least the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament. Westminster has only committed to keeping the triple-lock until 2015.
  • Guarantee Credit, which provides pensioners with a minimum income guarantee will also be increased by the triple-lock, initially for the first term of an independent parliament. This provides extra protection for low-income pensioners in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK.
  • Savings Credit will be retained for existing pensioners on low incomes as in the UK.

171. I'll be retiring after 2016. What will happen to my pension on independence?

All accrued pension rights will be protected when Scotland becomes independent.

People reaching State Pension Age from 6 April 2016 will move to a new single-tier pension. This is being introduced across the UK countries. In addition, this Scottish Government proposes that in Scotland pensioners should benefit under independence from additional protection as follows:

  • the single-tier pension will be set at £160 per week. If the rate for the single-tier pension is higher in the rest of the UK at that point, the Scottish single-tier pension will match this figure
  • for the whole of the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament, the single-tier pension will be increased each year by the 'triple-lock' - that is the highest of average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent. This guarantee is only in place in the rest of the UK until 2015. Guarantee Credit, which provides a minimum level of pension income, will also be increased by the triple-lock
  • in addition, Scottish single-tier pensioners on low incomes will still be able to benefit from Savings Credit, which is being abolished for new pensioners from 2016 in the rest of the UK
  • provision will also be maintained for those expecting to receive a State Pension based on their spouse's contributions. This protection would be in place for 15 years after the introduction of the single-tier pension, unlike in the rest of the UK

172. Will pension rights already accrued be protected in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Accrued pension rights will be protected in an independent Scotland. Our plans are as follows:

  • for those people living and working in Scotland at the time of independence, the UK pension entitlement they have accrued prior to independence will become their Scottish State Pension entitlement
  • any pension entitlement accrued in Scotland after independence will also form part of that Scottish State Pension
  • on retirement, the Scottish State Pension will be paid by the Scottish Government

173. I've worked most of my life in England and have only moved to Scotland recently to retire. Does that affect who will pay my pension and how much I will get?

No, it will not affect how much you will get. If you are in receipt of a UK State Pension on independence and you are resident in Scotland, the responsibility for paying that pension and all associated payments will transfer to the Scottish Government.

174. I've accrued some State Pension in England, and some overseas, but none in Scotland. I'm now living in Scotland. How will my State Pension entitlement be calculated and who will pay it?

It will not matter where in the UK you accrued your State Pension entitlement: if you are retired and are living in Scotland on independence, the Scottish Government will be responsible for paying that pension. The amount you are entitled to will not change because of independence.

In terms of State Pension accrued outside the UK, the Westminster Government is currently not responsible for these payments. The same will be true of the Scottish Government on independence. People living in Scotland will, as is the case now, have their international pensions paid either by the country concerned or by the International Pensions Centre.

175. I live in Scotland but I work between Edinburgh and London for different employers. What will happen to the various State Pension pots I have accrued after independence?

All State Pension accrued up to the point of independence anywhere within the UK will count as your State Pension entitlement.

After independence, any pension entitlement gained by working in Scotland will accrue to your Scottish State Pension. Any pension entitlement from working in England, Wales or Northern Ireland will accrue to the UK State Pension and will be payable by the Westminster Government.

176. Will it be difficult to transfer pensions to an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government will work with the Westminster Government to ensure an orderly transition of responsibility for pensions to an independent Scotland.

177. How will responsibility for pensions transfer to an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government supports the view of the Expert Working Group on Welfare that a 'shared services agreement' for the administration of benefit payments during a transition period will be in the best interests of both the UK and Scotland.

Both during a period of transition, and in the longer term, pension payments will be administered by existing offices in Dundee and Motherwell.

State Pension Age

178. What will happen to the State Pension Age in an independent Scotland?

Under current Westminster Government plans, the State Pension Age is increasing to 67 for people aged between 44 and 53, over a two year period between 2026 and 2028. The Scottish Government is not persuaded that this increase is right for Scotland.

On average, Scots currently enjoy fewer years in retirement - and in receipt of State Pensions - than the UK average due to lower life expectancy. Life expectancy for both men and women in Scotland has consistently remained below the UK level, despite significant improvements over many years. In 2013, life expectancy at age 65 was 1.2 years higher in the UK than in Scotland for women; and 1.3 years higher for men.

This Scottish Government therefore reserves judgment on the Westminster Government's timetable for the State Pension Age increase to 67. Independence is the only way to ensure that the future State Pension Age in Scotland is determined according to specific Scottish circumstances.

179. How will the decision on the State Pension Age for Scotland be taken?

We intend if in government, to appoint an Independent Commission on the State Pension Age within the first year of independence. The Commission will have a remit to investigate and make recommendations on the appropriate rate of increase of the State Pension Age, beyond 66, that would suit Scottish circumstances. The Commission will take into account life expectancy, fairness and affordability, including implications for increased public sector pension costs.

We envisage the Commission reporting to Parliament within the first two years of independence with a view to decisions being taken promptly thereafter. Prompt implementation will allow sufficient time for longer term financial planning.

Public Sector Pensions

Full details of the Scottish Government's proposed approach to public sector pensions are set out in Chapter 4.

180. Could an independent Scotland afford public sector pensions?

Yes. Scotland's stewardship of public sector pensions can in some areas already be argued to have delivered more sustainable schemes than their counterparts in England and Wales.

181. What will independence mean for the existing rights of members of affected public sector pension schemes?

In an independent Scotland, all public service pension rights and entitlements which have been accrued will continue to be fully protected and accessible - whether they have been accrued in schemes already executively devolved to Scotland or those currently reserved to Westminster. Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention, which governments must respect.

There will be no difference to individual contribution rates or benefit levels as a result of independence.

On independence, the legislation and rules governing public sector pension schemes, whether reserved or already executively devolved to Scotland, will continue to apply (under the "continuity of law principle"). The arrangements for these public sector pension schemes will therefore continue to operate as at present, bridging the period before and after the date of Scotland's independence.

182. Could an independent Scotland manage public sector pensions effectively?

Scotland already has the people and the infrastructure in place for delivering high quality public sector pensions. In particular, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) has been responsible for administering Scotland's NHS and teachers' pensions for over twenty years and the Scottish Government has recently confirmed that the Agency is to administer all police and fire-fighter pensions in Scotland from April 2015.

Alongside this delivery expertise, the SPPA is also responsible for developing policy for all of the main public sector pension schemes executively devolved to Scotland.

The SPPA's mixture of multi-scheme policy and delivery responsibilities is unique in the public service pensions landscape and is a significant asset. No other body in the UK has such first-hand knowledge and experience of both designing and delivering public service pensions policy. This includes the development of policy for, and the management of, two major sets of reforms of public service pensions in the last ten years.

183. What will independence mean for how pensions will be managed?

For scheme members and existing pensioners of Scotland's schemes, there will be no change in pension arrangements following independence. If, for example, a former NHS Scotland employee has retired, begun to draw her pension, and moves to live in England, the Scottish NHS pension scheme will continue to pay that pension, as it does at present.

For pension schemes that are currently reserved, such as civil service, armed forces and judicial pensions, the Scottish Government will work with Westminster to ensure an orderly transition of pension responsibilities to an independent Scotland. The Scottish Public Pensions Agency will form the basis for delivering the additional responsibilities for public sector pensions that will be required in an independent Scotland.

During the transitional period, pensions will continue to be paid in full and on time and pensioners will continue to benefit from safeguards, including the governance provisions of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 and the provisions of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention which governments must respect.

For current UK-wide public service pension schemes, the Scottish Government will take its fair share of liabilities based on meeting the pensions responsibilities of pensioners who live in Scotland.

On independence, these pension schemes will continue to operate as at present. Just as today, however, it would be open to future governments to suggest changes. Independence simply means that these future decisions will be taken in Scotland rather than by Westminster.

Private Pensions

Full details of the Scottish Government's proposed approach to private pensions are set out in Chapter 4.

184. Will my private pension benefits be protected?

Yes. Your occupational or personal pension sets out your retirement benefits. The payment of the benefits you have built up in your existing pension will not be affected by the move to independence.

185. What will the Scottish Government do to help people save for retirement?

We propose following independence to:

  • continue with the roll-out of automatic enrolment into a workplace pension
  • establish a Scottish Employment Savings Trust for people with low to middle earnings
  • launch a Financial Capability Strategy to help build people's skills, knowledge and understanding about personal finance
  • work with the pensions industry in Scotland on the design of new pension products that will provide greater certainty to savers about the final value of their pensions
  • improve pension information, giving people personalised feedback on saving for their retirement
  • consider whether adjustments to tax relief arrangements would further incentivise saving

186. Will the Scottish Government improve information and advice on private pensions?

Yes. At present, information and advice on financial services and pensions is provided by a range of organisations, with the result that people are often confused about where they should look for advice. This Scottish Government is proposing a new model to improve the standard of advice for consumers by providing information and advice you can access in your local area.

187. Will automatic enrolment of employees into a workplace pension continue?

Yes. Automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes helps people to save for their retirement and the Scottish Government intends that this will continue.

188. Will employees and employers continue to have access to the National Employment Savings Trust?

The Scottish Government will work with the Westminster Government to ensure that the benefits people have built up in the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) are accessible. This Government proposes that a Scottish equivalent of NEST should be established to help firms in Scotland enrol their employees.

189. Will tax relief on private pensions and salary sacrifice continue in an independent Scotland?

Yes. The current arrangements will continue at the point of independence. Scotland will inherit the tax system and the prevailing UK rates and thresholds for all taxes including tax reliefs. Decisions on specific taxes - including tax rates, allowances and credits - will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

190. Will people with pensions in the rest of the UK be affected by exchange rate fluctuations if Scotland had a different currency?

No. With the pound Sterling as currency of an independent Scotland, pensions will be paid in pounds Sterling, as they are today.

191. Will there be a Scottish Pensions Regulator?

Yes. This Scottish Government proposes to establish a dedicated Scottish Pensions Regulator, to ensure the same level of protection for people's pension savings as is currently provided, and to promote an effective pensions market.

192. Will private pensions be protected in an independent Scotland?

Yes. We believe it is in the best interests of all parties for the current arrangements to continue - although we are also prepared to make specific arrangements for Scotland - to ensure that people will have the same level of protection as is currently provided by the UK Pension Protection Fund, the Financial Assistance Scheme and the Fraud Compensation Fund.

We will also ensure that arrangements for an effective compensation scheme are established, mirroring the level of protection provided in the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

193. Will consumers in Scotland have access to a pensions ombudsman?

Yes. Two delivery models are being considered by the current Scottish Government. Either, a single Scottish Ombudsman Service - a one stop shop for consumers (including in relation to pensions) - will be established, or a specific Scottish Financial Services Ombudsman, with responsibility for handling complaints about pensions and financial services, will be established.

194. How will deficits in defined benefit private pension schemes be addressed in an independent Scotland?

Current deficits in defined benefit pension schemes have been caused by the financial management of these schemes within the UK. Many schemes are working to become fully funded and have recovery plans in place. These will continue after independence.

Our proposals for independence will deliver strong protection for people's private pension savings and establish an effective regulator system which will set the parameters for such schemes to achieve a stable funding position.

195. What will happen to existing UK-wide pension schemes?

Specific requirements apply under EU law to pension schemes that operate across different member states. However, the cross-border rules allow member states a degree of flexibility.

Transitional arrangements were put in place by the Westminster Government and Ireland when these rules were introduced and we consider that it will be possible to agree transitional arrangements for existing UK-wide schemes. The Scottish Government is keen to start discussions with the Westminster Government and the European Commission as soon as possible, with a view to reaching agreement in the interests of employers and pension schemes across the UK.

Health and Social Care

196. What will happen to the NHS in an independent Scotland?

The NHS is already the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. The process of becoming independent will not change the way you receive your health care. You'll still be able to visit your GP and local hospital as now.

NHS Scotland already operates independently in Scotland. NHS Scotland has been the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999.

The Scottish Government's vision for the NHS in Scotland is to maintain our publicly owned, publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery.

197. Will the NHS be safe from privatisation?

Yes. Scotland has taken a very different approach from that in England. The Scottish Government has categorically ruled out the disruptive and costly structural reforms happening in NHS England. Avoiding the privatisation of services seen south of the border has allowed us to focus on improving safety and quality of care.

198. Will an independent Scotland maintain the current number of doctors and nurses in the NHS?

In Scotland's NHS, staffing decisions are made by Health Boards in line with their own local needs and circumstances. This will continue to be the case on independence. Under the current Scottish Government, NHS staffing has increased by 5 per cent overall and by 1.5 per cent in the last year. There are now over 1,000 extra qualified nurses and midwives and over 1,500 more doctors working in our health service.

199. What will be the impact of constitutional reform on funding for medical research in Scotland?

Medical research is a Scottish strength.

Scottish researchers win a disproportionate share of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funds for which researchers based in Scotland can apply. For example, in 2011/12, with a population share of 8.4 per cent, researchers in Scotland won 9.8 per cent of the total funds awarded by the MRC and won 14.6 per cent of the total funds awarded through the NIHR funding streams open to them.

There are clear benefits, for the whole medical research community in these islands, from Scotland remaining within a research funding system with the rest of the UK. An independent Scotland, contributing directly to the overall research council budget, will be in a strong position to influence research priority setting at a UK level.

Levels of public investment in university research will enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive, with current levels of public investment in university research, through the Scottish Funding Council and Research Councils, at least maintained.

200. How will independence affect the length of NHS waiting lists in Scotland?

As NHS Scotland is already under the control of the Scottish Parliament, its values and priorities will continue on independence. However, with independence, the Scottish budget will no longer be constrained by decisions made at Westminster, and will therefore reflect Scottish priorities.

Our approach to transforming waiting times for patients is an example of how better results are achieved for the people of Scotland when decisions are made in Scotland. As part of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, the Scottish Government introduced the 12 week Treatment Time Guarantee for inpatients and day cases which enshrines in law a patient's right to be treated within 12 weeks. By March 2013, 97.5 per cent of patients waited less than the 12 week standard for a first outpatient consultation. This compares with waits of six months in March 2007.

201. Will an independent Scotland still have free prescriptions?

Yes. The move to independence will not change the benefits we currently enjoy. Decisions on things like free prescriptions will form part of the policies set out by parties in their manifestos for future Scottish parliamentary elections, with the political parties each offering their own approach, just as now. The current Scottish Government's vision for the NHS in Scotland is a publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery for all who need it. This includes free prescriptions.

202. What will happen to free personal care in an independent Scotland?

We have no plans to change the successful policy of Free Personal and Nursing Care in an independent Scotland. This distinctively Scottish approach is an example of how decisions made in Scotland provide better outcomes for the people of Scotland.

203. Will an independent Scotland have to put in place new arrangements for medical training and education?

No. Scotland already has five medical schools, which continue to attract high numbers of undergraduates from across Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as students from overseas, who want to study medicine.

Medical education operates in a world-wide market, and Scotland continues to enjoy a well-earned reputation for providing trainee doctors with high quality training and development opportunities. Given these strengths, we see co-operation on medical training continuing on the same four-country basis as today.

204. Will medical workforce representatives participate in NHS Scotland pay negotiation processes after independence?

Yes. Responsibility for pay, terms and conditions of service for staff in NHS Scotland is already devolved.

The Scottish Government will ensure that they continue to have independent pay advice when setting pay for NHS Scotland doctors and dentists.

In recent years the Scottish Government has successfully developed a Scottish GP contract with the British Medical Association (BMA), and with independence we will continue to work with them to ensure that GP contracts are developed to meet the needs and circumstances of the people of Scotland.

Similarly, for hospital-based doctors and dentists, the Scottish Government will work with the BMA, and seek to co-operate with the Westminster Government where appropriate, to negotiate pay, terms and conditions.

The funding and terms and conditions for General Dental Services, General Ophthalmic Services and Community Pharmacy are already devolved and fully negotiated in Scotland. These arrangements will also not change.

205. Will Scotland continue to access services from NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence)?

In Scotland, NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland provides a similar function to that provided by NICE in England and Wales. The Scottish Medicines Consortium already delivers the functions of NICE in Scotland in relation to access to new medicines and will continue to do so.

The Scottish Government currently purchases some services from NICE via a Service Level Agreement negotiated and operated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. This arrangement too could continue in an independent Scotland.

206. How will an independent Scotland agree the price of medicines with the pharmaceutical industry?

The UK Department of Health currently agrees the pricing of medicines on a UK-wide basis given that this is currently a reserved area. Negotiations on new pricing arrangements from 1 January 2014 have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The agreement will run for a five year period in line with previous agreements.

Independence will provide the Scottish Government with an opportunity to negotiate its own pricing arrangements directly and in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry with a view to securing the best possible deal for both NHS Scotland and Scottish patients.

207. What will happen to blood donor services in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already has a fully independent blood donor service. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has in place a reciprocal agreement with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and the other UK Blood Services to provide mutual assistance in the event of a blood shortage or unplanned event that affects their ability to supply hospitals. Following independence, this Government proposes to continue this reciprocal arrangement.

208. How will an independent Scotland organise organ donation and transplantation services?

Organ donation and transplant activity across the UK is co-ordinated by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) which operates in Scotland under a contractual arrangement with the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government contributes to the running costs of NHSBT and the organisation is accountable to Scottish Ministers for the organ donation and transplantation activities it undertakes in Scotland.

Donations and transplantations are organised jointly across the UK as it is in the best interests of patients to ensure that organs have the best match to recipients. We will be able to continue these arrangements following independence, in much the same way that the Health Service Executive of the Republic of Ireland currently works with NHSBT on transplants. This is the same as other parts of Europe where groups of countries work together across borders to achieve the best outcomes for their patients.

209. Will I still be able to get specialist treatment in England?

Yes. The NHS in Scotland already co-operates with England, as well as with other countries for some services, to provide a range of specialised services not routinely available in Scotland. Access to a range of highly specialised services in England is managed and paid for by NHS National Services Scotland. Similarly, services currently offered in Scotland to patients from England will continue in an independent Scotland.

The Westminster and Scottish Governments also have arrangements in place with a number of other nations, including the Republic of Ireland, for reciprocal treatment. It will be in everyone's interest for such arrangements and co-operation to continue in an independent Scotland.

210. Will I be able to get NHS treatment if I am taken ill while in England?

Yes. Following independence, should someone resident in Scotland take ill while in England, Wales or Northern Ireland they will be treated by local health services according to their clinical need, just as they are now.

Equally, visitors to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK will be cared for and treated as they are under current arrangements. EU directives protect access to such treatment.

211. What will the law on abortion be in an independent Scotland?

On the principle of continuation of existing law, current legislation on abortion will continue to apply within an independent Scotland until such times as that legislation is amended or repealed by the Parliament of an independent Scotland. There are no plans to change the current abortion time limit.

Housing and Regeneration

212. What will happen to Housing Benefit in an independent Scotland?

Housing Benefit in an independent Scotland will form part of a national social protection system. This Government's proposal is to preserve Housing Benefit as a standalone benefit rather than include it as part of a single benefit payment.

Scotland's Balance Sheet, published on 14 April 2013, shows that in 2011/12, social protection expenditure was equivalent to 14.4 per cent of economic output (GDP). This is lower than the equivalent UK figure of 15.9 per cent. In addition, spending on social protection in Scotland, as a share of the economy, has been lower than in the UK for the last five years, and is also lower than in the majority of other EU-15 countries.

213. Will Scottish governments be able to do more to invest in affordable housing in an independent Scotland?

Yes. There will be opportunities for more investment in affordable housing in an independent Scotland.

Full flexibility over Scotland's budgets, only available through independence, will enable future Scottish governments to:

  • broaden action to make more affordable housing available to alleviate homelessness and tackle fuel poverty
  • take action to further improve the quality of housing, for example in the social rented sector
  • introduce different ways of supporting first time buyers

For more information see Chapter 4.

Social Justice

214. What makes you think an independent Scotland will be a fairer country?

The sort of country we become will be up to the people of Scotland. Scotland has the wealth it needs to be a fairer country. We are one of the richest nations on the planet and could choose to use that wealth in a different way than Westminster. For example, we can choose to invest in childcare instead of spending money on defence. We can choose not to impose the "bedroom tax" and to have a more efficient tax system that ensures everyone pays up their fair share. With independence we can make different choices in line with our values and the views of the people of Scotland.

To find out more about the democratic opportunities of independence, go to Chapter 1. You can find out more about this Government's commitment to a more socially just Scotland in Chapter 4.

215. Will independence mean Scotland will become a fairer society?

One of the main reasons for independence is to give Scotland the powers to make our society fairer. Scotland can make our wealth work better for the people living here and follow a different path from Westminster. The UK is now one of the ten least equal countries in the OECD. It ranks 28th out of 34 on a measure of overall inequality. OECD analysis shows that, since 1975, income inequality among working-age people has increased faster in the UK than in any other country in the organisation.

Academic analysis comparing the earnings of the worst off and those best off has found that the UK was the fourth most unequal nation amongst the world's richest countries.

These outcomes are not the result of the policies of one government, but of almost 40 years of decisions at Westminster.

With independence, Scotland can make decisions on tax, welfare and employment that help the poorest in our society, not make life worse for them.

216. How might a Scottish approach to tackling poverty be different?

This Government will not follow the same approach being adopted by Westminster which chooses to reduce support for one million Scottish households. We believe that Scotland is wealthy enough to make Scotland fairer, if we so choose. Key measures this Government proposes include:

  • introducing a universal early learning and childcare system for all children aged one to school entry
  • abolishing the "bedroom tax"
  • reducing heating bills
  • making improvements to the State Pension

217. How could an independent Scotland avoid poverty arising, as well as redressing its effects?

The political make up of the Scottish Parliament is very different from that at Westminster, where policy choices over the past forty years have resulted in an overall increase in income inequality and, most recently, with the majority of people seeing their living standards squeezed. For example, there is a consensus in the Scottish Parliament around issues like the living wage, which means more people in Scotland will receive fair reward for their hard work and efforts.

It is unlikely that a Scottish Parliament with powers over welfare and taxation would have introduced the "bedroom tax" or reduced the personal allowance for pensioners. Scotland is already taking a different path to reducing poverty by addressing the underlying causes, helping people before they reach crisis point and helping people to help themselves.

The Scottish package of universal support, including free personal care, concessionary travel, free prescriptions and the Council Tax freeze, supports those on low incomes most.

Sport

218. Will Scotland have its own Olympics and Paralympics teams?

Yes. Scotland currently meets all of the qualifying requirements of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees (IOC), other than being an independent state.

Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that Scottish athletes were able to compete in Rio 2016 by attending any necessary qualifying events in the lead up to Rio 2016. This work would be undertaken in parallel to the wider governance arrangements required for Olympic and Paralympic accreditation, establishing Scottish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and transferring functions currently undertaken at UK level.

It is only through independence that Scotland can have its own teams for the next Olympics and Paralympics.

219. Will independence affect who can play for the Scottish rugby and football teams?

No. The criteria to play for Scotland at a sport are set by each world governing body (FIFA for football, IRB for rugby etc) and not by the Scottish or Westminster Governments.

220. Will Scottish football teams still be able to compete in FIFA and UEFA competitions?

Yes. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is already a member of FIFA, the world governing body for football. Likewise, the SFA is also an affiliate member of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).

221. Will an independent Scotland still be able to host the Open Golf Tournament?

Yes. The Royal and Ancient are responsible for determining the venue of the Open. Scotland is the home of golf and Scottish golf clubs will continue to be part of the rota to host the Open championships. Both the 2015 and 2016 events are planned for Scotland.

222. How will an independent Scotland ensure that elite sport continues to secure appropriate levels of funding and facilities?

Scotland already has a number of world class competition and training facilities. Our national agency for sport (sportscotland) has responsibility for all aspects of community and performance sport up to Commonwealth Games level.

It will be for the Parliament of an independent Scotland to decide how best to generate and deploy this resource to the benefit of Scottish sport in future.

223. Would all Scottish athletes have to compete for Scotland or would they be free to represent the likes of "Team GB"?

Athletes are currently free to choose which country they represent providing they meet that country's relevant qualifying criteria. Whilst the Scottish Government hopes that all athletes who are qualified to represent Scotland will do so, this is a personal decision.

Education, Skills and Employment

Early Learning and Childcare

224. Could an independent Scotland provide childcare at a reasonable cost?

Yes. The current Scottish Government proposes a transformation in early years learning and childcare provision. Independence will give us the opportunity to invest more in the supply of services, rather than subsidising demand. This is the approach adopted in the most successful countries and will ensure resources are spent most effectively, and make childcare more affordable for all.

225. What would independence mean for early learning and childcare?

Independence gives us the opportunity to do more to deliver world-class early learning and childcare. As a first step in realising this transformational vision, this Government plans to extend the current provision of 600 hours a year to around half of two year olds in the first budget of an independent Scotland. Those whose parents are currently on working tax credit or child tax credit will benefit.

We aim, by the end of the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament, to increase this entitlement to 1,140 hours for all three and four year olds, and vulnerable two year olds. Our long-term objective is that by the end of the second Parliament all children from age one to when they enter school will have an entitlement to 1,140 hours a year of high quality early learning and childcare, giving young children the same number of hours as primary school children.

226. What will maternity and paternity rights, and flexible parental leave look like in an independent Scotland?

Powers over these issues will transfer to the Scottish Parliament on independence. On independence, parents will continue to have the same maternity and paternity rights as now, with future Scottish governments then able to decide how the system of parental support should be improved.

Schools

227. What would independence mean for education in Scotland?

Education is already almost fully devolved to Scotland. Our system is performing well. Scottish pupils outperform the OECD average in reading and science, and are similar to it in maths, and the latest results show that we have halted a period of relative international decline since 2000. These improvements, achieved under devolution, show that when decisions are made in Scotland better results are achieved for Scotland.

Our detailed proposals for education in an independent Scotland are set out in Chapter 5.

228. What will independence mean for schools?

The management of the school system in Scotland is already fully devolved.

229. What educational rights would people expect in an independent Scotland?

This Government believes that Scotland's permanent written constitution should include the right to education and the right for every young person to be offered a job or training.

230. What will independence mean for denominational schools?

The present system will continue. Faith-based education makes an important and valued contribution to Scottish society and the right of parents to make that choice for their children will remain.

231. What will independence mean for skills and training in Scotland?

Independence offers Scotland an opportunity fully to mobilise its resources to build a skilled workforce ready to meet demand. At the moment, the financial benefits of successful employment initiatives by the Scottish Government - such as Modern Apprenticeships, higher and further education funding and other training programmes - go to Westminster in the form of reduced welfare payments and increased taxation. With independence we will be able to retain these benefits in Scotland and will be able to re-invest them in our people.

232. What will independence mean for Gaelic?

Gaelic has been a continuing element in Scottish heritage, identity and history for many centuries. Gaelic has official recognition and it is an increasingly visible part of Scottish public life reaching into education, the arts, media and broadcasting. In an independent Scotland, Gaelic will have a central place in Scottish public life.

233. What would the priorities be for Gaelic in an independent Scotland?

Our aim as a government would be to continue to reverse the decline of Gaelic in Scotland. The most recent Census has demonstrated that initiatives in support of Gaelic have significantly slowed down the decline of the language. Policy and resources would continue to be directed to the priority of increasing the numbers speaking, learning and using the language.

234. Will Gaelic be recognised as an official language in an independent Scotland?

In Scotland, Gaelic has a significant level of official support from the Scottish Government. Official recognition for Gaelic is also provided by the 2005 Gaelic Act. In an independent Scotland this official recognition would be confirmed and maintained.

235. Will there be more support for the Scots Language in an independent Scotland?

The 2011 Census, for the first time, provided information on the numbers of Scots speakers. This information, in an independent Scotland, will assist in developing policy and promoting the use and status of the Scots language and supporting communities that speak Scots.

University Access, Tuition Fees and Cross-border Flow

236. Will students resident in Scotland be able to go to university in Scotland without paying fees?

Yes. The current Scottish Government remains committed to access to higher education for eligible Scots based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. This means eligible undergraduate students attending university in an independent Scotland will not have to pay tuition fees.

237. Would Scotland still charge students from the rest of the UK tuition fees?

Yes. The divergence in funding policy between Scotland and England and the resulting disparity in the cost of a university education creates a huge financial incentive for students from England to study in Scotland. In that context, and to ensure Scottish students remain able to study at Scottish Higher Education Institutions, we propose maintaining the status quo by continuing our policy of allowing Scottish Higher Education Institutions to set their own annual tuition fees for students from the rest of the UK at a rate no higher than the maximum annual tuition fee rate chargeable to such students by universities in the rest of the UK.

238. Would charging students from the rest of the UK tuition fees in an independent Scotland be compatible with EU law?

We believe that the unique and unprecedented position of a post-independent Scotland will enable us to continue our current policy in a way which is consistent with the principles of free movement across the EU as a whole and which is compatible with EU requirements.

239. Are you confident that the Court of Justice of the EU will support this position?

Each member state is free to adopt its own domestic policies, consistent with the objectives of the EU. We believe that our fees policies contribute to student mobility across the wider EU, while addressing the consequences of the unique situation of Scottish independence. In these circumstances we believe that it will be possible to deliver our policy in a way which is compatible with EU requirements.

240. Will students from parts of the EU other than the rest of the UK pay tuition fees?

Students from other parts of the EU have the same right of access to education as home students. This means EU applicants are considered for entry on the same academic basis as home students and pay the same. This will remain the case with independence.

241. Will other international (non-EU) students be attracted to study in an independent Scotland?

Scottish Universities are amongst the best in the world and highly attractive to overseas students. In January 2013, 21 per cent of students studying in Scotland were from outwith the UK, including 28,500 international students from outwith the EU. This world beating quality will ensure an independent Scotland continues to attract the brightest and best students from around the world to study here.

Independence will allow Scotland to develop its own immigration policies addressing the negative impact of changes to student visas implemented by the current Westminster Government. This will ensure that we benefit from the skills and enthusiasm of those highly educated young people who wish to study here and make Scotland their home.

242. Will non-EU/international students be charged tuition fees?

Charges for international students are at the discretion of each individual higher education institution and this will continue to be the case in an independent Scotland.

243. Will the Westminster Government's policy on visas for international students continue to apply in an independent Scotland?

Westminster Government decisions on student visas have deterred some international students, posing a direct threat to Scotland's universities and colleges. Independence will allow Scotland to develop its own immigration system ensuring that we benefit from the skills and enthusiasm of those highly educated young people who wish to make Scotland their home.

Our proposals on visa arrangement for international students are set out in Chapter 7.

244. Will there still be four-year degrees in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government believes the flexibility of the four-year degree and potential for progression through the currently available direct entry routes is a strength of the sector. The Government intends that an independent Scotland will continue with this and will support any moves to increase choices and flexibility for our students.

245. Will UCAS continue to administer applications to Scottish universities in an independent Scotland?

Scotland's universities are autonomous institutions and currently choose to provide this service through UCAS. Independence will not affect universities' ability to make this choice.

Research Funding in an Independent Scotland

246. How will research be supported in an independent Scotland?

The excellence of Scottish universities is recognised internationally and they are highly successful in winning competitive funding grants. Building on their reputation our universities will continue to compete for substantial funding for their research on the same competitive basis as they do currently.

Our proposals to support research and innovation in Scotland are set out in Chapter 3.

247. Will an independent Scotland set up its own research councils?

There are a number of options for research funding in an independent Scotland including establishing a Scottish Research Council for the allocation of research monies or as a mechanism for directing funding into existing pan-UK research councils. We recognise the benefits - for the academic community, business and research charities across the UK - of maintaining long-term stability in research funding and systems that support initiatives of scale and researchers working together across boundaries. With independence we will seek to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK including existing shared Research Councils.

248. Why would UK research councils continue to fund research in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and this Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. The excellence of Scottish universities' research is reflected in their success in winning competitive UK Research Council grant funding.

The rest of the UK benefits from Scotland's high quality research and our centres of excellence and shared infrastructure are used by researchers from across the UK including: five Medical Research Council research centres; five Isotope facilities; the All-Waters Combined Current and Wave Test Facility; and the Roslin Institute.

Successful research depends on collaboration across boundaries, whether disciplinary, institutional or national. Research collaboration contributes directly to the competitiveness of the Scottish and UK economies through knowledge creation and exchange and direct collaboration with business, as well as supporting intellectual life and the academic aspirations of institutions and researchers.

It is in both Scotland's and the UK's interests to minimise any barriers to research collaboration and to maintain a common research area.

249. How would the research councils be funded?

Scotland already contributes to the funding of the Research Councils through the tax base. Following independence, Scotland would contribute directly from the Scottish Government budget giving us a clearer role in setting the strategic objectives of these bodies. With independence, we would intend to negotiate with Westminster a fair funding formula for Scotland's contribution based on population share but taking reasonable account of the fact that the amount of research funding received by Scottish institutions from the Research Councils may reflect higher or lower levels of funding.

250. Will independence weaken university research in Scotland?

No. We will seek to continue the current common research area arrangements and funding through the existing research councils. And while the UK will remain an important research partner, Scotland can also build on the significant successes achieved in working across European boundaries by hosting international research centres who are increasingly attracted to Scotland by the quality of our research base. The current Scottish Government supports the European Commission in its ambition for "a reinforced European research area partnership for excellence and growth" with researchers, research institutions and businesses moving, competing and co-operating across borders more intensively.

Levels of public investment in university research will be sufficient to enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive with current levels of public investment in university research, through the Scottish Funding Council and Research Councils, at least maintained as part of wider and longer term plans to enhance levels of investment in research and development in Scotland from the private sector and other sources.

The present Scottish Government also intends to use the powers of independence to address one of the biggest threats to research in Scotland as a result of the policies of the current Westminster Government. We plan to reintroduce the post-study work visa, which was abolished by Westminster in April 2012. This visa will encourage more talented people from around the world to further their education in Scotland, providing income for Scotland's institutions and contributing to a growing economy.

251. How will Scottish research continue to benefit from UK charities' research funding?

Charities, like businesses, will make decisions to fund research in an independent Scotland based upon reputation, excellence and value for money - just as they do now.

For example, for as long as our universities and NHS research base continue to be seen as world leaders in the research and treatment of diseases - from cancer to Parkinson's - then Scotland will continue to attract funding accordingly.

UK charities, such as Cancer Research, provided competitively funded research in Scotland of £121 million in 2011/12. Scots are also generous contributors to UK charities, both financially and by way of fundraising and volunteering activities.

252. How will independence affect jobs of academics and those in related areas?

The current Scottish Government's investment in our universities has allowed them to attract an increasing number of talented researchers and academics from around the world. This has contributed to our success and independence would put our universities in an even stronger position as it would allow Scotland to remove the barriers caused by the current Westminster Government's visa regulations.

253. How will postgraduate study be supported in an independent Scotland?

Education is already fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The current Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting postgraduate study and would maintain this commitment following independence.

International Relations and Defence

International Relations and External Affairs

Our relationship with the rest of the UK

254. What will the relationship be between an independent Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

Independence will enable Scotland to create a new and equal relationship with the other nations of these Isles. We will be able to update our partnership so that it meets the needs of the people of Scotland.

Under our proposals, we will keep our close links of family and friendship through an ongoing social union and will continue to share the Queen as head of state, as 16 Commonwealth countries already do, and we will share the pound as our currency.

Independence will end the parliamentary union so we will no longer send MPs to Westminster. Decisions about Scotland's future and about our economy and society will be taken in Scotland. We will be equal partners within the European Union and the common defence partnership in NATO. To find out more about our important ongoing relationship with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see Chapter 6.

255. Will independence mean that Scottish people require a passport to travel to England?

No. Just as no one from the UK needs a passport to travel to Ireland now, there will be free movement across the border between Scotland and England.

The Common Travel Area has existed since the 1920s and currently allows freedom of movement for nationals of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It will be in the interests of all partners for an independent Scotland to remain in the Common Travel Area.

Our Relationship with Europe

256. How will Scotland become an independent member of the European Union?

Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will immediately enter into negotiations with Westminster and EU member states to ensure that an independent Scotland achieves a smooth and timely transition to independent membership of the EU. Scotland will negotiate the terms of membership of the EU during the period we are still part of the UK and, therefore, part of the EU.

There is, within the EU Treaties, a legal framework by which Scotland, a country that has been an integral part of the EU for 40 years, may make the transition to independent EU membership in the period between the referendum and the date on which Scotland becomes an independent state. Article 48 provides a suitable legal route to facilitate the transition process, by allowing the EU Treaties to be amended through ordinary revision procedure before Scotland becomes independent, to enable it to become a member state at the point of independence.

There is no Treaty provision that would require Scotland to leave the EU on independence. It would also be against the self-interest of the EU collectively, and of the Member States individually, to seek to deprive Scotland of EU membership given that Scotland is an integral and highly valued part of the single market. Throughout its history the guiding principle of the EU has been enlargement of its membership, not contraction.

257. Why will an independent Scotland wish to be part of Europe?

Scotland has been a constituent part of the EU since the accession of the UK in 1973 and benefits greatly from the peace, security and economic opportunities provided by membership of the European Union. Over these 40 years Scotland's economy and society have become an integral and fully integrated part of the EU single market.

The best way for Scotland to be represented in the EU is as an independent nation, with our own seat at the top table. This will allow Scottish Governments to represent Scotland's interests in areas like fisheries, which have not been given sufficient priority by Westminster.

Scotland's citizens enjoy freedom of movement and the right to work and study in other member states. The ability to trade within a single market of 500 million citizens is of central importance to our strategy to stimulate growth by increasing international trade. Around 158,000 EU citizens have also chosen to live and work or study in Scotland.

The European Union continues to be Scotland's top overseas export destination - the value of exports destined for countries within the EU is estimated at £11 billion in 2011.

258. Is the proposed transition period between the referendum and becoming independent in March 2016 enough time for Scotland to become a recognised independent member state of the European Union?

Yes. Scotland already complies with EU laws, people in Scotland are already EU citizens and Scotland is already a member of the EU.

259. Would an independent Scotland's voice in Europe be weaker or stronger?

Stronger. Scotland currently has a limited voice in Europe. The Scottish Government is permitted to make an input to Westminster discussions about EU proposals that impact on devolved matters, but Westminster is under no obligation to take account of the views of the Scottish Government when determining its position at EU-level negotiations.

Independence will give Scotland our own voice in Europe, participating at every level in the EU policy process and ensuring that Scottish governments are able to promote and protect Scotland's national interests in EU affairs.

As an independent member state the Scottish Government will be able directly to promote our economic and social interests and protect our citizens by participating on equal terms with all other member states in EU affairs. Scottish Ministers would participate fully in meetings of the Council of the European Union and Scotland would have increased representation in the European Parliament, thereby increasing Scotland's voice in the two legislative bodies of the EU.

Where Scotland's interests coincide with the interests of the rest of the UK, together we will form a more powerful voice for action. When Scotland has a distinct view, we will have a new ability to build alliances and make our case, ensuring that what is right for the people of Scotland is heard.

The current Scottish Government firmly believes the only government capable of properly representing Scotland's interests in the EU decision-making process is a government elected by, and directly accountable to, the people of Scotland.

260. Will Scotland be forced to join the Euro?

No. In order to be considered for membership of the Eurozone, countries need to choose to include their currency in the Exchange Rate Mechanism II and there are no plans for Scotland to do this. No country can be forced to join the Euro against its will.

261. When will Scotland begin negotiations to join the EU?

Following a vote for independence in the 2014 referendum, the Scottish Government will immediately enter into negotiations with Westminster and EU member states to ensure that an independent Scotland achieves a smooth and timely transition to independent membership of the European Union.

262. How long would the process of EU membership take?

The negotiations to secure the transition to independent EU membership will be conducted between the date of the vote on 18 September 2014 and 24 March 2016 when Scotland becomes an independent state. During this period Scotland will remain part of the UK.

These negotiations will include discussions to determine the specific terms, and where necessary any transitional arrangements, under which an independent Scotland will take its place as a full EU member state.

Scotland has been a member of the EU for 40 years and already complies with its body of law. The 18 month period between the referendum and the planned date of formal independence provides sufficient time for discussions settling an independent Scotland's terms of EU membership. In the current context of devolution the Scottish Government has already demonstrated its capacity to transpose and implement the provisions of EU legislation.

263. How does this predicted timescale compare to the process for previous accession states?

Scotland will not be an accession state. We will negotiate the transition from being an EU member as part of the UK to becoming an independent member of the EU from within the EU. The predicted timescale compares well with the most similar sets of previous circumstances. For example, the transition to EU membership for East Germany during its reunification with West Germany took 11 months from the fall of the Berlin Wall.

264. Will Scotland's membership of the EU require the agreement of all member states?

Yes. The terms of Scotland's membership will be agreed with the EU and the necessary Treaty amendments will be taken forward with the agreement of member states.

265. Will an independent Scotland continue to qualify for a European rebate?

The EU budget has been agreed until 2020 and the Scottish Government will not seek to re-open budget discussions until the next funding cycle, at which point we will be negotiating as a full member state. Prior to 2020, the division of the share of the UK rebate will be a matter for agreement between the Scottish and Westminster Governments and the Scottish Government will argue for an equitable share.

266. What impact will the Conservative Party proposal to have a UK referendum on EU membership have?

It is the view of the current Scottish Government that the only real risk to Scotland's membership of the EU is the referendum proposed by the Prime Minister.

The Scottish Government does not wish Scotland to leave the EU and does not support the Prime Minister's plans to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership.

Following a vote for independence, Scotland will become an independent EU member state before the planned in-out referendum on the EU in 2017. However, if we do not become independent, we risk being taken out of the EU against our will.

Customs

267. Will independence have a negative effect on trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK and Europe?

No. As part of the EU, Scotland will remain part of the EU single market.

Membership of International Organisations and International Obligations

268. Would an independent Scotland become a member of NATO, the United Nations and other international organisations?

Following a vote for independence the Scottish Government will formally declare Scotland's intention to become a member of NATO following normal procedures. Similarly we will also signal our intention to be a member of the United Nations at that time.

Given that Scotland, as part of the UK, already meets membership requirements, we do not expect any barriers to Scotland's timely membership of international organisations.

269. How much would an independent Scotland contribute to the budgets of international organisations such as the United Nations?

Scotland's contribution to the budgets of the United Nations and other international organisations would be agreed as part of the membership process for each organisation. It is important to remember that Scotland already contributes to the budgets of these organisations, through our taxes, as part of the UK's contribution.

270. How would Scotland afford international organisation memberships?

Scotland already pays a share of the UK's membership fees for international organisations. Other states of a similar size to - and smaller than - Scotland are members of international organisations. Our membership costs would be appropriate to our size and would be determined by the funding protocol for each organisation.

271. Would Scotland have a seat on the UN Security Council?

An independent Scotland would not expect to have a permanent seat on the Security Council. Like other nations, Scotland would from time to time be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council according to the existing system of election for non-permanent members by the General Assembly.

The current Scottish Government would intend to support the rest of the UK remaining a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

272. Will independence make Scotland's voice weaker or stronger internationally?

Stronger. Today, Scotland's Government and Parliament do not have an automatic right to speak directly on the international stage. The fundamental advantage of independence in foreign affairs is the ability always to put Scotland's interests first. Our overseas network of embassies and consulates will be working to promote Scotland's interests, in particular to develop opportunities for trade and investment.

273. What principles would an independent Scotland follow in regard to foreign policy?

The current Scottish Government's foreign, security and defence policies would be grounded in a clear framework of promoting sustainable economic growth, participating in rules-based international co-operation to secure shared interests and protecting Scotland's people and resources.

274. What international legal obligations that currently apply to the UK would an independent Scotland have to adhere to?

As an independent nation Scotland will continue to meet all legal obligations that flow from our membership of international organisations and treaties.

275. What will the status of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) be in an independent Scotland?

An independent Scotland will continue as a party to the UNCRC and would reflect the Convention's principles in domestic legislation and policy.

Membership of NATO

276. Will Scotland be a member of NATO?

It is the intention of the current Scottish Government that Scotland will be a non-nuclear member of NATO. Following a vote for independence the Scottish Government will formally declare its intention to become a member of NATO. Given Scotland's key strategic position in Europe, we expect Scotland to be welcomed as a valued partner.

277. Why would NATO want Scotland as a member?

Scotland is situated in a position of strategic importance, close to the Arctic channels of the High North and with the Atlantic Ocean to its west. An independent Scotland will therefore be a key partner in NATO's air and naval policing arrangements for northern Europe, and it is in both Scotland's and NATO's interests for an independent Scotland to work closely with, and to be a member of, the alliance.

Comparable non-nuclear nations can and do make significant contributions to NATO operations and deploy capabilities that are proportionate but effective - for example Denmark has had a leading role in the delivery of anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and both Norway and Denmark made significant contributions of air power to the operation in Libya.

278. Would Scotland look to participate fully in NATO activities with the exception of being a nuclear power?

An independent Scotland will take its NATO membership seriously. The present Scottish Government's policy is that this will involve committing resources and contributing to NATO's collective defence activities and humanitarian relief missions. At all times, Scotland will work within the UN and NATO charters.

279. Is membership of NATO consistent with removing nuclear weapons from Scotland?

Yes. The Scottish Government's opposition to the possession of nuclear weapons is entirely consistent with the position of most NATO member states. Only three NATO members are nuclear-weapon states and 20 out of the 28 current member states neither possess nor host nuclear weapons.

280. Would membership of the alliance result in NATO bases or activity being located in Scotland?

Scotland will seek to play a constructive role as a member of NATO and we intend that Scotland will participate in NATO exercises and training operations, as all members of the alliance do. There are no NATO bases in Scotland as part of the UK, so it is unlikely that there will be in an independent Scotland.

281. Why would an anti-nuclear Scotland wish to become a member of NATO as a nuclear alliance?

An independent Scotland working within NATO will be a positive contributor to international peace and security. This position would be similar to the majority of NATO member countries who neither possess nor host nuclear weapons.

NATO's Strategic Concept states that the alliance is "resolved to seek a safer world and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons" - an aim that the current Scottish Government shares.

Scotland's membership of the alliance will bring significant benefits for defence and security co-operation within our region, and will demonstrate a clear commitment towards working in close, responsible and peaceful co-operation with Scotland's neighbours and allies.

282. Will NATO members with nuclear-armed vessels be allowed to enter Scottish waters or dock at Scottish ports?

It is our firm position that an independent Scotland should not host nuclear weapons and we would only join NATO on that basis.

While the presence of nuclear weapons on a particular vessel is never confirmed by any country, we would expect any visiting vessel to respect the rules that are laid down by the government of an independent Scotland.

While they are both strong advocates for nuclear disarmament, both Norway and Denmark allow NATO vessels to visit their ports without confirming or denying whether they carry nuclear weapons. We intend that Scotland will adopt a similar approach as Denmark and Norway in this respect.

283. Would Scotland provide forces to NATO as part of a collective defence (Article 5) operation?

Yes, subject to our domestic approval arrangements. As a NATO member, Scotland will support collective defence operations (Article 5 operations), in accordance with the UN Charter, where a member of the alliance is the subject of an armed attack.

In order for NATO to invoke Article 5, each member state must be in agreement. It is for each member state to decide and agree what role they take in any military response. No member state is compelled to take part in such operations.

284. Could NATO membership commit Scotland to taking part in military operations that it did not agree with?

No. It is for each member state to decide and agree what role they take in any military operation.

285. Will NATO membership make it more difficult to secure the removal of Trident?

The removal of Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland will require negotiation with Westminster and liaison with NATO. But the aim of the current Scottish Government is clear - to secure the speediest safe removal of Trident from Scotland and to join the 20 (of 28) countries who are members of NATO without either possessing or hosting nuclear weapons.

We believe that a non-nuclear independent Scotland operating within NATO will be preferable, to the UK, NATO, and our other neighbours and allies, to a non-nuclear Scotland outside of the alliance.

286. How long will it take to join NATO?

Following a vote for independence in 2014, Scotland will notify NATO of its intention to become a member of the alliance in order to begin negotiations for Scotland's transition to becoming an independent member of the alliance.

It will be for NATO to confirm the detailed arrangements and timetable for Scotland's transition towards membership as an independent country.

287. Have there been discussions with NATO about Scotland's membership?

Yes. The Scottish Government has opened contact with NATO regarding an independent Scotland's membership of the organisation.

Foreign Policy and Representation

288. How would an independent Scotland represent itself internationally through embassies and consulates?

An independent Scotland's overseas network will be comparable to that of other nations of a similar size. The current Scottish Government's proposed overseas representation for an independent Scotland is set out in Chapter 6. A crucial part of the role of our overseas offices will be to look for opportunities to promote Scottish goods and services directly. The Team Scotland approach will be built on and with independence our government departments, the private sector and our diplomatic missions will work together to promote Scotland.

289. Will diplomatic missions be shared between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK?

An independent Scotland will be represented overseas by a network which works in the national interests of Scotland. The current Scottish Government is open to the sharing of services and facilities with the rest of the UK or with other countries where this is of mutual benefit. Such arrangements already exist between the UK and other nations, such as Canada.

290. Would an independent Scotland recruit staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Scottish foreign and diplomatic service?

The Scottish Government will ensure that all its services are provided by qualified staff, who may have a range of backgrounds and experience. Recruitment opportunities may arise from existing open recruitment policies and the possibility of inward transfers, where that is appropriate.

291. What size would the foreign and diplomatic service be in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government estimates the running costs of its initial proposed network of 70 to 90 overseas offices at £90-120 million. This is expected to be below Scotland's population share of the UK's total expenditure on overseas representation in 2016/17. Scotland would also be entitled to a fair share of the value of assets.

292. How would an independent Scotland's diplomatic interests be represented in the period before it established its own diplomatic missions?

The existing Scottish Development International (SDI) network of 27 overseas offices provides a firm foundation for independent Scottish international representation. Over the past five years SDI has increased Scotland's presence in emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia. The current Scottish Government proposes that the existing SDI network remains following independence, co-locating with the new diplomatic and consular services. Where SDI is currently located in a country but not in its capital city, a Scottish embassy or political mission would be established to supplement and complement the work of the trade offices.

293. When will an independent Scotland have its own diplomatic missions up and running?

The Scottish Government intends that Scotland will have an overseas network in place from day one of independence, building on our existing overseas offices and an appropriate share of existing UK assets.

294. How will I get help abroad if I am Scottish? If I get stuck in Spain, will you rescue me?

An independent Scotland will establish a network of overseas offices which will provide the same range of support and assistance to Scots abroad as currently provided by the UK. In addition, as EU citizens, Scots will have the right to request consular assistance from all other EU member states, including the UK.

295. Under Scottish Government proposals to allow dual nationality, would people living in Scotland claiming dual Scottish/British nationality be allowed to call on the support of British embassies and consulates abroad?

As EU citizens, Scots would have the right to request consular assistance from all other member states, including the UK. If travelling on their British passport, people with dual nationality would be entitled to call on the support of the British embassy or consulate, just as a person with dual Scottish and Irish citizenship could choose to travel on their Irish passport and request assistance from the Irish embassy or consulate.

International Development

296. How much will an independent Scotland spend on international development?

This is currently decided at Westminster and Scotland contributes to this spending through taxation. In an independent Scotland it will be decided by governments elected by the people of Scotland.

The current Scottish Government is committed to spending 0.7 per cent Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance. The current Scottish Government also proposes to bring forward legislation to enshrine this as a binding target. Over the longer-term, we would work towards spending 1 per cent of GNI on aid.

297. How could an independent Scotland afford that level of funding for international development? Is this an affordable commitment?

This is one of the immediate priorities of the current Scottish Government for the first budget of an independent Scotland - the budget priorities of the current Government, and the proposed actions to raise revenue and reduce spending to support these priorities, are set out in Part 2 of this document. To put it in context, meeting our international aid obligation of 0.7 per cent of GNI will amount to just 70p out of every £100 of GNI. As well as the existing £9 million Scottish Government aid budget, Scottish taxes currently contribute to the UK international aid budget. The Westminster Government has committed to meet the target of 0.7 per cent of GNI within this financial year.

The 0.7 per cent target is calculated as a percentage of a country's GNI, therefore the size of the country is not relevant - the target is to spend an appropriate share of that GNI. As a country's economy becomes richer or poorer, so its contribution rises or falls.

298. What impact will independence have on existing Department for International Development programmes?

The Scottish Government intends to work with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) to ensure that there is a smooth transition phase for programmes on the ground in developing countries. There will be continued funding support, where appropriate, to those DFID programmes which span the independence period to avoid any disruption to those programmes and their recipients. International Development is just one of the areas where future Scottish and Westminster governments can choose to work together to complement each other's activity. Scotland is likely to also be a significant donor to multilateral organisations reflecting similar priorities as the UK in this area.

299. How can the Scottish Government justify spending money on international development - why aren't we spending this money at home?

In 2012, an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of five - 18,000 a day - died from mostly preventable diseases. This huge preventable loss of life remains an urgent global problem which must be taken seriously.

Scotland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and one of the purposes of independence is to make sure that wealth works better for the people who live here. However, we also recognise our wider international responsibilities and believe that investment in development internationally is the right thing to do.

300. At the moment, the Scottish Government's international development funding goes directly to Scottish-based organisations and not directly to governments. Will this change if Scotland becomes independent?

It is the view of the current Scottish Government that funding through civil society should remain a dominant feature of future Scottish development programmes.

301. To which countries would an independent Scotland provide international development funding?

These would be decisions for governments elected by the people of Scotland.

The current Scottish Government would consider this as we approach independence, with the Human Development Index as a central criterion in that decision-making process. We expect a geographically focussed aid policy in line with developing best practice and will develop open and objective criteria for the selection of partner countries. Ultimately, these decisions will be for the government of the day, but we hope to secure a degree of consensus regarding the criteria used to select partner countries to ensure stable and effective long-term partnerships with a small number of countries.

302. Will an independent Scotland focus on gender equality as part of international development?

Women and girls make up the majority of the world's poor and bear a disproportionate share of the burden of poverty and responsibility for caring for others. This Government is doing everything we can to promote equality in Scotland and we would want an independent Scotland's international policies to do the same.

303. How will the focus on gender equality work in practice?

Gender equality and the empowerment of women are United Nations Millennium Development Goals in their own right. They are also critical to the delivery of other key development goals including in education and health. It would therefore be right for an independent Scotland to put gender equality at the heart of its development work.

The present Scottish Government would ensure that policies put in place will be in line with international commitments and recognised good practice on gender equality.

304. How will Scottish people know that money being spent overseas by the Scottish Government is making an impact?

Scottish Governments will report to the Scottish Parliament regularly on Scotland's development impact.

305. How will we know that the 'Do No Harm' approach is being implemented?

To provide policy coherence and as an expression of the values driving our foreign policy, we propose that Scottish Government policies, on all issues, will do no harm to developing countries, will not undermine our international development aims and will ideally contribute to international development success.

This Government is committed to reporting to the Scottish Parliament on a regular basis on Scotland's development impact, including on our commitment to deliver a 'Do No Harm' approach.

Defence and Security

306. What opportunities will independence bring to Scotland in terms of defence and security?

Independence will enable Scotland to:

  • set its own defence and security budget and maintain strong conventional defence forces to protect its people, territory, seas, airspace and national interests
  • decide, with appropriate democratic oversight and respect for international law, the circumstances in which its forces are deployed overseas
  • work closely with its partners - including the rest of the UK - to address global issues and contribute to international peace-keeping
  • build a security and intelligence agency that is fit for purpose in the 21st century and is proportionate to, and reflects a full strategic assessment of, Scotland's needs
  • legislate for, control, and oversee national security arrangements in Scotland, ensuring the constitutional rights of the Scottish people

The Scottish Government is committed to working closely with our neighbours - especially our partners across the British Isles, our trading partners, through bilateral relations with other nations and in key international institutions such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.

307. What security risks would an independent Scotland face?

Threats that countries face in the modern world tend to be international in nature. In common with other countries, an independent Scotland will require to work with partners to protect itself against international terrorism, cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism, threats that come from global instability and failed states, and international serious organised crime. Scotland will be able to build on the strong relationships we already have to promote security at home and abroad.

308. What will Scotland's overall defence and security policy be?

The Scottish Government's policy is for an independent Scotland to have defence and security capabilities that will, firstly, secure our territory, seas and airspace, our people and our national interests.

In light of Scotland's geography and interests, we will also have the opportunity to develop niche capabilities to support humanitarian operations, search and rescue, and other specialist land or maritime functions. These niche capabilities will support Scotland's own defence needs and also contribute to international partnerships and wider global efforts to secure peace and security.

The Scottish Government proposes to create Scotland's own domestic security and intelligence machinery sitting alongside our police service. This will see Scotland's national security arrangements being legislated for, controlled, and overseen in Scotland for the first time.

309. Can an independent Scotland afford appropriate defence and security capabilities?

These capabilities can be delivered from our planned annual defence and security budget of £2.5 billion. Comparable countries in Europe generally spend around 1.5 per cent of GDP on defence. In 2011/12, 1.5 per cent of Scotland's GDP was around £2.3 billion. An independent Scotland will have the right forces to defend the country properly and secure us against any threat we meet, working with our partners and allies.

With independence, Scotland will actually save on defence spending. Current UK defence policy - including spending on Trident - will cost the Scottish taxpayer £3 billion a year by 2016/17, although considerably less than this is actually spent in Scotland by Westminster.

310. What do you expect the implications will be for the rest of the UK in terms of defence and security?

It will be in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK to continue to work closely together to ensure the security of both countries. The UK will have a serious security partner in Scotland with effective capabilities meeting Scotland's needs and playing its part within NATO.

311. What defence and security assets would an independent Scotland look to inherit during independence negotiations?

Scotland and the rest of the UK will negotiate to ensure the proper defence and security of both countries from the date of independence. It will be in both countries' interests that this should be the basis of a constructive and enduring partnership in the months and years that follow.

The priority will be for Scotland to secure the land, air and maritime capabilities - personnel and assets - that are required to protect our territory, people and national interests. This will include negotiations on a number of assets that are currently based in Scotland, as well as negotiation on capabilities that are located elsewhere, such as surface ships, air transport and other land, air and maritime equipment and expertise. The assets that the Scottish Government proposes an independent Scotland's army, navy, air and special forces will have are set out in Chapter 6.

Scotland has invested, as part of the UK, in significant intelligence-gathering capabilities and would expect that investment to be recognised in the arrangements that will be developed.

Nuclear weapons and disarmament

312. Will an independent Scotland sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)?

Yes. It is the present Scottish Government's priority, as a good global citizen, to support and promote nuclear disarmament. That is the right thing for any responsible government to do.

We look forward to the opportunity for Scotland to add our name to those states that have ratified the Treaty, and to take forward our obligations in creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

313. Would you sign/ratify the NPT if/while Trident nuclear weapons were still based at Faslane?

Yes. We have made a clear commitment to secure the speediest safe withdrawal of Trident from Scotland following independence.

Scotland's ratification of the NPT will not rely on the detailed arrangements for the withdrawal of Trident.

314. Would the removal of Trident from Scotland result in its decommissioning?

It is the Scottish Government's preference to see Trident decommissioned, but that will be a matter for the government of the rest of the UK.

315. How long will it take to remove Trident from Scotland and who will bear the cost?

Nuclear weapons have been based in Scotland for almost half a century, despite the long-standing majority opposition of the people of Scotland. In addition, Scottish taxpayer contributions to Trident spending could support many more public sector jobs in Scotland than the weapons system currently brings to the Clyde, and every year therefore Scotland loses out because of the continuance of Trident nuclear weapons.

The detailed process and timetable for removal would be a priority for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the government of the rest of the UK. However, following a vote for independence, we would make early agreement on removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence.

Defence Forces in an Independent Scotland

316. Will Scotland have its own army, navy and air force?

Yes. Scotland will have its own military forces - army, navy and air force. We are committed to an independent Scotland also sharing capability with other countries through membership of NATO and other defence co-operation agreements.

317. What size would defence forces be in an independent Scotland?

Decisions on the size of the armed forces in an independent Scotland will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland. The current Scottish Government believes that armed forces should build to a total of 15,000 service personnel with a reserve of 5,000 over the first 10 years of independence. The details of our proposals are set out in Chapter 6.

318. What tasks will Scottish defence forces be expected to undertake?

Under the Scottish Government's proposals, the main tasks for Scottish defence forces, working with other parts of government and its international partners, will be:

  • securing Scotland's borders, land, airspace and sea, deterring attacks and protecting our citizens and assets from threat
  • protecting Scotland's national interests and economic well being, alongside the key values and underlying principles that support Scottish society and our way of life. This task would include supporting other parts of government when necessary, for example in case of natural disasters or other national emergencies
  • contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law, democratic values, international peace and security and Scotland's national interests as a good global citizen

319. Wouldn't an independent Scotland's defence forces be less sophisticated than at present?

No. Independence will give Scotland the opportunity to develop specific defence capabilities that better meet Scotland's needs and circumstances. In some areas that could mean developing capabilities that the UK currently does not have, such as maritime patrol aircraft. In other instances there are capabilities that the UK has now that Scotland would neither need nor want - such as nuclear weapons.

320. What army will an independent Scotland have?

The Scottish Government proposes that Scotland will have land forces incorporating infantry, light-armoured reconnaissance, and marine units, together with an army HQ function and supporting engineering, aviation, logistics and medical units. A special forces unit will also be established. Over time further capacity will be developed which can contribute to international operations. Full details are set out in Chapter 6.

321. What air force will an independent Scotland have?

Under the Scottish Government's proposals, Scotland will have an air force that can monitor and protect Scotland's airspace and provide transport and other support to its other armed services. Over time, capabilities will be developed that can contribute to international operations in partnership with its allies. Full details are set out in Chapter 6.

322. Would an independent Scotland be able to maintain sophisticated air defence capabilities, as expected by NATO partners?

Yes. Other countries of a similar size to Scotland support capable fast jets for air defence. For example, all of the Nordic countries, plus others countries such as Belgium, maintain fast jets for air defence.

Scotland has fully contributed to the development of the UK's air defence capability, which is embedded in wider NATO arrangements. Scotland will therefore inherit aspects of this resource as part of the post-referendum negotiation process. It will continue to be in the interests of the rest of the UK and an independent Scotland to work closely together on air defence, within NATO.

323. Where will Scotland's air force be based?

Given that the transfer of Typhoons from Leuchars will have been largely completed before the referendum, Lossiemouth will continue to be a main operating base for fast jet aircraft and Scotland's air policing capability. The Scottish Government will negotiate with Westminster to establish the joint facilities it would be in the interests of both countries to maintain there.

324. What navy will an independent Scotland have?

Scotland is a nation with strong interests in its maritime environment and will need capabilities to monitor and protect our maritime interests. Over time, Scotland will also be able to develop additional capabilities that will enable us to contribute to international operations in partnership with allies, as other small nations do.

We plan that initial capabilities, which we will negotiate from within Scotland's share of defence assets, will include two Type 23 frigates. We will also seek to secure smaller offshore patrol vessels and a number of inshore fast patrol boats. Full details are set out in Chapter 6.

This Scottish Government will prioritise the procurement of four new frigates, preferably through joint procurement with the rest of the UK. Two of these will be ordered in the first parliamentary term of independence and when built will bring the number of frigates in the Scottish Navy to four (the two new frigates as well as the inherited Type 23s). The Scottish Government believes that is the appropriate number of frigates in the longer term, and will order the further two frigates in time to replace the Type 23s when they are retired from service.

325. What special forces will an independent Scotland have?

An independent Scotland could have special forces able to contribute fully to the maintenance of security. We aim to work closely with allies to maintain relevant capabilities. Scotland has a long tradition of contribution to the UK's special forces on which to build and we can also see from the very capable forces developed by other small countries that it is entirely possible for countries of Scotland's size to maintain the special forces that it requires. Norway is particularly notable for the high reputation of its special forces. It is our intention to have in place, as a priority and from the point of independence, a core special forces unit which will be built upon over time.

326. Where will Scottish defence forces be based?

This Government's intention is that all of the main defence bases inherited at the point of independence will be retained as they will, following a transitional period, be needed by Scotland's defence forces.

The current Scottish Government will also be open to discussion with the Westminster Government about continued arrangements for shared basing where that is in the joint interests of both countries.

327. What naval vessels will be based at Faslane in an independent Scotland?

We plan that Faslane will be an independent Scotland's main conventional navy base, and will also be home to the HQ for the navy and the Joint Forces HQ for all of Scotland's armed forces.

As a navy base, Faslane will be the main base for Scotland's major naval vessels. This will be an improvement as no major surface ships are currently stationed in Scotland. Full details of our proposal for Scotland's naval capabilities are set out in Chapter 6.

328. Will the armament depot at Coulport remain?

Our commitment is to securing the earliest safe withdrawal of Trident from an independent Scotland. This includes the removal of all elements of the current system, including the missiles and warheads which are stored for the Vanguard submarine fleet at Coulport.

329. Would an independent Scotland continue to allow Faslane to host non-nuclear armed Royal Navy submarines, such as the Astute and Trafalgar, which are nuclear-powered?

Our priority for Faslane will be to ensure the speediest and safest possible transition to its future as a conventional naval base serving the defence needs of an independent Scotland. This transition will require detailed discussion with the Government of the rest of the UK on a range of issues.

The Scottish Government strongly favours a conventional approach to Scotland's defence, with Faslane being Scotland's main conventional naval base. We do not see the continued basing of the Astute or Trafalgar fleets at Faslane, beyond the necessary transition period, to be in Scotland's interests.

The Westminster Government has signalled its intention to locate all of the Royal Navy's submarine fleet at a single base. The current proposal is for this to be HMNB Clyde. In the event of independence, it would be for the rest of the UK to decide whether to relocate its submarine fleet to the Royal Navy submarine base at HMNB Devonport or to another location.

330. What will happen if the Westminster Government does not allow for the transfer of any of its armed forces personnel?

The detailed arrangements for the transfer of military posts and personnel to Scottish control will be subject to agreement between the Scottish and Westminster Governments. The Westminster Government has pledged to respect the result of the referendum and to work constructively with the Scottish Government, in the interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK. That will include working constructively in the interests of armed forces personnel and their families.

It is in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK that the development and transition of both the rest of the UK armed forces and the Scottish armed forces happens smoothly.

331. Would Scots personnel currently serving in UK forces be forced to join the Scottish armed forces?

No. The Scottish Government respects the service of current personnel and will take a responsible approach to the transfer of personnel to Scottish defence forces.

In the event of a vote for independence, the detailed arrangements for the transfer of military posts and personnel to Scottish control will be subject to agreement with the rest of the UK. In relation to the army, the Scottish Government's starting point in those negotiations will be the transfer of those units mainly recruited in Scotland. We also believe that current personnel affected by these changes should be given a choice on the armed forces in which they wish to serve.

332. What about non-Scots currently serving in 'Scottish units'?

We believe that serving personnel should have a choice over the armed forces in which they serve.

The Scottish Government greatly respects all of those who serve in the armed forces and we demonstrate that commitment through the way we work to support armed forces communities in Scotland - work recognised as second to none in the UK. Just as individuals from many different nationalities serve in UK armed forces, so too would this Scottish Government welcome current UK service personnel into the future defence forces of an independent Scotland.

333. Will a Scottish defence force be attractive to both current and potential future personnel?

Scotland has a fine and longstanding tradition of providing more than its proportionate share of personnel to the UK armed forces.

Given the uncertainty that Westminster is currently creating for its armed forces personnel, it is likely that many may choose the new opportunities that Scottish defence forces will bring. Indeed, smaller armed forces - with a range of niche capabilities such as those that an independent Scotland could offer - will provide better career opportunities than those available in a larger military that is in a process of contraction. That will be enhanced by the commitment that this Scottish Government has already made that service personnel should not face compulsory redundancy during the term of their service contract.

334. What will the terms and conditions of Scotland's armed forces be?

This Scottish Government intends to offer terms and conditions at least as good as those offered by the UK currently. In addition, the current Scottish Government, unlike Westminster, has made the commitment that no service personnel should be faced with compulsory redundancy during the term of their service contract.

335. Will being independent protect Scottish defence jobs?

Currently just 7.5 per cent of UK-based MoD personnel - both military and civilian - are based in Scotland, which is less than Scotland's 8.4 per cent share of the UK population. Over the first ten years of independence this Scottish Government proposes that numbers will rise from around 11,310 regular service personnel currently based in Scotland to 15,000.

In recent history, there has been a disproportionate reduction of defence jobs in Scotland - for example, the number of military and civilian MoD personnel in Scotland has dropped by around 38 per cent since 2000, compared with a fall of just 24 per cent across the UK.

While the fundamental basis for defence and security policy must be defence and security requirements, it is legitimate to maximise the economic impact of defence spending. With regard to defence procurement, recent figures confirm that, for procurement exempt from EU competition laws, Scotland benefits by considerably less than its population share. Between 2007/08 and 2011/12, Scotland received £3.17 billion out of £60 billion of these UK defence contracts. Had Scotland benefitted in line with its population share, it would have received approximately. £5.04 billion over the period. As a result, Scotland received approximately £1.9 billion less than its estimated population share.

The Scottish Government expects that the proportion of the budget allocated for procurement of single use military equipment will be at least equivalent to that currently allocated by the Westminster Government (14 per cent in 2012/13).

336. Will current MoD jobs be secure in an independent Scotland?

Yes. The MoD employs 15,340 people in Scotland (around 11,310 service and 4,020 civilian personnel). However, between 2000 and 2013 numbers employed by the MoD in Scotland have fallen disproportionately - by around 38 per cent, compared to just 24 per cent across the UK.

The MoD is currently failing to meet the commitment it made in 2011 to increase the military footprint in Scotland and successive Westminster governments have reduced the number of defence jobs in Scotland.

An independent Scotland will be better able to prioritise its defence capabilities, to secure jobs in Scotland and to ensure sustainable and appropriate defence spending levels.

337. How will an independent Scotland support employment levels similar to those currently available at Faslane?

There are currently 6,700 military and civilian personnel at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, Faslane and Coulport. Retaining Faslane as a fully operational naval base, with the addition of a Joint Forces HQ, will sustain existing military personnel numbers at the base. Significant civilian posts will also be needed to support these operations and, there will be construction work required to reshape Faslane to the needs of conventional Scottish defence forces.

338. Will there be Ministry of Defence civilian job losses in Scotland as a result of Scotland becoming independent?

No. The current Scottish Government proposes to work with the Westminster Government to preserve continuity of employment for all staff either by way of transfer to the Scottish Government or through continued employment with the Westminster Government.

The current Scottish Government has a strong record of valuing public services in Scotland and is operating a policy of no compulsory redundancies within the public sector for which it currently has devolved responsibility. The Westminster Government has not made any similar commitment within its own areas of responsibility.

Between 2000 and 2013 Scotland saw a disproportionate decline in the number of MoD civilian staff based here - down from 9,600 to 4,020. That represents a loss of just under 60 per cent.

Impact of Defence and Security Policies on Defence Industry

339. How will defence policies be used to help economic growth in an independent Scotland?

The priority for defence procurement will be to ensure Scotland's security. However, like all countries, Scotland will get the best deal on any defence requirements by competing for contracts in both domestic and export markets.

Scotland does not currently get value for money in defence procurement as part of the UK. For example, for defence work awarded within the UK for reasons of national security, Westminster Government statistics show that the MoD has committed just £3.17 billion to Scotland of a total UK spend of £60 billion over the five years to 2011/12 - a shortfall of about £1.9 billion on what would have been an appropriate share.

340. Will Scottish Governments in an independent Scotland be able to protect defence industry jobs?

Yes. Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government and its agencies Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Development International will continue to support Scotland's indigenous defence industries in existing, new and emerging markets.

We plan to make sure we have all of the defence capabilities we need. Our policy is for Scotland to work in partnership, build the necessary alliances and work with international agencies - such as the NATO 'Smart Defence Initiative' - which will allow Scotland to align our defence requirements with the collective needs and priorities of NATO allies.

The Scottish Government expects that the proportion of the budget allocated for procurement of single use military equipment will be at least equivalent to that currently allocated by the Westminster Government (14 per cent in 2012/13).

In addition, many of our defence sector companies are already successfully competing in international markets and will continue to grow their business in their traditional areas of expertise and in developing areas of business. For example, whilst refit and ship repair is still core work for Babcock Rosyth, the company is currently enhancing its position within the offshore energy and marine services markets, such as the £30 million order that BP placed for 70 subsea structures in January 2013.

The Scotland Institute's paper on 'Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland' outlines key areas in which the Scottish Government can help the diverse defence industries in Scotland to grow, including through investment in R&D, support for our niche strengths in high technology areas such as defence electronics, and science and innovation funding to maintain our global reputation.

341. Will Scottish shipyards and other defence sectors have Scottish defence contracts to bid for?

Yes. If in government in an independent Scotland, we will prioritise the procurement of four new frigates, preferably through joint procurement with the rest of the UK. Two of these will be ordered in the first parliamentary term of independence and when built will bring the number of frigates in the Scottish Navy to four (the two new frigates as well as the inherited Type 23s). The Scottish Government believes that is the appropriate number of frigates in the longer term, and will order the further two frigates in time to replace the Type 23s when they are retired from service.

Scotland's shipyards are amongst the most competitive and technologically advanced in the world. The MoD recognised this by awarding BAE Systems in Glasgow the £127 million contract to work on the initial design for the Type 26.

Defence companies are used to working within changing international parameters, and will continue to do so within an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government's plans for a transition to independence aim to ensure the minimum of disruption, however, while new departments, regulatory frameworks and systems are put in place.

342. What would be the impact of independence on existing MoD contracts awarded to Scottish based companies?

Independence will not impact on existing contracts, as contracts are offered to companies, not countries. Companies have been awarded contracts on the basis of their ability to deliver quality products within required timescales and budgets. The MoD places contracts with companies in Korea - there is no reason that it would not do so with companies in Scotland.

343. Could Scottish companies bid for MoD contracts after independence?

Scottish companies will be able to bid for any MoD contracts that are put out to competitive tender so UK military orders could, and should, still come to Scotland. Scotland's indigenous and global companies have the expertise to win UK and worldwide orders. There is also nothing in article 346 that would prevent the Westminster Government placing contracts exempt from EU Procurement rules in Scotland.

344. What would an independent Scottish Government do to support Scottish companies to win contracts in export markets?

Scottish shipyards have proved time and again that they have the skills, expertise and flexibility to build and maintain complex warships for the international market. We aim to increase Scottish opportunities and jobs through independence. There is no reason that Scotland would not attract a healthy order book.

Defence companies are strongly supported in Scotland: Scottish Enterprise provides funding for a great number of development programmes, and Scottish Development International provides targeted product support into new and emerging markets. Independence would not change this.

Many partners use manufacturing and design from other countries. For example, shipbuilders across Europe often receive orders from foreign countries - French companies make ships for Russia; a UK company has made frigates for Malaysia; Westminster has recently given a contract for MoD vessels to a Korean company. This Government's priority is to make sure that any company based in Scotland can compete in global defence markets.

345. How will Scotland develop its own national security regulations?

Defence is among the most regulated of all industrial sectors, with security an important element. The Scottish Government is committed to working with NATO, the EU and the United States on key issues relating to intelligence, technologies and military/industry relations through a period of transition. We will negotiate on behalf of the interests of Scotland's companies to ensure arrangements are in place which support them in winning defence contracts.

346. Will Scottish-based companies still be able to work on secure defence contracts (the X List)?

There are many Scottish-owned or based companies that have a long track record of working with the MoD on sensitive contracts and are already designated as 'List X' sites. This means that they have the necessary security clearance to hold information with a security marking of confidential or above.

The Scottish Government will negotiate with the Westminster Government to ensure that these arrangements continue and enable work to continue on contracts vital to the security of the Scotland and the rest of the UK.

347. What other departments would Scotland require to support defence industries?

Scotland's defence companies spend a great deal on research and development (R&D), as would be expected in a country known for its innovation and engineering excellence. To support this work we intend that the government of an independent Scotland will take forward work currently undertaken at a UK level to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of Scotland, including independent advice on our R&D programmes.

Justice, Security and Home Affairs

348. Will Scotland replicate the three UK Security and Intelligence Agencies (MI5, MI6 and GCHQ)?

No. Scotland will need significant independent security and intelligence capacity to ensure its security. Independence offers an opportunity to build a new model for such work, that is fit for the 21st century and provides a proportionate means of ensuring Scotland's national security.

On independence, the Scottish Government will set up a single security and intelligence agency for Scotland. The purpose of the agency will be set out in legislation, and will include the requirement to work with partners to ensure Scotland's national security. Setting up the new body will allow us to do things differently, unconstrained by historical structures and precedent. We do not propose to replicate the current UK security and intelligence agencies (the Security Service, or MI5; the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6; and GCHQ), although Scotland will continue to work very closely with them to ensure the security of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

349. Will Scotland be able to protect itself against terrorist attacks?

Yes. Scotland will have the ability to protect our citizens as other independent countries do.

The primary responsibility of government is to ensure the security of its citizens and to protect them, their property and way of life against threats. An independent Scotland will have national security arrangements that reflect Scotland's specific needs and values, recognising the risks and threats we face. It will be based on a full review of security requirements and on a regular assessment of threats.

350. Would an independent Scotland present an access route to the rest of the UK for crime and terrorism?

No. Scotland already plays an active part in the UK Counter Terrorism Strategy and, given that responsibility for policing and justice is already devolved to the Scottish Parliament, extensive cross-border co-operation on security is already a reality. The effectiveness of these arrangements was seen in the co-operation between Scottish police forces, the Security Service and the Metropolitan Police Service after the Glasgow Airport bombing. It will be in the mutual interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK to ensure that this cross-border co-operation continues following independence, supported by Police Scotland and a Scottish security and intelligence agency.

Under our proposals, an independent Scotland will remain part of the Common Travel Area with the rest of the UK and Ireland. As part of this, Scotland will maintain robust visa and immigration controls which will contribute to securing the external border against serious organised crime and terrorism. The arrangements to combat those seeking to exploit Scotland's ports are already delivered by Police Scotland.

351. How will an independent Scotland ensure it has the capacity and technology required to comprehensively protect Scottish interests at home and abroad?

An independent Scotland will have security arrangements that are proportionate, fit for purpose, and reflect a full strategic assessment of Scotland's needs and the threats Scotland may face, in the same way as comparable nations. Scotland will have an independent security and intelligence agency which will work closely with Police Scotland and with the rest of the UK to share intelligence and co-ordinate responses to threats.

352. Will an independent Scotland benefit from shared intelligence from allies such as the rest of the UK or the USA?

It will be in the interests of the rest of UK and other partners to work closely with Scotland on security matters, including the sharing of intelligence.

Membership of Schengen, the Common Travel Area and Port Controls

353. Will an independent Scotland remain in the Common Travel Area with the rest of the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands?

Yes, that is the intention of the Scottish Government. The Common Travel Area has existed since the 1920s and allows freedom of movement for nationals of the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It will be in the interests of all partners for an independent Scotland to remain in the Common Travel Area.

354. Will the rest of the UK and Ireland want to remain in the Common Travel Area with Scotland?

It will be in their overriding interests to do so. Erecting border controls with Scotland would be inconvenient for all Common Travel Area partners, including Scotland and the rest of the UK, and would not be in the interests of any party. Our shared history, culture and borders make the Common Travel Area of benefit to all of the territories within it.

355. Could an independent Scotland be in the Common Travel Area and have different immigration policies?

Yes. Ireland currently operates a different immigration system to the UK and this has not affected the Common Travel Area agreement. For example, Ireland grants "green cards", which the UK does not, and the UK has a points based system which Ireland does not. Far from hindering the Common Travel Area, the UK and Ireland issued a joint statement earlier this year committing to the development of a Common Travel Area visa.

356. Would an independent Scotland be forced to join the Schengen Agreement?

No. The arguments for Scotland being out of Schengen and remaining in the Common Travel Area with the rest of the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are based on valid practical considerations of geography and working arrangements that predate the EU and Schengen.

357. How would Common Travel Area policy be agreed with the rest of the UK?

Maintaining the Common Travel Area is in the interests of all current members and agreement would be reached as part of negotiations with the rest of the UK.

Immigration

358. What will independence mean for immigration in Scotland?

Independence will enable Scotland to build a fair, robust and secure immigration system that meets our own social, economic and demographic needs.

359. What will an independent Scotland's policy be on immigration? How will it be different from the rest of the UK?

Scotland's differing demographic and migration needs mean that the current UK immigration system has not supported Scotland's migration priorities. The current Westminster approach is strongly focused on reducing the overall numbers of migrants and introducing number caps for certain categories of skilled individuals.

With independence, each of these decisions would, in future, be for Scottish governments, with policy choices taken on the basis of Scotland's needs and priorities.

For non-EU nationals, independence will enable us to develop and operate a controlled, transparent and efficient immigration system that best meets Scotland's needs and supports our future growth. The current Scottish Government will take forward a points-based approach targeted at particular Scottish needs.

A particular issue for Scotland is the post-study work visa. There are more than 45,000 international students from every corner of the world studying in Scotland, bringing important investment, diversity and welcome expertise to Scotland. The current Scottish Government plans to reintroduce the post-study work visa.

We plan also to lower the current financial maintenance thresholds and minimum salary levels for entry to better align them with Scottish average wages and cost of living. This will open up greater opportunities for key skilled individuals from overseas who could play important roles in our society and economy, filling vital vacancies in individual businesses.

Our detailed proposals on immigration are set out in Chapter 7.

360. I am living in Scotland on a UK visa, what would happen to me at day one of independence? Would I need to get a Scottish visa straight away?

All those legally in Scotland at independence will be able to remain in Scotland under the terms of their existing visa or entry. When their visa expires they will be expected to leave Scotland (and the rest of the UK) or apply for a new visa or extension under Scottish immigration rules.

361. Do you know how many immigrants would come to Scotland after independence and how would Scotland control this? Would there be a cap on the number of migrants who can come to Scotland?

We plan that an independent Scotland will introduce a controlled immigration system to meet our own economic, social and demographic priorities and needs. Each individual who wishes to come to Scotland to work, study or live will have to meet a set of reasonable and fair requirements to gain entry or approval to remain in Scotland. If there are higher than required numbers of non-European Economic Area/Swiss migrants entering Scotland, then this can be addressed through the points-based system using targeted changes, rather than a cap.

362. Is there a danger that those who have been denied permission to stay in the rest of the UK because of their stricter policies would move to Scotland?

Under our proposals for independence, Scotland will operate its own visa system. Therefore anyone who is subject to immigration controls and denied permission to stay in the rest of the UK will have to apply for a visa to enter Scotland and their application would be assessed under Scottish immigration rules. They would have no automatic right to move to Scotland.

363. Do immigrants put a strain on public services?

Evidence suggests that migrants overwhelmingly pay their way in terms of public services and make a positive financial contribution.

The Scottish Government's policies are designed to ensure an appropriate level of immigration based on economic needs.

364. How will an independent Scotland's policy on immigration impact on the diversity of Scotland as a nation?

Scotland values our diverse ethnic minority communities, the contribution they make and the important role they play in enriching Scotland socially, culturally and economically.

Healthy population growth is essential for Scotland's economy. The main contributor to our population growth is from migrants who choose to make Scotland their home.

365. Will increased immigration break down community cohesion?

No. Scotland is already a welcoming society that is stronger for being a culturally rich and diverse nation and will continue to be so.

366. How will immigration rules at ports be enforced in an independent Scotland?

Under our proposals, criminal activity at ports of entry to Scotland, whether it is related to immigration, customs offences or organised crime will be dealt with in a timely and appropriate fashion by a Scottish Borders and Migration Service. Due process will be followed to detect, investigate and deal with all criminal and immigration matters at ports of entry.

Asylum

367. What will independence mean for asylum policy in Scotland?

As a nation playing a socially responsible role in the world, an independent Scotland will continue to provide a place of safety for those seeking asylum. Asylum is granted to those fleeing persecution or serious harm in their own country and in need of international protection.

Asylum is a separate issue from immigration. The current Scottish Government proposes that an independent Scotland will put in place an independent asylum agency. It will handle asylum applications from the initial submission, throughout the assessment process and make the decision on whether to grant refugee status to an individual.

The opportunity of independence will also allow Scotland to adopt a new humane approach to asylum seekers and refugees in line with our values and commitment to upholding internationally recognised human rights.

The new powers Scotland will gain at independence around equal opportunities, including race equality and anti-discrimination will be important in supporting Scotland's ambition to be a progressive, welcoming and inclusive state.

368. What makes asylum seekers different from other migrants that come to Scotland?

Migrants apply for visas to come to Scotland to work, study or to join family members here. They make a decision to move to Scotland and have to show that they have sufficient resources to support themselves and their family while they are here.

Asylum seekers are fleeing persecution or serious harm in their own country. They often arrive in the country in which they claim asylum by chance and with very little forethought or preparation. Scotland will play a responsible role as a good global citizen, supporting vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

369. Will an independent Scotland attract more asylum seekers than the rest of the UK?

There is no reason why this would be the case. Scotland will play a responsible role as a good global citizen, supporting vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

There is no empirical evidence to suggest that the reception conditions provided for asylum seekers constitute a "pull factor" or an incentive to seek protection in a particular country.

370. Will failed asylum seekers be detained?

Some people will fail any asylum process and there need to be arrangements in place to deal with those people with fairness and compassion. There is therefore no need to detain people just because their claim has been unsuccessful and they are awaiting removal. Detention by default, along with the practice of dawn raids, would not form part of the current Scottish Government's proposed approach to asylum.

Failed asylum seekers who represent a danger to the public need to be accommodated securely whilst steps are taken to remove them, but this should be addressed in other ways. Prison will be a legitimate alternative in some, though very few, cases - for example where a criminal offence has been committed.

371. Will failed asylum seekers be forcibly removed?

Our intention is to encourage voluntary return for failed asylum seekers wherever possible. However, we accept that there will be a need for some forced removal. Such operations will be undertaken in a sensitive and compassionate manner. There will be an end to dawn raids and a commitment not to forcibly remove vulnerable asylum seekers, such as young children or heavily pregnant women.

Citizenship

372. What will independence mean for citizenship in Scotland?

Our proposal is that on day one of independence, all British citizens who live in Scotland and all British citizens born in Scotland but residing elsewhere would automatically be considered Scottish citizens. Others may be able to apply for citizenship following independence through routes such as citizenship by descent or by naturalisation.

Under these proposals Scotland would not create a barrier to individuals holding Scottish citizenship alongside British or any other citizenship.

373. What would being a Scottish citizen mean and how would I prove that I am a Scottish citizen? Would there be a registration process?

As outlined above, all British citizens who are habitually resident in Scotland at the date of independence and all British citizens born in Scotland but resident elsewhere would automatically be considered a Scottish citizen. There would be no registration required and there are no plans to have a Scottish ID card.

We intend that the rights and responsibilities which accompany Scottish citizenship will be broadly in line with those currently aligned with British citizenship. However, there is no written record of what rights and responsibilities are associated with British citizenship. We would support the inclusion of the rights and responsibilities of Scottish citizens in the permanent written constitution of an independent Scotland. Those rights and responsibilities will reflect the European Convention of Human Rights.

374. What different routes to citizenship will exist under the Scottish Government's proposals and who will qualify for these?

Current Status Scottish Citizenship?
At the date of independence
British citizen habitually resident in Scotland on day one of independence Yes, automatically a Scottish citizen
British citizens born in Scotland but living outside of Scotland on day one of independence Yes, automatically a Scottish citizen
After the date of independence
Child born in Scotland to at least one parent who has Scottish citizenship or indefinite leave to remain at the time of their birth Yes. Automatically a Scottish citizen
Child born outside Scotland to at least one parent who has Scottish citizenship Yes. Automatically a Scottish citizen (the birth must be registered in Scotland to take effect)
British national living outside Scotland with at least one parent who qualifies for Scottish citizenship Can register as a Scottish citizen (will need to provide evidence to substantiate)
Citizens of any country, who have a parent or grandparent who qualifies for Scottish citizenship Can register as a Scottish citizen (will need to provide evidence to substantiate)
Migrants in Scotland legally May apply for naturalisation as a Scottish citizen (subject to meeting good character, residency and any other requirements set out under Scottish immigration law)
Citizens of any country who have spent at least 10 years living in Scotland at any time and have an ongoing connection with Scotland May apply for naturalisation as a Scottish citizen (subject to meeting good character and other requirements set out under Scottish immigration law)

375. Must I be a Scottish citizen? Can I opt out of Scottish citizenship and retain my British citizenship?

Our proposals will allow people to opt out of Scottish citizenship. However, under international law, when setting nationality rules a country has a duty to avoid making people stateless. Therefore, those people who would automatically be considered a Scottish citizen will only be able to opt out if they already hold citizenship of another nation.

British nationality rules will be a matter for the rest of the UK. Should you qualify for British citizenship under the rest of the UK's rules post-independence then you will be able to opt out of Scottish citizenship or hold dual citizenship. Information on how to opt out will be made available before independence. We aim to keep the process simple yet robust.

376. Can I have both Scottish and British citizenship?

Our proposals for citizenship in an independent Scotland are based upon an inclusive model and will include dual citizenship, recognising our shared history with the UK. We will not place obstacles in the way of individuals holding Scottish citizenship alongside British or any other citizenship.

The UK allows dual or multiple citizenship for British citizens. If a British citizen acquires citizenship and a passport of another country, this does not affect their British citizenship, right to hold a British passport or right to live in the UK. It will be for the rest of the UK to decide whether it allows dual UK/Scottish citizenship, but if Westminster decided that Scottish citizens could not also be UK citizens it would be inconsistent with its approach to every other country.

377. As a Scottish citizen could I still visit or live in the rest of the UK easily?

Yes. Scottish citizens will be EU citizens and as such would have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU, including the rest of the UK.

378. Would Scotland's rules be different from British citizenship rules?

The Scottish Government's proposed rules on who is automatically a Scottish citizen are set out in Chapter 7. They will be broadly similar to existing British rules and will be based on residence and parentage.

379. Who would qualify for citizenship by descent?

Citizenship by descent will be open to those whose parent or grandparent was born in Scotland and qualifies, or would have qualified if living, for Scottish citizenship.

There will be a registration process for citizenship by descent and those who wish to register would have to prove their family connection with relevant documentation. Those who successfully claim citizenship by descent will have the same rights and responsibilities as other Scottish citizens, including the right to live and work in Scotland.

Passports

380. What will the rules be on passports in an independent Scotland?

We intend that Scottish citizens will be able to apply for a Scottish passport from the date of independence. Passport eligibility will be aligned with citizenship. If you qualify for Scottish citizenship then you will be entitled to carry a Scottish passport. Scottish passports will meet the standard requirements for EU passports.

381. When can I get my Scottish passport?

We plan that Scottish citizens will be able to apply for Scottish passports from the date of independence.

382. Who will issue my Scottish passport?

The current Scottish Government proposes a shared service agreement with HM Passport Office for a transitional period, with responsibility transferring to a new Scottish passport agency over the course of the first parliament of an independent Scotland.

383. How much would a Scottish passport cost and how long would it last?

Fee scales will be published prior to independence. It is the current Scottish Government's intention that passports in a newly independent Scotland will cost no more than the respective UK passport at that time.

Adult passports will last for 10 years and child passports for five years.

384. Who can have a Scottish passport?

Under our plans, anyone who is a Scottish citizen will be eligible for a Scottish passport.

385. Will I need to have a Scottish passport?

No. You will require a valid passport if you want to travel outside the Common Travel Area (Scotland, the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), but we will not impose a requirement for Scottish citizens to have a Scottish passport - just as there is no requirement now to have a UK passport.

386. What would a Scottish passport look like and would it be valid for travel around the world?

Scottish passports will comply with EU standards for passports. They will look much the same as current UK passports in colour, size, and layout but will be identified as a Scottish passport on the front cover. Scottish passports will be recognised worldwide.

387. I still have a number of years left of my UK passport, can I keep it? Would I be able to renew my UK passport?

The Scottish Government plans to recognise valid UK passports until they expire. As set out above, the Scottish Government intends to allow dual nationality and would not place any obstacles in the way of individuals holding a Scottish passport alongside a UK passport.

Entitlement to UK passports will be a matter for the rest of the UK.

Borders

388. How will an independent Scotland protect its borders from terrorist threats?

The present Scottish Government plans that an independent Scotland will have a Scottish Borders and Migration Service which will be responsible for border control at airports and ports. Our overseas work through the consulate network, such as issuing visas, will help ensure that only those entitled to enter Scotland can do so.

As is currently the case, individuals known to be a threat to Scotland will not be allowed to enter the country. They will either be stopped at the point of application, or on attempting to enter the country. In certain cases the involvement of the police will be necessary, and there will be a key role for the Border Policing Command of Police Scotland in cases of criminality or persons wanted for criminal offences.

The Scottish Government will work with international partners to ensure that those deemed a threat to the security of Scotland are deported following proper investigation and processes. This will be consistent with relevant human rights legislation.

As a member of the EU, Scotland will uphold data and information sharing arrangements in place to contribute to, and benefit from, terrorism prevention processes such as watch lists of persons of interest.

389. Will Scotland have security posts at the land border with England?

No. Erecting border controls with Scotland would be inconvenient for all Common Travel Area partners, including Scotland and the rest of the UK, and will not be in the interests of any party. Our shared history, culture and borders make the Common Travel Area of benefit to all of the territories within it.

As is the case with Ireland in the Common Travel Area currently, Scotland will work with the rest of the UK to establish joint processes to manage the Common Travel Area.

390. How will Scotland police its international border controls at ports and airports?

Following independence, the Scottish Government's proposed Scottish Borders and Migration Service will have responsibility for ensuring that visas are issued appropriately and that only those with a right to enter Scotland can do so. In cases involving criminality there will also be a key role for the Border Policing Command of Police Scotland.

Law and Order

391. What benefits will independence bring for law and order in Scotland?

Scotland already has its own distinct legal system. Our justice system and institutions have a long and proud history. Scotland's justice agencies have demonstrated the benefits of having decisions taken in Scotland relevant to circumstances here.

However, powers over some key justice matters are held by Westminster, including decisions over drug classification, firearms, gambling and road traffic offences. The Westminster also controls how much of the income collected from criminals in Scotland, through fines and proceeds of crime legislation, can be retained to invest in Scottish communities.

Decisions about currently reserved issues like welfare, employment and public services also have a significant impact on the factors that lead people towards crime and make our communities vulnerable to criminals.

With independence, Scotland will have the full range of powers to tackle crime and the causes of crime in a more joined-up way, to make our communities safer.

392. Will existing UK laws passed by Westminster still apply after independence?

Yes. Following independence, existing laws, whether passed by Westminster or the Scottish Parliament, will continue to apply until they are amended by the independent Scottish Parliament.

393. Will the independence of Scotland's judges and prosecutors be protected in an independent Scotland?

Yes. The roles, functions and independence of Scotland's judges and prosecutors will be safeguarded following independence. As at present, Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament will have no powers to intervene in independent judicial decisions. Prosecution decisions will continue to be taken by the Lord Advocate.

394. Does Scotland have the necessary skills and facilities to ensure law and order in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Scotland has its own legal profession, judiciary, police, prosecutors and other trained justice staff working in our courts, prisons and local criminal justice services.

Crime in Scotland is at a 39 year low and violent crime has almost halved since 2006/07. There are fewer victims of crime and more people feel that their communities are safer places to live. The effectiveness of Scotland's justice system demonstrates the benefits of decisions being taken in Scotland.

Crime and Policing

395. Will the police still operate in the same way in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Scotland already has its own police service, Police Scotland, which is supervised by the Scottish Police Authority. Scotland's police service safeguards strong local policing in our communities and ensures that specialist national expertise and equipment - like firearms units or major investigation teams - are available whenever and wherever they are needed.

Scotland has over 1,000 additional police officers in our communities compared with 2006/07 and crime clear-up rates by the police are at their highest level for 35 years.

396. On independence, what will happen to UK police forces that currently operate in Scotland?

Following independence, the functions of UK forces currently operating in Scotland - the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary - will come under Scottish control.

The Scottish Government is already seeking agreement with Westminster to integrate the functions of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland. The Scottish Government intends that, with independence, the functions of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in Scotland will also be integrated into Police Scotland.

Just as now, policing functions in relation to defence interests will be required in an independent Scotland and posts will be needed to undertake those functions. An independent Scottish government will be able to determine the most effective and efficient way of managing those functions.

397. Will the police in Scotland still work with forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland after independence?

Yes. There are existing well-established arrangements to ensure effective cross-border co-operation between Police Scotland and forces in the rest of the UK. It will be in the shared interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK to ensure that these practical arrangements continue following independence.

398. Will I still call '999' for emergency services?

Yes. 999 will remain the number to call for police, fire, ambulance and coastguard services in an independent Scotland.

Scotland also has its own national police non-emergency phone number - 101. People can call 101 to get advice about crime prevention or to report a crime that doesn't need an emergency response.

399. How will Scotland's police and prosecutors deal with serious and organised crime?

Scotland's Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce ensures that relevant agencies work together to tackle serious and organised criminals in our communities.

The new Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh will provide purpose-built, specialist accommodation for 1,100 staff from the police and other agencies to work together even more closely to protect Scotland from the threat of serious and organised crime.

400. What relationship will an independent Scotland have with the UK's new National Crime Agency?

There are existing well-established arrangements to ensure effective co-operation between Scotland's Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce and the National Crime Agency. It will be in the interests of all agencies involved in combatting serious and organised crime to continue this practical co-operation following independence.

Fire and Rescue Services

401. Will fire and rescue services still operate in the same way in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Scotland already has its own Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. The unified service safeguards strong local fire and rescue services in our communities and ensures specialist national expertise and equipment are available whenever and wherever they are needed.

EU and International Co-operation

402. How will independence improve Scotland's justice agencies' work with their counterparts in the EU and internationally?

Scotland's police and prosecutors already work effectively with their counterparts in other European countries and through EU bodies, such as Europol.

The Scottish Government opposes Westminster's plans to opt-out of EU agreements that put at risk access to the European Arrest Warrant and other practical cross-border measures for Scottish justice agencies.

Following independence, Scotland will no longer have to rely on representation on international bodies via Westminster. As an independent EU member state, Scotland will have its own voice in the development of EU justice and home affairs policy and legislation.

403. Will Scotland be able to extradite cross-border criminals to face justice?

Yes. The Scottish Government intends to maintain current arrangements for extradition to ensure that criminals can be pursued and brought to justice across international borders.

404. How will an independent Scotland deal with cross-border crimes like human trafficking?

Scotland's devolved justice agencies already work effectively with their counterparts in other countries to tackle human trafficking and other cross-border crimes.

An independent Scotland will have its own voice and will be able to participate positively and directly in EU and wider international co-operative arrangements that protect our security and help tackle cross-border crime.

Courts and Tribunals

405. What impact will independence have on Scotland's courts?

The civil and criminal courts in Scotland will continue to operate after independence.

Following recommendations from the Lord President, Scotland's most senior judge, the Scottish Government is already taking forward a programme of reforms to modernise and improve Scotland's courts to ensure that they are fit for the 21st century.

406. What will happen to Scottish cases currently referred to the UK Supreme Court?

Arrangements will be made to finalise Scottish cases already referred to the UK Supreme Court. The highest courts in an independent Scotland will be the Inner House of the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary (sitting as Court of Criminal Appeal), which will be known jointly as the Supreme Court of Scotland.

The UK Supreme Court will no longer have jurisdiction in Scotland. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will continue to have the same jurisdiction in Scotland.

407. Will independence mean Scotland needs new courts or new judges?

No. Independence will not result in a need for Scotland to add to its existing courts and judiciary. As at present, following independence the total number of judges will be agreed through dialogue between Scottish Ministers and the Lord President, Scotland's most senior judge.

408. How will tribunals change following independence?

Scotland has its own Scottish Tribunals Service and tribunal judiciary responsible for tribunals on devolved matters, such as mental health. The Scottish Government intends that following independence, tribunals for reserved matters, such as welfare benefits and employment, will become part of the tribunal structure in Scotland.

409. What will happen to the income from criminal justice fines?

The majority of income from fines applied in Scotland is currently transferred to Westminster under UK Treasury rules.

In an independent Scotland, this fine income will be retained by the Scottish Government and has the potential to deliver additional net income of more than £7 million per year to Scotland.

410. What will happen to the money recovered from criminals through proceeds of crime legislation in an independent Scotland?

Westminster currently places a cap of £30 million per year on the amount of money recovered from criminals that can be retained by the Scottish Government and used to reinvest in communities in Scotland. Westminster has refused requests to remove that cap.

In an independent Scotland there will be no cap. This means that all money recovered from criminals will be available to be reinvested in communities across Scotland.

Prisons

411. What impact will independence have on prisons and prisoners?

Scotland already has its own Prison Service and prison officers. As at present, criminals sentenced to prison by a Scottish court will be sent to a Scottish prison.

412. Will prisoner transfers continue between prisons in Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Yes. There are existing arrangements in place for prisoner transfers between Scotland and the rest of the UK to enable prisoners to maintain family contact during their sentence. The Scottish Government plans to maintain these arrangements on independence. Arrangements for international prisoner transfers will also continue on the same basis as now.

Justice Workforce

413. How will police, fire and prison officer pay be set in an independent Scotland?

Westminster has decided to end collective bargaining for police pay and conditions in England and Wales. The current Scottish Government rejects this approach, and has introduced legislation to establish a Scottish Police Negotiating Body, ensuring that decisions about police pay and conditions are taken here in Scotland.

With independence, decisions on the pay and terms and conditions of prison officers and firefighters will be taken in Scotland, building on the strong record of partnership working with staff bodies.

414. Will police, fire and prison officer pensions still be paid?

Yes. The Scottish Government paper Pensions in an Independent Scotland made clear that in an independent Scotland all public service pension rights and entitlements which have been accrued for fully or executively devolved or reserved schemes will be fully protected and accessible. There will be no difference to how much people pay for their pensions or the level of benefits they receive as a result of the move to independence.

Independence will make it possible for a future Scottish government to consider positively the pension terms of all "uniformed" services, including the age at which they should be able to access their occupational pension.

Road Traffic Law

415. How will the approach to drink driving limits change in an independent Scotland?

The Scotland Act 2012 provided the Scottish Parliament with limited powers to introduce a distinct drink driving limit and a Scottish Government consultation confirmed strong public support in Scotland for a lower limit. The Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to lower the drink driving limit once technical changes to drink drive testing devices have been made.

Independence will allow all decisions on drink driving policy to be taken in Scotland.

416. What other benefits can independence deliver for road traffic law?

Independence will give Scotland full control over road traffic criminal law, and the ability to develop policies to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on Scotland's roads. This will include opportunities to empower our police to conduct random breath tests of drivers, create different drink drive limits for different types of driver, and to consider whether existing UK law on dangerous driving, careless driving and speeding offers a sufficient deterrent to drivers who put at risk other road users and pedestrians.

417. How will people driving across the border know what different traffic laws apply?

It is the responsibility of every driver to know the rules and laws of the roads on which they are driving.

Drugs

418. How will an independent Scotland deal with illegal drug use?

Policy on drug misuse is already devolved to the Scottish Government. Scotland's drug strategy, The Road to Recovery, has led the way in tackling drug problems and has received international acclaim for its positive focus on care, treatment and recovery. Drug taking in the general population is falling and drug taking among young people is at the lowest level in a decade.

With independence, responsibility for legislation on the classification of illegal drugs will also become the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.

Gambling

419. What will the approach to gambling be in an independent Scotland?

With independence, responsibility for the regulation of gambling will transfer to the Scottish Parliament. An independent Scotland will have the powers to introduce additional measures to tackle problem gambling, through more effective regulation of the industry, in contrast to Westminster's approach of greater deregulation.

Firearms

420. How will access to firearms be controlled in an independent Scotland?

The Scotland Act 2012 provided the Scottish Parliament with limited additional powers to introduce licensing for airguns. Work is underway by the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime for airguns in Scotland. However, Westminster has refused requests to devolve powers fully to allow decisions on the licensing and control of firearms to be taken in Scotland.

Independence will give Scotland full powers to control firearms in Scotland. Firearms legislation and licensing in an independent Scotland will be simplified, made easier for the public to understand and for the authorities to enforce.

Environment, Rural Scotland, Energy and Resources

Energy

Scotland's Offshore Oil and Gas

421. How extensive are Scotland's oil and gas reserves?

Up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves remain under the North Sea. Recent research by Professor Alex Kemp of the University of Aberdeen has suggested that around 98.8 per cent of North Sea oil production and around 60 per cent of gas production in the 30 years from 2011 will come from Scotland's geographical share of the current UK Continental Shelf.

422. Is it Scotland's oil and gas?

The vast majority of oil and gas in the UK comes from the Scottish Continental Shelf and will be in Scotland after independence. Analysis by academics at Aberdeen University tells us that in excess of 90 per cent of the oil and gas revenues are from fields in Scottish waters (based on well-established principles of international law). Full details of the current Scottish Government's position are set out in Chapter 8.

423. How valuable are the expected tax revenues from our oil and gas production?

The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report estimates that oil and gas production in the Scottish portion of the UK continental shelf generated £10.6 billion in tax revenues during 2011/12. This is equal to 94 per cent of the UK's total tax revenues from oil and gas production. Production in Scottish waters could generate approximately £48 billion in tax revenue between 2012/13 and 2017/18 based on industry estimates of production and an average cash price of approximately 113 dollars per barrel.

Oil and gas production is expected to rise to two million boe (barrels of oil equivalent) per day towards the end of the decade as a result of the current record levels of capital investment. This will see the industry continue to make a substantial contribution to tax revenues for decades to come.

424. Are oil companies still investing in the North Sea?

North Sea operators have £100 billion of capital investment within their current business plans.

425. What about the impacts of global recession?

The market for oil and gas is not immune to global recessionary factors. Between 2008/09 and 2009/10, for example, North Sea tax revenues fell from £12.9 billion to £6.5 billion. However, despite this fall, Scotland continued to have a smaller fiscal deficit, as a share of GDP, than the UK as a whole. Even in years when oil revenues fell to as low as £1 billion, Scotland still generated more tax revenue per head than the average for the UK.

426. How will an independent Scotland maximise the benefits of our oil and gas reserves?

Careful management of Scotland's oil and gas reserves will be a key priority for an independent Scotland. Unlike successive Westminster governments, the Scottish Government recognises that an independent Scotland should provide industry with the necessary fiscal and regulatory stability and predictability for it to innovate and thrive in a globally competitive environment. We will consider how the existing fiscal regime can be enhanced to maximise oil and gas recovery, and to encourage development in the most technically challenging oil and gas fields.

427. Will an independent Scotland establish an oil fund to safeguard the benefits of our oil and gas production?

Yes, that is the intention of the current Scottish Government. Since the 1970s, approximately £300 billion in tax receipts (in today's prices) has gone directly to the Westminster Exchequer, with none of it being saved for the future. We cannot repeat this mistake in the future.

The Scottish Government proposes that an independent Scotland will establish a Scottish Energy Fund which will be both a stabilisation fund and long-term investment fund into which a portion of tax revenues will be invested when fiscal conditions allow. Stabilisation funds and sovereign wealth funds are common among oil and gas producing countries, with the UK being a notable exception. To find out more about our proposals for a Scottish Energy Fund, see Chapter 8.

Norway provides a good example of how a country can effectively manage its oil and gas revenues. It established its oil fund in 1990, although the first net investment was modest and was not made until 1996. The fund is now the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, worth around £470 billion. It currently owns, on average, 2.5 per cent of every listed company in Europe, and 1.2 per cent of the world's listed companies. These investments have achieved average annual returns of 5.9 per cent over the last five years.

428. Is continued oil and gas production consistent with Scotland's commitments on climate change?

Yes. In Scotland, we will need a mixed energy portfolio, including hydrocarbons, to provide secure and affordable heat and electricity for decades to come. Scotland has a target of delivering the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand and 11 per cent of non-electrical heat demand from renewables by 2020. As we increase our use of renewable energy sources, we also have a duty to minimise carbon emissions in line with our world-leading climate change targets.

429. Will the recommendations from the Wood Review be taken forward in an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government welcomes the interim report produced by Sir Ian Wood in his review, Maximisation of Recovery in the UKCS. The report estimates that the prize from increased and effective collaboration could be an additional three to four billion barrels of oil equivalent over 20 years, which could be worth £200 billion. By addressing the challenges facing the industry and harnessing the opportunities, enormous benefits can be reaped by the industry and in tax revenues. This was recognised by the Scottish Government in our Oil and Gas Strategy published in May 2012, and in our paper Maximising the return from Oil and Gas in an Independent Scotland published in July 2013.

We particularly welcome the proposal to create a new regulator. This will provide the necessary skills, knowledge and authority to ensure that we maximise the potential of the wealth of resources remaining. The Expert Commission appointed by the Scottish Government will consider Sir Ian's recommendations as part of its work and will report in spring 2014.

Decommissioning

430. How will the decommissioning costs of oil and gas platforms and other infrastructure in the North Sea be met in an independent Scotland?

Providing a stable environment for companies to plan decommissioning is critical to delivering a dynamic and forward-looking offshore oil and gas industry. At present, North Sea operators are able to claim tax relief against the cost of decommissioning offshore facilities at the point when the decommissioning occurs.

The Scottish Government plans that decommissioning tax relief in an independent Scotland will be provided in the manner and at the rate currently provided through the current North Sea fiscal regime. This will provide long-term certainty for the industry.

Successive Westminster governments have accrued £300 billion in tax receipts (in today's prices) from North Sea oil and gas production. This Scottish Government intends that an independent Scotland will seek a commensurate contribution to the cost of decommissioning relief from the rest of the UK. This will be the subject of negotiation between the two governments, but the outcome of the negotiations will have no impact on the value of relief received by operators.

Alternative Fuels

431. Will an independent Scotland pursue alternative fuel sources and supply, such as 'fracking' and shale gas exploration?

The development of unconventional hydrocarbon resources is at an early stage in Scotland. Decisions on alternative fuel sources, or the appropriate energy mix, will be for future Scottish governments.

Proposals would be considered through the normal planning process and the appropriate regulatory regimes, including SEPA's updated guidance on the regulation of shale gas and coalbed methane published in December 2012.

Scottish Ministers have also recently announced a strengthening of Scottish Planning Policy in regard to unconventional gas.

432. Will there be nuclear power generation in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government is opposed to the building of any new nuclear power stations in Scotland and will phase out existing stations in Scotland over time.

Offshore Health and Safety

433. What will the offshore health and safety regime be in an independent Scotland?

The offshore health and safety issues relating to the UK Continental Shelf are currently the responsibility of the UK Health and Safety Executive. This Scottish Government plans that a comparable new body will be established to perform this function in an independent Scotland. This body will maintain world-leading offshore health and safety standards as currently administered.

Oil and Gas Emissions

434. Will an independent Scotland be able to meet statutory climate change targets?

This Government recognises that, as an independent nation, Scotland will take responsibility for emissions from the offshore oil and gas sector within its waters. This will require primary legislation to allow the present climate change targets to reflect these additional emissions.

435. Will carbon capture and storage be developed in an independent Scotland?

Decisions on carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be for future governments in an independent Scotland. However, it is the current Scottish Government's view that, alongside a substantial further growth in renewable energy, it is likely there will be a need to maintain and build new power stations run on traditional fossil fuels. The scheduled closure of existing power plants, and the construction of a minimum of 2.5 GW of new or replacement efficient fossil fuel electricity generation plants progressively fitted with CCS, will satisfy security of supply concerns and, together with renewable energy, deliver large amounts of electricity exports.

Our aim is for thermal generation in the future to be decarbonised over time through increased application of carbon capture and storage. Carbon capture and storage has the potential to substantially reduce emissions from fossil fuel power stations and will be a vital element of a decarbonised power sector.

Energy Market

436. Will there continue to be a single GB market for energy and gas?

Achieving security of supply for Scottish consumers will be the central priority for this Government in an independent Scotland. Provided this is not jeopardised, Scotland will continue to participate in the GB-wide market for electricity and gas, reflecting the integrated transmission networks between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

It will be in the interests of both countries for there to be an integrated market across Scotland and the rest of the UK. Scotland's transmission network is deeply interconnected with the rest of Great Britain, and Scotland will continue to export its energy to the rest of the UK. Retaining the GB energy market after independence brings the benefits of energy security to customers and businesses north and south of the border.

A single transmission operator, National Grid, can continue to balance supply and demand throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.

This Government proposes that an independent Scotland will seek a new energy partnership with Westminster to steer energy policy jointly and to ensure proper governance of the integrated market.

Energy Prices for Consumers

437. What effect will independence have on energy prices?

The powers of independence will allow energy policy to be designed to protect the interests of consumers and make sure people are treated transparently and fairly. Appropriate information on energy tariffs will help customers decide which company to go with, and help make prices competitive.

Different parties will put forward proposals on energy prices and other issues and it will be for the people of Scotland to decide the approach they want in future elections. The current Scottish Government proposes the transfer of responsibility for the Energy Company Obligation and the Warm Homes Discount from energy companies to the Scottish Government, meeting the costs from central government budgets. By passing on these cost reductions to their consumers, energy companies would reduce customer bills by around five per cent or approximately £70 per year.

The current Scottish Government will task the combined economic regulator with ensuring an open and competitive energy market, which protects the interests of Scottish consumers while ensuring a fair return on investment for energy companies. The energy arm of the Scottish Regulator could, in principle, be based at the Scottish offices of Ofgem.

438. Will independence help to address fuel poverty?

Yes. The current UK regulatory model has done little to increase households' ability to access low cost 'dual fuel' tariffs, where gas and electricity are provided by the same supplier. Around nine per cent of households in Scotland are without mains gas and 43 per cent of these households live in fuel poverty.

Under the limited powers currently available to it, the current Scottish Government is doing everything possible to meet the statutory target to eradicate fuel poverty as far as is reasonably practicable by 2016. With independence, and if in power following the 2016 election, we will transfer responsibility for the Energy Company Obligation and the Warm Homes Discount from energy companies to the Scottish Government, meeting the costs from central government budgets. By passing on these cost reductions to their consumers, energy companies would be required to reduce bills by around five per cent or approximately £70 per year.

We are also committed to retaining the statutory target. Our approach is that, following independence, there should be a commitment to continue the overall levels of funding available to tackle fuel poverty - currently at least £200 million a year.

Low Carbon Energy

439. Will an independent Scotland maintain current levels of support for renewable energy?

The current Scottish Government's policy is that it should. Spare generating capacity throughout the UK is now at its lowest level for a generation and Ofgem forecasts it will contract even further. Without Scottish renewable energy supplies, there would already be a shortage in capacity.

Retention of the single GB-wide energy market will bring benefits of energy security to customers and businesses both north and south of the border. While detailed discussions between all parties will be necessary, we believe that it is in the interests of all that the central aspects of support for low carbon generation, as established and planned under Electricity Market Reform, should remain.

An integrated and single energy market involves customers throughout GB paying on an equitable basis for a wide range of benefits, including stable prices, security of supply and access to renewable generation. Scottish renewable production is among the most cost-effective in the UK and offers clear advantages to the rest of the UK in meeting its EU obligations, as is reflected by National Grid's decision to invest to upgrade transmission connections between Scotland and England.

440. What will the transmission charging regime be in an independent Scotland?

Through the Scottish regulator, an independent Scotland would seek improvements to the transmission charging methodology. The Scottish Government has long argued for an approach to transmission charging which delivers a level playing field for Scottish renewable and thermal generators, and which supports development in areas of the highest renewables resource and on Scotland's islands. In addition to enhancing Scotland's security of supply, a fairer charging regime will support the growth of renewable generation, recognising that such capacity needs to be developed where the resource is located.

In an independent Scotland, this Government will seek to ensure that future charging regimes take our energy resources and security fully into account in a way which meets the needs of our island regions and connections.

441. The Energy Bill is currently making its way through the UK Parliament. Will an independent Scotland continue with this regime?

The current Scottish Government proposes that Scotland should continue to participate in an integrated market for electricity, under the terms of the Energy Bill - provided that Scottish security of supply is safeguarded.

However, as a substantial supplier to the rest of the UK, an independent Scotland will require a far greater degree of oversight of the market arrangements. Hence, the specifics of a continued GB-wide market will require detailed discussion between all parties. Through the planned Energy Partnership with Westminster, this Scottish Government will ensure that Scottish interests are protected.

442. How will independence impact on Scotland's targets for decarbonised electricity generation in Scotland?

These targets will remain in place on independence, and independence will give Scotland the full range of powers to develop renewable energy.

The current Scottish Government has set a target for the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand to be met by renewables by 2020, and a 2030 electricity decarbonisation target to achieve a carbon intensity of 50g CO2/kWh of electricity generation in Scotland.

Good progress is being made towards this, with renewable generation in Scotland hitting a record high of 36.3 per cent of gross consumption in 2011, well above our 31 per cent interim target for that year. Provisional figures for 2012 show a further increase to almost 39 per cent of gross consumption. Our 2030 electricity decarbonisation target could actually be hit a little earlier, perhaps closer to 2027.

443. How will the EU's renewable energy targets be apportioned when Scotland becomes an independent member state?

It will be for the EU to determine how the targets are split, but Scotland has a target of delivering the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand and 11 per cent of non-electrical heat demand from renewables by 2020 - significantly more ambitious than the EU target.

The current Scottish Government has also committed to working with Westminster to ensure that the rest of the UK also meets its target obligations at the least cost. That will involve deploying Scottish renewable energy into the GB grid. Indeed the EU Renewable Energy Directive highlights the value of 'co-operation mechanisms' between member states.

444. Will the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) operate in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government intends to continue operating the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) following independence. The RHI was introduced by Westminster in 2011 to incentivise the use of heat produced from renewable non-fossil fuel sources, such as wood fuel or heat pumps.

The RHI is key to an independent Scotland meeting the Scottish target of 11 per cent of heat demand from renewables by 2020, and will play a significant role in decarbonising the heat sector by 2050, with significant progress being made by 2030. The Scottish Government has developed a range of supporting actions to increase deployment of renewable heat technologies in Scotland.

445. Will the Green Deal continue in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government proposes that schemes that are in place immediately before independence, such as this, will be inherited by an independent Scotland.

Environment and Climate Change

446. What priority will be given to protecting the environment in an independent Scotland?

Scotland's natural environment is important in many ways - from supporting the economy to helping to improve our health.

World-leading climate change legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2009 shows that, when we have the powers, we take a more progressive approach to the protection of the environment. Scotland has had a bigger cumulative fall in emissions (29.6 per cent) than any of the EU-15 since 1990; higher than the average emissions reduction across the EU-27, and the highest of the nations in the UK.

With experience of addressing global concerns like climate change, restoring natural habitats, and managing fragile marine areas, we have an important contribution to make internationally. The current Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that an independent Scotland will deliver on its European and international obligations, while continuing to build on its reputation for positive leadership, for example by supporting inclusion of protection of the environment in the proposed written constitution.

447. Who will pay for the cost of decommissioning civil nuclear sites in an independent Scotland?

This Government's policy is that in an independent Scotland the decommissioning costs of Scotland's three non-operational sites (Dounreay, Hunterston A and Chapelcross) will continue to be met from the public purse. The costs of decommissioning Scotland's other two operational sites (Hunterston B and Torness) will be met by the private operators of those sites.

Following independence, the precise division of assets and liabilities will be subject to detailed negotiation between the Scottish and Westminster Governments, working together constructively in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, as set out in the Edinburgh Agreement.

448. How will an independent Scotland manage its nuclear waste?

An independent Scotland will ensure that the nuclear legacy inherited from the UK is managed safely and effectively. This Scottish Government is committed to achieving that through a robust regulatory regime and effective long-term management of the decommissioning sites.

Met Office

449. What will happen to Met Office services in an independent Scotland?

The Met Office is Scotland's weather forecasting service. Scotland benefits from these weather and climate services, which improve the resilience and effectiveness of public services and communities, helping to save lives, protect property and support the national economy. The Scottish Government will seek agreement with Westminster to maintain the provision of these services on independence. The Scottish Government will make an appropriate financial contribution for the use of these services.

Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities

450. What will happen to the Crown Estate in an independent Scotland?

The Crown Estate is currently administered by a UK body, the Crown Estate Commissioners, and the revenues flow to the UK Treasury. In an independent Scotland, the current Scottish Government plans that the assets of the Crown Estate better support local economic development and provide wider community benefit in Scotland. The current Scottish Government proposes to review the management of the Crown Estate and will consult on arrangements to enhance local control of assets including greater autonomy for the islands and ownership of the foreshore and local harbours. We plan to introduce community benefit associated with Scotland's offshore renewable resource. This will deliver a direct benefit for communities across Scotland of at least half of the seabed leasing revenues and more in the islands.

451. How will independence affect the support that Scottish farmers receive under Europe's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)?

As part of the UK, Scotland's farmers receive the third lowest direct payment per hectare in the European Union. Independent member states have benefitted from the European Union's principle that no member state should receive less than the minimum EU average payment rate of €196 per hectare. Had Scotland been an independent member state when the latest CAP round was agreed, this principle would have meant gaining an additional €1 billion of support between 2014 and 2020.

The following table shows how Scotland compares with EU member states before and after the recent CAP negotiations.

Table 1: Annual CAP Pillar 1 - Direct Payments per hectare - existing legislation and allocation for 2019.

Member State Direct Payments (Existing Legislation) Per Hectare 2019 Direct Payments Per Hectare
Malta €696 €640
Netherlands €457 €403
Belgium €435 €386
Italy €404 €363
Greece €384 €350
Cyprus €372 €338
Denmark €363 €332
Slovenia €325 €302
Germany €319 €298
France €296 €281
Luxembourg €275 €269
Ireland €271 €261
Austria €262 €253
Hungary €260 €251
Czech Republic €257 €249
Spain €229 €233
Finland €237 €230
Sweden €235 €229
Bulgaria €233 €228
United Kingdom €229 €225
Poland €215 €216
Slovakia €206 €210
Portugal €194 €205
Estonia €117 €196
Latvia €95 €196
Lithuania €144 €196
Romania €183 €196
Scotland €130 €128

452. How will independence affect support for rural development that businesses and communities receive through the CAP?

As part of the UK, Scotland currently receives the lowest level of rural development funding in Europe. This is because the Westminster Government does not prioritise this support in its negotiations with Europe.

With independence, Scotland will be able to negotiate for fairer allocations for rural development - similar to that achieved by many other member states. For example, despite Ireland having around 25 per cent of the agricultural land of the UK, it has successfully managed to negotiate an allocation of almost €2 billion for rural development - almost 85 per cent of the total allocation for the UK. Finland offers another example, having negotiated a €600 million uplift. This demonstrates what sovereign countries, similar in size to Scotland, can achieve within EU negotiations when they are able to reflect their own needs and priorities.

Independence will ensure that Scotland enters into the next set of CAP negotiations on an even footing with the rest of the members of the EU.

The following table shows how Scotland compares with EU member states on rural development (CAP Pillar 2) payments before and after the recent CAP negotiations.

Table 2: Annual CAP Pillar 2 payments for 2007/2013 and for 2014/2020

Member State Average 2007/13 Rural Development Funding Per Hectare of Utilised Agricultural Area Per Annum Average 2014/20 Rural Development Funding Per Hectare of Utilised Agricultural Area Per Annum
Malta € 969 € 1,236
Croatia   € 249
Slovenia € 271 € 248
Austria € 182 € 178
Cyprus € 205 € 165
Greece € 151 € 163
Portugal € 160 € 160
Finland € 134 € 148
Slovakia € 148 € 141
Italy € 100 € 116
Luxembourg € 103 € 109
Estonia € 109 € 109
Poland € 131 € 107
Hungary € 103 € 92
Czech Republic € 116 € 88
Lithuania € 91 € 83
Sweden € 91 € 81
Romania € 82 € 81
Latvia € 83 € 77
EU 27/28 Average € 76 € 76
Germany € 78 € 70
Ireland € 78 € 69
Bulgaria € 75 € 66
Belgium € 51 € 58
Spain € 48 € 49
France € 37 € 48
Netherlands € 45 € 46
Denmark € 31 € 34
United Kingdom € 20 € 21
Scotland € 11 € 12

453. What will happen to CAP payments to farmers in an independent Scotland?

With independence, farmers and crofters will continue to receive CAP payments - the budget is already set until 2020. But, crucially, with independence we will also have a direct voice in the negotiations on the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy.

454. Will the transition to independence disrupt CAP payments to farmers?

No. The administration of payments for the CAP is already conducted by the Scottish Government. As the European Commission pays CAP payments in arrears, the Scottish Government plans that an independent Scotland will underwrite payments to farmers, as Westminster does today, ensuring a smooth transition for Scottish farmers.

455. How will an independent Scotland's interests be prioritised at the Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries?

Independence will give Scotland its own voice in Europe, participating at every level in the EU policy process and ensuring the Scottish Government is able to promote and protect Scotland's national interests in EU affairs. Fishing and agriculture are important sectors of the Scottish economy and will be priority areas for negotiation in the EU.

456. How will Scotland's fishing quotas be determined following independence?

Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will enter into negotiations with the rest of the UK and with the EU institutions to fully define our fishing rights and other key issues. At present, Scotland's fishing opportunities are provided for in a concordat among the UK nations, which gives Scotland a share of UK quotas. It will be in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to agree an appropriate and fair set of final allocations so that the normal fishing practices of each nation can continue unaffected.

457. Will the management of Scotland's quotas be any different in an independent Scotland?

Independence will stop Scottish-held quotas being permanently transferred out of Scotland to other parts of the UK. This is because EU rules do not allow permanent transfers of this nature from one member state to another. An independent Scotland will therefore be able to retain its quotas for the benefit of its own fishermen.

458. Will Scottish fishing fleets still be able to declare their catch in England?

Yes. Fishing vessels often land their catch in different countries and independence will make no difference to this.

459. Will vessels from other EU Member States, including the rest of the UK, still be able to fish in Scottish waters and vice versa?

Beyond 12 nautical miles, the EU's Common Fisheries Policy provides any member state's vessels with access to all member states' waters. However they can only fish in waters where they have fishing opportunities.

Within 12 nautical miles, we would expect to agree with other member states that vessels from other member states (including the rest of the UK) with historic fishing rights should be able to continue fishing in Scottish waters, and vice versa.

460. How will independence affect Scotland's relationship with the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)?

As an independent member state, Scotland will be negotiating as one of the foremost and most respected fishing nations in Europe. This status will give Scotland the opportunity to take a leadership role in driving reforms to the CFP and in negotiating annual fishing opportunities within the framework of the CFP. The government of an independent Scotland will be able to negotiate unequivocally for Scottish priorities without having to dilute these in order to suit wider UK objectives.

461. What impact will independence have on the ability of Scottish food and drink producers to sell their produce to a UK market?

The same opportunities will exist before and after independence. Consumers elsewhere in the UK will continue to be attracted by the world-class quality of Scottish produce. By sharing Sterling with the rest of the UK, trade will continue to be underpinned by a common currency. Scotland's status as an independent member of the European Union will ensure free movement of goods, people and services and avoid any barriers to trade with the rest of the UK or European markets.

Culture, Communications and Digital

Culture and Broadcasting

462. What will happen to the BBC following independence?

The current Scottish Government proposes that BBC Scotland will become the foundation for the establishment of a publicly-funded, public service broadcaster - the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS). The existing BBC charter expires on 31 December 2016, and the SBS will begin broadcasting on TV, radio and online on 1 January 2017.

The SBS would replace the BBC in Scotland in joint ventures, including those related to Freeview and Freesat. The SBS would also take on the BBC's role in the operation of relevant digital terrestrial television multiplexes in Scotland.

The SBS would also inherit a proportionate share of the BBC's commercial ventures, including BBC Worldwide Ltd, and their associated ongoing profits.

463. Would the Scottish Broadcasting Service work with the BBC?

In addition to its own TV, radio, and online services, the SBS would seek to co-operate, co-produce and co-commission with the remaining BBC network where appropriate. Currently, BBC Scotland delivers a range of programming for the BBC network: the BBC aims for 8.6 per cent of its eligible original programming to come from BBC Scotland. We propose that the SBS enter into a new formal relationship with the BBC as a joint venture, where the SBS would continue to supply the BBC network with the same level of original programming, in return for ongoing access to BBC services in Scotland.

The new joint venture relationship with the BBC would allow the SBS to continue to have the right to opt out of BBC 1 and BBC 2, as BBC Scotland can currently. The maintenance of access to the BBC will ensure that the people of Scotland will still have access to current programming such as EastEnders, Doctor Who, and Strictly Come Dancing, and to channels like CBeebies.

464. Will I still get access to BBC channels following independence?

Yes. Under our proposals, a joint venture agreement between the SBS and the BBC would see all current BBC services available in Scotland continue, in addition to the TV, radio and online services provided by the SBS.

If it became clear in future that Westminster did not share our commitment to publicly-funded public service broadcasting, the Scottish Government would establish a contractual arrangement with BBC Worldwide Ltd to secure continued availability of BBC services in Scotland.

BBC channels that are available in the UK currently are also already available through different live transmission agreements in the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

465. Can Scotland afford a quality publicly-financed public service broadcaster after independence? Would advertising be necessary as in Ireland?

£320 million is raised annually in Scotland from licence fees alone, but, following the implementation of the BBC's 'Delivering Quality First' initiative, the level of spend by the BBC in Scotland could be as low as £175 million in 2016/17. As a comparison the total annual cost of Ireland's RTÉ is around £286 million.

In addition to the £320 million raised in licence fees in Scotland, around £12 million per year is made available by the Scottish Government for Gaelic broadcasting, and the Scottish proportionate share of profits of ongoing BBC commercial ventures is around £13 million to £19 million - approximately £345 million per year in total.

On this basis, SBS would be in a position to provide a high-quality publicly-funded public service broadcaster within the resources available, without seeking revenue from advertising.

466. Would the TV licence fee have to rise in an independent Scotland?

No. The existing licence fee would be inherited on independence and is sufficient to allow a high-quality SBS service on TV, radio and online.

In future, the funding of the SBS will be determined by the government of an independent Scotland in negotiation with the broadcaster.

467. What would happen to STV in an independent Scotland?

STV's licence has been extended to 2025, and the current Scottish Government has been clear that existing licences will be honoured at the point of independence. Viewers in the south of Scotland will continue to be served by ITV's Borders franchise, but as part of the conditions of the renewal of that licence, ITV will now be obliged to transmit different programming to the south of Scotland and the north of England so that viewers in the south of Scotland have the same access to news and current affairs coverage about Scotland as the rest of Scotland.

These arrangements will ensure that Scottish audiences can continue to access programming such as Coronation Street and X-Factor.

468. What would happen to Channel 4 in an independent Scotland?

At the point of independence, it is expected that Channel 4's licence will have been extended to the end of 2024, and the established licence will be honoured. The current Scottish Government proposes to establish ownership arrangements of this public corporation which ensure that a Scottish population share of Channel 4 network original productions, by hours and by value, comes from Scotland.

469. What would happen to Channel 5 in an independent Scotland?

By the time Scotland becomes independent in March 2016, Channel 5's licence will have been extended to 2025. The Scottish Government intends that following independence the existing licence will be honoured.

470. What would happen to BSkyB and other private sector cable and satellite broadcasters in an independent Scotland?

Our intention is that existing licences will be honoured until expiry. Because of the nature of satellite technology, broadcasting over that platform will remain identical in Scotland to that in the rest of the UK, just as is the case today across the UK and Ireland.

471. What would happen to Gaelic broadcasting in an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government is committed to the continuation of the BBC Alba channel and Radio nan Gáidheal, under the auspices of the Scottish Broadcasting Service.

472. What would happen to radio in an independent Scotland?

Our intention is that existing licences for radio stations would be honoured until expiry.

473. Would the Scottish Broadcasting Service participate in charity fundraising drives such as Comic Relief and Children in Need?

Yes. The SBS will seek to co-operate with the BBC and the relevant charities to continue to involve the people of Scotland in these, and similar, established telethons.

474. Would the Scottish Broadcasting Service join the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)?

Yes. The SBS would seek membership of the EBU and would be an active and constructive partner in the organisation. As part of this participation, we would envisage the SBS engaging with some of the EBU competitions, including Scottish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest.

475. What will happen to cultural items related to Scotland and held in UK national collections in an independent Scotland?

Scotland currently owns a share of all UK national collections. The national museums and galleries in both London and Scotland all hold items from different parts of the UK and collections assembled from across the world. They have long-established arrangements for loans, exchanges and partnerships, which will be able to continue when Scotland becomes independent.

476. What will happen to Historic Scotland in an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government intends that, following independence, Historic Scotland, or its successor body, will continue to provide the skills, services and visitor operations that it does at present. The merger between Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland is intended to ensure the sustainability of the functions of both organisations.

477. Will the historic environment be managed differently in an independent Scotland?

Management of the historic environment is already within the control of the Scottish Parliament.

478. What will happen to World Heritage Sites in an independent Scotland?

World Heritage Sites are recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as places of internationally significant cultural or natural heritage. There are currently five World Heritage Sites in Scotland - the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, and St Kilda, with a nomination for the Forth Bridge currently being developed. Their status will not change as a result of independence.

Future Scottish governments will continue to be able to nominate Scottish sites for world heritage status in an independent Scotland, and Historic Scotland, or its successor body, will continue to monitor the management of existing sites.

479. Will tax incentives for cultural donations continue in an independent Scotland?

The tax system in place immediately before independence will be inherited at that time. After that, decisions on the tax system and all specific taxes - including tax rates, allowances and credits - will be made by the parliament and government of an independent Scotland.

480. What will happen to grants awarded under the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's Listed Places of Worship Scheme in an independent Scotland?

The Listed Places of Worship Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, provides grants in respect of VAT costs incurred for eligible repairs, maintenance and alterations to places of worship across the UK. The current Scottish Government proposes that a similar scheme should operate in an independent Scotland, and will consider extending the scheme to benefit the repair and maintenance of all listed buildings.

481. Will an independent Scotland honour existing international treaties, agreements and conventions around culture and heritage?

Yes. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that, as an independent nation, Scotland will continue to meet all legal obligations that flow from its membership of international organisations and that it will continue with treaty rights and obligations. Where the UK has not signed or ratified international treaties, there will be opportunities to explore whether an independent Scotland would ratify these. The current Scottish Government is in favour, for example, of ratifying the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, as Scotland's songs, dance and stories are as important as our castles, palaces and monuments.

482. What role will culture and heritage play in an independent Scotland?

Culture and heritage will continue to be valued in and of itself as the heart, soul and essence of a flourishing Scotland, as well as for the wider social and economic benefits that it brings to individuals, communities and the nation.

An independent Scotland will continue to nurture and promote our culture and heritage sector, so that it can inspire and enrich lives both here and internationally.

483. Will we have the power to reduce VAT on repair and maintenance work to dwellings in an independent Scotland?

Independence will enable the Scottish Parliament to explore a reduction in VAT on repairs and maintenance work to homes as part of wider taxation priorities.

Powers over VAT, currently exercised by the Westminster Government, will transfer to the Scottish Parliament as a result of independence. The tax system in place immediately before independence will be inherited at that time. Thereafter decisions on the tax system and all specific taxes - including tax rates, allowances and credits for VAT and other taxes - will be made by the parliament and government of an independent Scotland.

484. Will we need to give up specific Scottish cultural and heritage archival documents or acquire them from the UK National Archives?

Archives across the world hold all sorts of material relating to other countries. Cross-UK advisory bodies on archives - such as the National Archives - have in practice only a limited role in Scottish terms.

National Lottery

485. Will the National Lottery continue to operate in an independent Scotland?

Yes, that is the current Scottish Government's intention. People will still be able to play National Lottery games, and the infrastructure enabling them to do so will remain in place.

Scotland will continue to receive a fair share of ticket sales to support good causes. Following independence, all decisions about the allocation of Scotland's share of funds will be taken in Scotland, ensuring that money raised from lottery ticket sales is used to respond to the needs of Scotland's local communities.

486. Will I still be able to play the National Lottery?

Yes. This Government proposes that people will still be able to play National Lottery games, and the infrastructure enabling them to do so will remain in place.

487. Who will operate the National Lottery in Scotland?

At present, the licence to run the National Lottery is held by Camelot Group plc, and is in place until 2023. The Scottish Government does not intend to change this arrangement.

488. Will there be a Scottish Lottery? If so how will it operate?

There are no current plans to establish a distinct Scottish Lottery. Any decisions to do so will be the responsibility of a future Scottish government, and will be subject to the usual processes of consultation and consideration. Future Scottish governments would have the powers to establish a Scottish Lottery if there was a demand for it or in support of specific events.

489. In an independent Scotland, what arrangements will be in place to distribute funds to Scottish good causes?

The present Scottish Government's approach would be to ensure that Scotland receives its fair share of lottery funding and to ensure that all decisions about how good cause funds are distributed and allocated will be taken in Scotland.

490. Will being independent enable the same amount of money to be generated for good causes?

There is no reason to anticipate that this would differ because of independence. The level of available funds depends on a number of factors, including the number of ticket sales and the price of those tickets.

However, there are currently no rules in place guaranteeing Scotland any fixed proportion of National Lottery funds and the lottery operator does not publish information on ticket sales in Scotland. Independence would mean that future Scottish governments will be in a position to work with the lottery operator to ensure Scotland continues to receive a fair share of funding.

491. What will happen to the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland?

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest distributor of Lottery good cause money in Scotland and we propose that it will continue this role after independence.

492. How will Lottery funding for heritage be distributed?

The Scottish Government's proposal is to build upon the good work of the Heritage Lottery Fund team based in Scotland and to give them full responsibility for the allocation and distribution of the Scottish share of lottery funding for heritage good causes. They will initially operate under a suitable shared governance system, building on the work of the current Scottish Regional Committee.

493. What will happen to Scotland's share of Lottery funding for the arts and film and for sport in Scotland?

Under the arrangements we propose, Scotland's share of Lottery funding for the arts and film will be distributed by Creative Scotland and for sport by sportscotland, as they are now.

Communications and IT Infrastructure

Postal Services

494. What is the plan for the newly privatised Royal Mail in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government disagrees with the recent privatisation of Royal Mail. Independence will enable Scotland to restore the Royal Mail to public ownership in Scotland and the current Scottish Government intends to do so.

495. Will universal postal services be maintained in an independent Scotland?

Yes. This Scottish Government recognises the importance of postal services to sustaining communities across Scotland, and will maintain at least the level of service provision inherited from the United Kingdom on independence.

496. Will the price for stamps be higher in an independent Scotland than in the rest of the UK?

On independence, stamp prices will be the same as they are at the time in the rest of the UK. A Scottish postal service in public ownership would not need to generate profits for shareholders and so should be in a better position to ensure that postal prices and deliveries meet Scotland's needs. This applies to sending post and parcels within Scotland, to the rest of the UK and to other countries.

We know that many people and businesses will continue to send post and parcels outside Scotland and it is our intention that postal charges to the rest of the UK will not be more expensive than charges to send post within Scotland.

Communications

497. Will I have to pay roaming charges on my mobile phone in other parts of the UK?

No. There will be no international roaming charges across Scotland and the rest of the UK. There is no reason why companies would wish to frustrate customers on either side of the border by introducing charges.

The EU has cut charges for international voice calls, texts and internet access by 75 per cent since 2007, and the European Commission has recently published proposals to ban incoming call charges while travelling in the EU from 1 July 2014, and to abolish all other mobile roaming charges by 2016.

498. Will I have to pay international rates to phone the rest of the UK on a landline?

No. People in Scotland and the rest of the UK will not be subject to international rates on a fixed landline.

The European Commission has recently published proposals that would mean companies cannot charge more for a fixed call within Europe than they do for a long distance domestic call.

499. Will my home phone number change as a result of Scotland becoming an independent country?

No. Independence will not result in any change to local phone numbers and dialling codes for areas across Scotland (such as 01224 for Aberdeen and 01698 for Motherwell).

500. What will the international dialling code be for an independent Scotland?

When Scotland becomes independent, we will seek to ensure that Scotland continues to use the 0044 international dialling code, through the International Telecommunication Union. This would be similar to the current use of the 001 international dialling code which is shared by a number of North American countries including Canada and the USA.

501. Will 3G and 4G internet still be available on my mobile phone in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Powers over this issue, currently exercised by Westminster, will transfer to Scotland as a result of independence. This Scottish Government would prioritise enhancements to mobile phone coverage in an independent Scotland.

502. What impact will independence have on investment in broadband infrastructure and in satellite broadband technologies?

Public investment in broadband infrastructure at a UK level is fragmented. For example, Westminster is delivering a number of programmes - a rural broadband fund, a super-connected cities fund, and a mobile infrastructure fund.

These projects are being administered separately. They have different aims and objectives and are not fully aligned with each other. The overall investment made by Westminster is not being utilised to maximum impact. With independence, the Scottish Government will have the opportunity to direct these resources more effectively within Scotland.

503. What will happen to the UK internet domain name registration process?

There will be no impact on the UK internet domain name registration processes or the cost to businesses as anyone in the world can apply to use dotUK.

Prior to independence, a new dotSCOT top level domain will have been established and will be open to registrations from businesses, organisations and individuals from Scotland and to those with a clear Scottish connection.

An independent Scotland would also be entitled to a new two-letter country code top-level domain once new codes are in place with the International Standardization Organisation.

IT Infrastructure and Data

504. What arrangements will be made to "share" or migrate systems with existing Westminster Government departments which currently hold data on individuals, such as on social security and tax systems?

On independence, the short-term delivery of central government IT services would remain as it currently stands. We would work closely with Westminster departments, as envisaged in the Edinburgh Agreement, to support the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK through continuity of service and to identify and scope any transition to new systems. This would also look at the potential for sharing existing systems, both short-term and longer-term.

The Scottish Government would look to put in place a memorandum of agreement with each of the UK departments to ensure there would be a clear understanding that data relating to Scottish citizens is entirely the responsibility of an independent Scotland, and to set out the standards required from UK departments for as long as they continue to act as processors of the data.

505. Will independence mean there will be extra costs in terms of IT systems for public services?

There will be transitional costs, the level of which will depend on arrangements reached with Westminster on sharing. Independence provides an opportunity to develop better integrated IT systems for public services.

506. Will Scotland continue to have all internet traffic routed via London, or will it be necessary to create a Scottish internet hub, with direct connectivity to mainland Europe?

This is not affected by independence and will depend on whether current connectors, mainly through London, have the bandwidth to meet the needs of Scottish businesses as they do currently. The Scottish Government has worked with industry to help create an internet exchange in Scotland, which launched in October 2013. The internet exchange point allows internet traffic to be routed through Scotland more efficiently and cost effectively, allowing Scottish businesses to connect directly to the internet more cheaply and easily, and increasing the resilience of internet infrastructure in Scotland.

Building a Modern Democracy

The Referendum

How the Referendum will take Place

507. Why is Scotland having a referendum on independence?

Scotland should be independent because the best people to take decisions about Scotland's future are those of us who live and work here.

We believe the people of Scotland should have the opportunity to choose a new path for our nation. We believe that independence is the necessary next step for Scotland if our nation is to become a fairer and more prosperous place.

In May 2011, the Scottish National Party won a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament and formed the Scottish Government. The SNP manifesto included a commitment to a referendum. The referendum on 18 September 2014 is the delivery of that commitment.

508. What question is being asked?

The question is "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Voters can answer Yes or No.

509. How was the referendum question decided?

The independent Electoral Commission tested the Scottish Government's proposed question with members of the public to ensure that people will easily understand it. It suggested a minor amendment, which we accepted. This was then agreed by the Scottish Parliament.

510. When is the referendum going to be?

The referendum will be held on Thursday 18 September 2014. Polls will be open from 7am until 10pm.

511. Who can vote in the referendum?

People who can vote in Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections will be able to vote in the referendum. The following groups are entitled to be on the electoral register for the referendum:

  • British citizens resident in Scotland.
  • Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland who have leave to remain in the UK or do not require such leave.
  • Citizens of the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries resident in Scotland.
  • Members of the House of Lords resident in Scotland.
  • Service personnel serving in the UK or overseas with the armed forces who are registered to vote in Scotland.
  • Crown personnel serving outside the UK with HM Government who are registered to vote in Scotland.

The key difference from normal voting arrangements is that the minimum age for voting in the referendum will be 16 instead of 18. This means that people who will be 16 years old by 18 September 2014, and are otherwise eligible, can register to vote.

512. How do I register to vote?

The annual household canvass has been taking place in Scotland from 1 October 2013. Each household will receive a standard annual canvass form, and a young voter registration form, which will collect details of those eligible to vote in the referendum.

People can also register to vote until 11 days before the referendum through 'rolling registration'. Further information on how to register to vote is available at http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

513. How will people know their voting rights?

The Electoral Commission has a statutory responsibility to undertake public awareness campaigns in respect of the referendum. These campaigns will cover registration and voting.

Education Scotland has a role in making sure that young people and adult learners know about the referendum and how to take part.

The electoral registration form for members of the armed forces, which is available on the Electoral Commission's website, makes clear the options available to service personnel. The Ministry of Defence also provides advice and information to service personnel on voting rights and registration options available.

514. How and where can I cast my vote?

The Electoral Commission will provide factual, impartial guidance to voters on how to register and how to cast their vote. In general, votes will be cast in the same way and at the same places that people vote in elections.

515. Do a certain number of people have to vote for the result to count?

Whatever the turnout in the referendum, if more than half of those voting vote Yes, Scotland will become independent. If more than half vote No, Scotland will not become independent.

516. How will the referendum be run?

The referendum will be run to the highest international standards. There will be a Chief Counting Officer who will be responsible for ensuring that the referendum is run properly and effectively. The Chief Counting Officer will be the convener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland.

The Chief Counting Officer will appoint Counting Officers to run the poll at a local level.

517. How much will the referendum cost to run?

The referendum will cost around £13.7 million.

Informing My Vote

518. What is the Scottish Government's position on the referendum?

We believe that the future prosperity and wellbeing of Scotland is best served by the people of Scotland voting Yes in the referendum so that Scotland becomes an independent country.

519. What is the Westminster Government's position on the referendum?

The Westminster Government's position is to oppose independence for Scotland.

520. What if I don't normally vote for the SNP?

You do not need to support the Scottish National Party to vote Yes. Individuals who support all the major parties - or none of them - support independence and will vote Yes in the referendum.

The decision in the referendum is not about voting for any particular political party. It is about whether decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland or by Westminster.

The Scottish Government supports independence because we believe it will be better for us all if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - the people who live and work here.

521. What is the position of overseas governments and international organisations on the referendum?

Governments of other countries, as well as international organisations, recognise that the decision about becoming an independent country is one for people in Scotland alone to make. The international community respects that the referendum is consensual and democratic.

522. What information is available to me to help me decide how to vote?

There is a lot of information available to help you decide how to vote:

  • the independent Electoral Commission will provide information for voters about how to register and cast votes in the referendum. It also has information on its website (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/scotland)
  • the main campaigns have dedicated websites:
  • the Scottish Government has a dedicated referendum website - http://www.scotreferendum.com - and has published this paper as a comprehensive guide to an independent Scotland
  • the Westminster Government's Scotland Office has a dedicated website - https://www.gov.uk/government/topics/scotland
  • the broadcast media must be neutral in the debate and provide information on television and online
  • the print media do not have to be neutral in the debate and will be providing information and commentary in their papers and on their websites
  • there are also a number of academic books available and a range of online blogs commenting on the referendum
  • the main Twitter hashtag for the referendum is #indyref

523. Who will regulate the campaign?

The independent Electoral Commission will be responsible for regulating campaign activity.

During the 16 weeks prior to the referendum (the 'referendum period'), campaigners will have to follow certain rules to ensure that the referendum is fair and that it commands the confidence of both sides of the debate, including rules on how much money can be spent by different types of campaigner and where that money comes from.

524. Are there restrictions on how much can be spent on campaigning?

Yes, the Electoral Commission has recommended spending limits that will ensure a level playing field between campaigners on each side of the debate. During the 16 weeks prior to the referendum (from 29 May to 18 September 2014):

  • the designated lead campaigners will be allowed to spend £1.5 million each
  • other registered campaigners will be allowed to spend £150,000 each
  • political parties will be entitled to spend amounts based on their level of representation in the Scottish Parliament

525. What legal advice has the Scottish Government received relating to the issues raised by independence? How has this been used to develop this guide?

This guide is consistent with, and informed by, legal advice the Government has received. The content of any legal advice is confidential. By long-standing convention, successive Scottish and Westminster governments have not disclosed the source or content of legal advice other than in the most exceptional circumstances.

526. What are Scotland's Constitutional Arrangements now?

At the moment, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Decisions on most rates of taxes, changes to the welfare system and policies in areas such as energy and nuclear weapons are taken by Westminster, which has only 59 Scottish MPs out of 650.

Below is a brief summary of Scotland's constitutional journey so far:

  • King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England in 1603. This is known as the 'Union of the Crowns'. However, both Scotland and England remained independent countries at this time
  • in 1707 Scotland and England agreed to form a United Kingdom known as "Great Britain". This agreement is known as the 'Union of the Parliaments'. At this point most of Scotland's government moved from Edinburgh to London
  • in 1801 Great Britain and Ireland were united into the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland"
  • in 1885 the Scottish Office was created as a department of government whose minister, the Secretary for Scotland, was responsible for law and education. From 1892 the Secretary was in the cabinet and in 1926 the post was raised to that of Secretary of State. In 1939 the main base of the Scottish Office moved from London to Edinburgh
  • in 1922, the Irish Free State (which later became the Republic of Ireland) was formed. The remaining State became the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"
  • in 1979, the people of Scotland voted in a referendum for a national assembly for Scotland. Although a majority voted for the assembly, it was not created as a result of a technicality requiring 40 per cent of all registered voters to vote in favour
  • in 1989 a Constitutional Convention was convened. The convention affirmed the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs
  • in 1997, the people of Scotland voted in a referendum for a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers
  • in 1999, the Scottish Parliament was re-established as a devolved parliament within the United Kingdom
  • in 2012, the UK Parliament passed the Scotland Act 2012 to transfer limited new powers to the devolved Scottish Parliament

More detailed information on Scotland's constitutional journey is available at Annex A.

527. In what sense would Scotland be independent if the result of the referendum is yes?

If the people of Scotland vote for independence then Scotland will become an independent state, like the other 193 states around the world. All the powers currently exercised by Westminster in Scotland, or on behalf of Scotland will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament. It will then be for the people of Scotland, through their elected representatives, to decide how these powers are exercised.

Part 1 of this guide explains this more fully.

528. How is this different from the current position?

At the moment Scotland sends 59 Members of Parliament to Westminster. The rest of the UK sends 591. Even if all Scottish MPs vote one way on an issue, they can be voted down by more than 10 to one. If Scotland was independent, our elected representatives could never be outvoted.

Since 2010, a large majority of Scottish MPs have voted against increasing VAT, austerity cuts, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, cutting child benefit, capping benefits and welfare and the introduction of the "bedroom tax". On each of these issues, Scotland's representatives at Westminster have been outvoted by a government led by a party (the Conservatives) which won only one of Scotland's 59 constituencies.

529. What does "sovereignty of the people of Scotland" mean?

It means that the people of Scotland have the right to choose freely their form of governance. In an independent Scotland, sovereignty would mean that the people of Scotland were the final authority and all state power and authority would be accountable to them.

530. How is this different from the existing position in the UK?

Under current arrangements sovereignty - supreme authority - in the UK lies with "the Crown in Parliament", rather than the people. In practice this means that the Westminster Parliament has ultimate power to do anything that it decides, including to overrule the Scottish Parliament on any matter.

531. How would the position on sovereignty change after independence?

With independence, sovereignty would be formally vested in the people of Scotland. Our proposal is that this would be enshrined in a written constitution.

532. Is independence about democracy?

Yes - and one of the arguments for independence is that the Westminster system is not democratic enough. It can be argued that it fails Scottish democracy on five counts:

  • for 34 of the 68 years since 1945, Scotland has been ruled by governments that were elected by fewer than half of Scottish constituencies
  • in only two of the 18 elections since 1945 (October 1964 and February 1974) - would the largest party in the UK Parliament have been different if Scotland had been independent and not returned MPs to Westminster
  • the Westminster system includes the House of Lords, whose members are not elected by, or representative of, the people. Members of the House of Lords hold significant power over the people of Scotland. A single Member of the House of Lords has more say over the welfare system in Scotland, for example, than the whole of the Scottish Parliament
  • the first-past-the-post electoral system, used to elect members of the Westminster Parliament, does not fully reflect the voting intentions of the people and effectively disenfranchises voters who live in constituencies where one party has a large majority
  • the Westminster system is based on the principle of unlimited power, usually referred to as Parliamentary sovereignty. The Westminster Government and Parliament continue to have power to do anything - even to repeal the Human Rights Act or abolish the Scottish Parliament

533. What are the current powers of the Scottish Parliament?

The Scottish Parliament currently makes the key policy decisions in many areas, for example:

  • health
  • education
  • justice, including the police and courts
  • local government
  • housing
  • rural affairs and the environment

534. What powers are currently reserved to the Westminster Parliament?

Despite many decisions being made by the Scottish Parliament and Government, many key decisions are still taken by the Westminster Parliament and Government, such as:

  • public finances - for example, how much tax we all pay, how much of the national debt we are paying off and how much we spend overall on public services
  • welfare - for example, the level at which state benefits are paid
  • pensions - for example, how much the State Pension is and at what age you are entitled to it
  • defence - for example, keeping Trident nuclear weapons and going to war in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan
  • foreign affairs - for example, being in the European Union and other international organisations
  • energy - for example, oil and gas and the price of petrol
  • most utilities - for example, decisions to privatise Royal Mail

535. Have other countries become independent in recent years?

Yes. Many countries have taken the opportunity to become independent. It is, increasingly, the natural state of affairs for nations across the world.

The number of independent states has risen dramatically in the modern era. Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, its membership has increased from 51 to 193 in 2011.

Of new states that have become UN members since 1945, 30 have done so following a referendum, taking an average transition period from referendum to independence of 18 months. The most recent country in Europe to become independent is Montenegro in 2006. Seven of the 28 member states of the EU have become independent countries in the last 25 years.

Following a Vote for Independence

Transition to Independence

536. What will happen if a majority vote for independence?

We propose that, if more than 50 per cent of the people who vote in the referendum vote Yes, Scotland should become an independent country in March 2016. Scotland's future will then be in Scotland's hands.

537. When will Scotland become independent?

The Scottish Government's intention is that Scotland will become independent on 24 March 2016.

538. Why should independence happen in March 2016?

Independence is about being able to make better decisions for Scotland and ensuring that our enormous wealth is put to work to make life better for the people living here.

Independence on 24 March 2016 would mean the transition process would be complete before the May 2016 Holyrood elections. This allows those elections to focus on the future and the newly elected Government and Parliament of an independent Scotland to immediately start delivering the priorities of the people of Scotland.

539. Is 18 months enough time to get everything in place?

Yes. Eighteen months is a realistic timetable for the necessary preparations. International examples show that countries can make significant constitutional changes happen quickly once a democratic decision is taken. Eighteen months is comparable to the time taken by other countries making the transition to independence.

540. What will happen between the referendum and independence?

There are a number of key actions for the transitional period between the referendum and Scotland becoming independent:

  • agreements with the rest of the UK will be concluded, setting out the process for Scotland's independence and the terms on which Scotland will become independent
  • agreements with the European Union will be concluded to change Scotland's status within the EU to that of an independent member state, the same as the existing 28 member states
  • laws will be passed at both Holyrood and Westminster giving powers for Scotland to become independent and making legal changes in preparation for independence
  • administrative changes will be made to enable an independent Scottish Government and Parliament to carry forward key decisions immediately after the May 2016 Scottish elections

Further detail of this transition is set out in Chapter 10.

541. Who will be the first Government of an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government will be in power until the next Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May 2016. It will be for the Scottish Government and Parliament elected in May 2016 to decide how to take an independent Scotland forward.

542. If Scotland votes for independence, would Scots be eligible to vote in the 2015 UK General Elections?

Yes. Sovereignty will be fully exercised by the people of Scotland from the point Scotland becomes independent on 24 March 2016. Until that point, the people of Scotland must be represented politically at the UK level. Scotland will therefore elect MPs to Westminster to represent Scotland up until the date of independence.

Negotiations with the rest of the UK

543. Who will negotiate for Scotland in discussions with the rest of the UK?

The Scottish Government will lead the independence negotiations. We will invite representatives from other parties in the Scottish Parliament, prominent Scottish Westminster politicians and representatives of Scottish civic society, to join the Government in negotiating the independence settlement and in ensuring the continuity of those public services currently managed at UK level.

544. Who will negotiate for the rest of the UK?

It will be for Westminster to decide who negotiates on behalf of the rest of the UK.

545. Is there any precedent for negotiations between the Scottish and Westminster Governments?

Yes. The Edinburgh Agreement, signed by the First Minister and the Prime Minister in October 2012, and the legislative changes that followed are recent, and very clear, examples of discussions between the Scottish and Westminster governments resulting in democratic and co-operative agreements. This agreement paved the way for the referendum.

546. Will the UK General Election in May 2015 prolong the timetable for negotiations?

There is no reason that it should do so. It will be in the interests of both countries to conclude the process in good time.

547. What needs to be agreed before Scotland can become independent?

Following a vote for independence in 2014, agreements will be needed between the Scottish and Westminster Governments, in the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement, setting the parameters for Scotland's transition to independence. They will cover:

  • the precise timetable towards independence day
  • the constitutional platform for an independent Scotland - the laws and administrative arrangements to establish Scotland as an independent state
  • the process and timetable for the negotiation and conclusion of the agreements which will form the final independence settlement

548. What say will the people have in the independence settlement?

A vote for independence in the referendum will give the Scottish Government and those participating on the Scottish side of the negotiations a mandate to negotiate the best possible independence settlement for Scotland.

The peoples' representatives in the Scottish Parliament will scrutinise the Government's work during the negotiations and transitional period and hold the Government to account.

549. Are you confident that the independence negotiations will go smoothly?

Yes. After a democratic vote for independence, it will be in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to come to a swift and co-operative settlement.

In the Edinburgh Agreement, the UK and Scottish Governments agreed that they will continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.

Key to the negotiations will be issues about dividing assets and liabilities, on which the Scottish Government is committed to achieving a fair settlement.

550. Should discussions on independence between the Scottish and Westminster Governments take place ahead of the referendum?

The Scottish Government accepts that detailed negotiations on the independence settlement cannot begin ahead of the referendum. However, we believe that sensible discussions about the practical consequences of independence should take place to help the people of Scotland to make an informed choice and prepare the way for detailed negotiation following a vote for independence.

551. Will an independent Scotland pay its fair share of shared liabilities?

Yes. Scotland and the rest of the UK will agree a share of the national debt. This could be on the basis of our historical contribution to UK revenues or on the basis of our population share. Either way, our projected share of the UK debt will be smaller as a proportion of our economic output (GDP) than for the UK as a whole, which means Scotland is well placed for the future.

However, we will also be entitled to a fair share of the UK's assets, which are estimated to be worth £1,267 billion. These could be taken as physical assets, cash payments or offset against inherited National Debt.

552. Will Holyrood or Westminster make the laws that provide for independence?

We propose that the key legislative steps towards independence should be taken by the Scottish Parliament, following an initial transfer of powers after the referendum.

553. Will laws need to be passed at Westminster as well as Holyrood?

Yes, Westminster will have a role in passing legislation concerning independence.

This will not be problematic because Westminster has considerable experience of legislating for the independence of former UK territories.

Successful independent states such as Malta and Malaysia, and scores of others, had their independence legislation passed at Westminster. Scotland's situation - as part of the UK rather than an overseas territory - is different, and that is why it is appropriate that the key legislative steps are taken in the Scottish Parliament.

554. Will it cost too much to become independent?

No. Scotland already pays its share of the cost of UK-wide services, like the benefits system and the tax system. We pay our share of the UK's armed forces and overseas embassies. After independence we will no longer be paying for these UK services and bodies, but will use the money to pay for our own Scottish equivalent. We will save money on some things like defence as we will not be paying towards the UK's nuclear weapons. So money that we currently send to Westminster that is spent in other parts of the UK - or on things we in Scotland do not want - will stay in Scotland to be invested in a modern and efficient system of government for our newly independent country, and to pay for things that we do want. We might decide to continue to share some services with the rest of the UK, for a while anyway. We will pay for these as we do now.

Following a No Vote

555. What happens if there is a majority in favour of No?

If a majority of the votes cast in the referendum are No then Scotland will continue to be governed as it is now, with devolved powers exercised at Holyrood and reserved powers exercised at Westminster.

That means Scotland will lose the opportunity to, for example, remove the "bedroom tax" and to invest our offshore energy wealth. Scotland will continue to pay billions of pounds for nuclear weapons when the majority of people in Scotland wish to invest this money in things like better pensions or improved childcare.

556. Isn't the Scottish Parliament going to get more powers anyway if Scotland votes No?

The last time political parties opposed to Scottish independence proposed new powers for the Scottish Parliament was in 2009 when the Calman Commission reported. In 2011 the people of Scotland re-elected the current Scottish Government on a platform which proposed significant improvements to the Commission's proposals. Westminster rejected the Scottish Government's proposals, however, and the result was the Scotland Act 2012, which falls a long way short of full devolved powers in Scotland.

There has been consistent support in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament to have responsibility for taxation and the welfare system. However, none of the parties opposed to independence seem willing to offer this degree of devolution. Whatever offers of more devolution might emerge during the referendum campaign, they are likely to fall short of full powers in these vital areas of Scottish life. Nor is it clear that even limited offers of more powers would be in place by the time of the next UK General Election in May 2015 or taken forward after that.

The only way for Scotland to get all the powers needed to make Scotland a better place is through independence.

557. If Scotland votes No, will there be another referendum on independence at a later date?

The Edinburgh Agreement states that a referendum must be held by the end of 2014. There is no arrangement in place for another referendum on independence.

It is the view of the current Scottish Government that a referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This means that only a majority vote for Yes in 2014 would give certainty that Scotland will be independent.

Scotland as an Independent Country

Scotland on independence day

558. What will be the territory of Scotland?

Scotland's territory will remain as it is now. The borders of Scotland are well understood, extending to the areas governed by the Scottish Government and Parliament and Scottish local authorities.

559. On what basis will an independent Scotland's maritime boundaries be defined?

The setting of maritime boundaries for an independent Scotland will be guided by international law.

This matters because an independent Scotland will own oil and gas reserves within these boundaries. The vast bulk of oil and gas in the UK comes from the Scottish Continental Shelf and will be in Scotland after independence. Analysis by academics at Aberdeen University tells us that in excess of 90 per cent of the oil and gas revenues are from fields in Scottish waters, based on well-established principles of international law.

560. What will happen on the day of independence?

On the day Scotland becomes independent, the Scottish Parliament and Government will assume responsibility for matters, like the economy and welfare, that are currently decided at Westminster. The Scottish Government and Parliament will be able to use these powers to do more to improve the quality of life for people across Scotland.

Scotland already has many of the institutions that a modern independent democratic state needs: a modern parliament elected by proportional representation, a government accountable to parliament, a civil service appointed on merit and supporting the elected government and an independent judiciary and legal system.

The difference brought by independence is that powers currently exercised in Scotland by the Westminster Parliament will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

561. What will Scotland's laws be on the first day of independence?

Scotland already has an independent legal system supported by a fully functioning court system and a legislative parliament. On independence, the laws of Scotland will continue in all areas, except where they have been changed in preparation for independence. After that, it will be for the elected Parliament of Scotland to decide on changes to the law.

562. Won't existing UK laws on reserved matters such as tax or welfare need to be re-written entirely?

No. All laws that are in force in Scotland immediately before the date of independence will continue after independence until they are changed by the Scottish Parliament. This would cover all existing laws including Holyrood and Westminster legislation and other common laws.

After Independence

563. What will happen after Scotland becomes independent?

The Scottish Government propose that Scotland will become independent on 24 March 2016. Following that, the first elections to the Scottish Parliament of an independent Scotland would be held on 5 May 2016. It will be for the democratically elected Scottish Government and Parliament to make decisions about the direction of an independent Scotland.

564. What will happen to Scottish MPs and members of the House of Lords in Westminster after independence?

With independence, Scotland will no longer send MPs to Westminster. Arrangements for the House of Lords will be for the rest of the UK to decide but the House of Lords will no longer be involved in legislating for Scotland.

565. What will happen in Scotland after the 2016 elections?

The Government and Parliament elected in May 2016 will govern an independent Scotland, in accordance with the wishes of the people. That means that the people of Scotland will decide what happens - that is why the Scottish Government supports independence. The reason we are seeking to make the transition before the May 2016 elections is so that the government elected on 5 May 2016 will be able to immediately use the new powers of independence.

Scotland's Written Constitution

566. What is a constitution and why does it matter?

A constitution is the collection of principles and rules that regulates the institutions of the state, how powers are distributed amongst those institutions, and the relationship between the citizens of the country and their state, including the protection of human rights.

567. What is the UK constitution now?

In the UK at present, the constitution consists of various pieces of legislation, and constitutional rules and principles that have evolved over centuries. There is no agreement on exactly which laws, rules and principles make up the constitution. The UK is the only member of the European Union and of the Commonwealth that does not have a written constitution or a Constitution Act.

At the heart of Scotland's constitutional tradition is the fundamental principle that the people of Scotland are sovereign and have the right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.

However, as part of the UK, the dominant constitutional rule is that Westminster can do anything it chooses, except bind its successors. Sovereignty in the UK is vested in 'the Crown in Parliament' and not in the people.

568. Are we supposed to know all this?

The UK's constitutional position is particularly complex and one of the advantages of moving to a written constitution is to make information about government structures more accessible to the people of Scotland.

569. What do other countries do?

Almost every other country in the world has a written constitution including all the other 27 European Union member states. Similarly, all the other 52 Commonwealth States have a written constitution or Constitution Act.

570. Why is a written constitution a good thing?

Having a written constitution means that people have clear information about how their country works and what their rights are and it protects these rights from being changed or removed.

571. Should an independent Scotland have a written constitution?

Yes. Our proposal is that an independent Scotland would have a written constitution which expresses Scotland's values, embeds the rights of our citizens and sets out clearly how institutions of state interact with each other and serve the people.

572. Will Scotland have a written constitution on day one of independence?

A permanent written constitution will be drawn up post-independence, and everyone will have the chance to be involved.

Before independence, a constitutional platform for Scotland will be prepared. It will have effect from the date of independence and will continue until the permanent written constitution has been agreed and has come into effect. Scotland's written constitution could only then be amended according to the provisions of the constitution itself, therefore protecting people's rights and liberties.

The Scottish Government set out its proposition for the development of a permanent written constitution in Scotland's Future: from the Referendum to Independence and a Written Constitution.

573. What should be in the written constitution?

Scotland's written constitution should reflect our identity as a nation and what is important to us. The present Scottish Government will be just one of many voices contributing to the debate to shape the content of the written constitution. However, there are certain things that we believe should be included, such as:

  • constitutional guarantees on access to health and education, equalities and human rights, the environment, natural resources and the status of local government
  • rules on war powers, providing a proper process that involves the Scottish Parliament in authorising the use of military force
  • a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland.

574. When should a written constitution be prepared?

The right time for a written constitution to be drafted is after independence, not before. At that point all of the people of Scotland, whatever their views in the referendum, will be able to engage fully in the process of planning for Scotland's future.

575. How would Scotland prepare a written constitution?

The process by which Scotland adopts a written constitution is as important as its content. In developing a new written constitution, Scotland will be able to learn from the innovative and participative approaches of other countries.

The process of agreeing and enacting the constitution should ensure that it reflects the fundamental constitutional principle that the people, rather than politicians or state institutions, are the sovereign authority in Scotland. The Scottish Government proposes that the newly elected independent Scottish Parliament in May 2016 should convene a Constitutional Convention to draft the written constitution.

576. Have other places had Constitutional Conventions?

In the last decade, citizen-led assemblies and Constitutional Conventions have been convened in British Columbia (2004), the Netherlands (2006), Ontario (2007) and Iceland (2010). Since December 2012, Ireland has held a citizen-based Convention on the Constitution to review various constitutional issues and it has met throughout 2013.

577. Will individual people be directly involved in shaping the constitution?

Yes. We believe the process should ensure that the people of Scotland can be directly involved in designing and determining a written constitution as the blueprint for our country's future.

A participative and inclusive process would be one where the people of Scotland, as well as politicians, civic society organisations, business interests, trade unions, local government and others, have a direct role in shaping the constitution.

Best practice for Constitutional Conventions includes live streaming and the publishing of materials (including video) online for all citizens to follow (see for example materials for Ireland's convention at www.constitution.ie).

578. When will the Constitutional Convention process start?

The constitutional platform we propose for independence will place a duty on the Scottish Parliament to establish the Convention soon after the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016.

579. How long would the Constitutional Convention take?

It would be for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether to set a timetable for the Constitutional Convention. The Irish Convention has been asked to complete its process in 12 months.

580. What would be the process for the permanent written constitution to become law?

That would be for the Constitutional Convention to consider and for the Scottish Parliament then to decide.

The Monarchy

581. Will the Queen be head of state in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Scotland will remain a constitutional monarchy with Her Majesty The Queen as head of state. Her Majesty will be succeeded by Her heirs and successors according to law.

As is the case in the UK, if a party in favour of changing this position was to gain enough support to form a government, it would be open to it to propose a change. The current Scottish Government does not support such a change.

582. How can Her Majesty The Queen remain Head of State of Scotland, as well as of the rest of the UK?

The Queen is head of state of 16 Commonwealth States, including the UK. An independent Scotland would join this family of countries that share the same monarch.

583. Will an independent Scotland pay for the Queen?

Yes. It will be right for an independent Scotland to continue to contribute to the expenses of the Monarchy as we do already through taxes. After a vote for independence in the referendum, negotiations will take place to agree arrangements.

584. Will the Queen grant honours in an independent Scotland?

Yes. An honours system would continue in an independent Scotland. The current Scottish Government advocate that, as at present, nominations would be processed through the civil service and independently of politicians. We will agree with the Royal Household any amendments to the Honours system to reflect Scotland's independence.

State Institutions and Symbols

585. What will the official name of the country be after independence?

Scotland. On independence, the country would need a formal name by which it would be known in international bodies and by which it would join international treaties, and that name would be Scotland.

586. What will Scotland's flag be and what will happen to the Union Flag?

Scotland's national flag will remain the Saltire or Cross of St. Andrew. It will be for the rest of the UK to decide what its flag will be. It is possible for the rest of the UK to retain the Union Flag if that is what it wants.

The Union Flag, the first version of which dates from 1606 - before the political union of 1707 - could be used in Scotland as people think fit. For example, the Union Flag is flown in some Commonwealth countries along with the country's own national flag.

587. What about Royal Standards, will those flags still fly on public buildings?

As the monarchy will continue in an independent Scotland, the protocols for flying Royal Standards, for example the Lion Rampant, will continue unaffected.

588. What will Scotland's national anthem be?

A decision on Scotland's official national anthem will be for the first Scottish Parliament of an independent Scotland following consultation with the people of Scotland.

Songs such as "Flower of Scotland" and "Scots Wha Hae" will continue to be sung as unofficial national anthems in the meantime.

589. What will our national languages be?

We propose no change on independence to the status of Scotland's languages such as English, Gaelic, Scots and British Sign Language.

The Constitutional Convention appointed after independence could consider the position of Scotland's languages within the permanent written constitution.

590. What will be the position of churches and religion in an independent Scotland?

We propose no change to the legal status of any religion or of Scotland's churches.

Government in an Independent Scotland

Current UK Functions and Services - Continuity of Public Services

591. Will public services continue to be delivered after independence?

Yes. Public services will continue to be delivered in an independent Scotland. The current Scottish Government strongly believes that public services should remain in public hands rather than being privatised, as Westminster has done with Royal Mail.

592. Who owns the public services that the UK runs now?

UK public services are assets belonging to both Scotland and the rest of the UK. This is because tax payers in both Scotland and the rest of the UK have paid to build and maintain these services.

593. What does Westminster run now?

There are many services currently delivered to people in Scotland by UK (or GB) wide organisations. These include tax collection (through HM Revenue & Customs), benefits, employment services, passports and vehicle and driver licensing. The Post Office network also covers the UK, as do specialist services provided by bodies such as HM Coastguard and the air, rail and maritime investigations branches.

594. What will happen to services that are run from elsewhere in the UK?

The Scottish Government's priority will be the seamless delivery of public services on independence to citizens of both countries. This applies both to those services currently delivered to Scotland from locations elsewhere in the UK and to those services currently delivered from Scotland to people elsewhere in the UK.

For public services that are currently reserved, the Scottish Government proposes to negotiate arrangements for the continued delivery of services to the public across GB and the UK where this is in the interests of those who use the services. In most cases, this will be for a transitional period, but in some it may be for the longer term. The underlying principle in all cases will be that policy decisions will be made in Scotland by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, accountable solely to the people of Scotland.

595. Are there UK services that are run from Scotland?

Yes. Important services such as tax credits and the welfare system, HM Revenue & Customs, and the Department of Work & Pensions all have assets or networks in Scotland. Other Westminster Government Departments have systems and capabilities largely outwith Scotland and the future of these will be considered in negotiations between the governments.

596. Is it possible to 'share' public services?

Yes. In fact Scotland and the UK already share around 60 public bodies in devolved areas now. Under the Scotland Act 1998, these bodies are known as 'cross-border public authorities'.

The UK and Ireland also share several public bodies on an all-Ireland basis (e.g. InterTradeIreland and Waterways Ireland).

597. Will the Scottish Government take on responsibility for delivering services in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Where a service is provided by a shared body which is currently the responsibility of Westminster, that body would in future also be accountable to the Scottish Government.

598. How long will these sharing arrangements last?

Many sharing arrangements will be in place for a matter of months or years while systems specific to Scotland are set up. An example of this approach is the administration of state benefits which we would intend to operate on a shared basis until 2018, though Scotland would take full control of policy decisions on benefits at the point of independence.

599. Will there be institutions we will share with the rest of the UK on a long-term basis?

Yes, we propose that there will be some. An example would be the Bank of England.

600. How would sharing arrangements work?

Agreements to share services would be formalised by either a change in the law in Scotland and the rest of the UK, or a contract or treaty between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

601. Can two governments have a contract for services?

Yes. The Scottish Government has several contracts now with the Westminster Government.

602. Where there is an agreement to share a public service after independence, will the Scottish Government be able to have different policies from the rest of the UK?

Yes. This already happens now in some instances where devolved Scotland and the rest of the UK share services. For example, the university admissions body UCAS operates across the UK but has a distinct admissions process for Scotland.

603. Will an independent Scotland have to have the agreement of the rest of the UK before changing the way shared services are provided?

The rules for changing shared services in Scotland only or in the rest of the UK only will be part of the post-referendum negotiations between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

604. What will happen to services that are currently free such as museums and libraries?

The National Museums, Galleries and Library are funded directly by the Scottish Government and entry is free to core sites. Local public libraries are provided by local authorities. These services are statutory and their provision is underpinned in legislation. Independence will not make any change to this situation.

605. How many public bodies are there currently in Scotland?

There are currently 113 public bodies that operate across Scotland in areas controlled by the Scottish Government and Parliament. There are also around 300 public bodies that act within Scotland which are controlled by Westminster.

606. How has the number of public bodies changed in recent years?

The Scottish Government has successfully simplified and streamlined the public sector landscape by reducing the number of Scottish public bodies under its control from a baseline of 199 in 2007 to 113 now.

607. How will independence affect public bodies?

Independence provides an opportunity to build on the Scottish Government's record of simplification. Scotland will certainly not recreate each of the UK's public bodies acting within Scotland which number around 300. Depending on the outcome of negotiations with the UK, the Scottish Government will further simplify the public sector landscape by transferring functions of some UK bodies to existing bodies in Scotland. Further information on this issue is available in Chapter 10.

Equality and Human Rights

608. Will I still have the same rights, including protection against discrimination, in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Indeed, they will be strengthened. Existing equality rights and human rights will continue on the date of independence. The constitutional platform we will put in place for independence will give the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) the same legal force for formerly reserved matters as it already has in Scotland for devolved matters. The Convention covers important human rights such as liberty, the right to a fair trial and freedom of speech, association, conscience and religion.

609. How will the rights and protection guaranteed by existing equality legislation be maintained?

Existing equality legislation will continue to apply in Scotland post-independence. The Equality Act 2010 will remain in force ensuring protection against discrimination on the same basis as at present.

Our intention is that, from the date of independence, the functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland in relation to equality will transfer to a new Scottish public body. The EHRC's human rights functions will transfer to the Scottish Human Rights Commission which will continue to act as Scotland's national human rights institution. An Equality Advisory Support Service, providing information and advice to the general public, will also continue to operate.

610. How will human rights be protected in an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government propose that Scotland's written constitution will protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone living in Scotland. At its heart will be the ECHR which contains important safeguards, covering not only rights to life and liberty but also areas as diverse as privacy, family life or freedom of speech.

ECHR protections are already central to the law of Scotland. We propose that existing arrangements under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998 will be carried forward into the constitutional platform, which will apply from the date of independence.

It will remain possible for cases from Scotland to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights, in the normal way, and Scotland will abide by the final judgments of the Court.

An independent Scotland will accede, in its own name, to all other relevant international human rights treaties. It will fulfil its reporting obligations as a member of the United Nations and other international bodies.

611. Will there be a closer alignment between equality and human rights in an independent Scotland?

Following independence, the current Scottish Government will explore the potential for closer alignment of the equality and human rights functions in Scotland, including the option of creating a single body in line with internationally recognised principles. However, any changes would require extensive consultation. They should also form part of a broader review of options for strengthening Scotland's equality and human rights approach. That work is likely to be closely linked to the development of Scotland's permanent written constitution.

612. What about future developments? Are there plans to extend existing legislation or establish new rights?

An independent Scotland will be able to pass laws in areas that are currently reserved to Westminster. We will be able to further develop existing policies and legislation in ways that better meet Scotland's needs.

For example, areas such as employment and equal opportunities are substantially reserved to Westminster. Following independence, it will be open to the Scottish Parliament to pass new legislation in such areas. The Scottish Parliament could decide to extend existing rights.

It would also be open to an independent Scotland to develop new ways of recognising human rights, for example in the areas of education, health or housing, or in relation to the rights of disabled people. These issues could be considered by a future Constitutional Convention established to develop Scotland's permanent written constitution.

613. Will the rights of people in Scotland differ from the rest of the UK after independence? And what will happen if current human rights or equality legislation changes before the date of independence?

The Scottish Government proposes that fundamental rights be enshrined and protected in a written constitution. We know that senior ministers in the current Westminster Government favour abolition of the current Human Rights Act, and even complete withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. The Scottish Government does not share these views and considers them to be of significant concern.

The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining at least the equality and human rights safeguards available under existing UK and Scottish legislation. If Westminster made changes before independence which reduced such safeguards and protections, the current Government would take early action to reinstate them.

614. Will becoming independent mean more equality across public appointments in Scotland?

The current Scottish Government has already set itself an ambition that the appointments for which it is responsible should broadly reflect the wider community. As part of that we will maintain our focus on improving the gender balance of public boards which is limited by the constraints of current Westminster legislation.

In an independent Scotland we will ensure that Scotland's institutions have equality and diversity at the heart of their governance. We will expect to see public and private institutions working to improve the diversity and gender balance of their governance. We will also consult on a target for women's representation on company and public boards and, if necessary, we will legislate as appropriate.

Parliament and Elections

615. What will the parliamentary system be in an independent Scotland?

The existing Scottish Parliament will become the parliament of an independent Scotland, responsible for all matters currently dealt with at Westminster.

616. What will the electoral system be in an independent Scotland?

On independence, the Scottish Parliament will be elected using proportional representation, as it is now.

The Constitutional Convention established by the Scottish Parliament, after independence could consider whether the electoral system should be changed as part of Scotland's permanent written constitution.

617. Who would have voting rights after independence?

The Scottish Government's only proposed change to voting rights is that they should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds in future Scottish Parliament elections.

The Constitutional Convention appointed by the Scottish Parliament, after independence could consider whether the rules on who can vote should be changed as part of Scotland's permanent written constitution.

618. Who can stand for election after independence?

The current Government proposes that the rules on standing for election will stay the same as they are now.

The Constitutional Convention appointed by the Scottish Parliament after independence could consider whether the rules on who can stand for election should be changed as part of Scotland's written constitution.

619. Will the number of Members of the Scottish Parliament increase?

On independence, the number of MSPs (129) will stay the same. This is broadly comparable with other independent states. For example, New Zealand with 4.5 million people has 121 MPs.

The Constitutional Convention appointed by the Scottish Parliament after independence could consider if the number of members of the Parliament should change. The current Scottish Government proposes no change.

620. Will MSPs' salaries and expenses be changed for independence?

No. The system of MSPs' salaries and expenses will remain the same.

621. Will the Scottish Parliament need a bigger budget after independence?

After independence, the Scottish Parliament will deal with the things it does now, as well as with issues currently dealt with at Westminster for Scotland. Any resulting increase in the Scottish Parliament's running costs will be more than offset by the saving Scotland will make as a result of no longer paying our share of the cost of running the Westminster parliamentary system, which currently costs the Scottish taxpayer around £50 million per year.

The Scottish Government would have a bigger budget after independence as powers and funding transfer from the Westminster Government.

622. Will the Scottish Parliament have a second chamber?

No. The current Scottish Government proposes that, from the date of independence, the Scottish Parliament will keep its current single chamber structure. This is similar to other comparable states which also have single chamber parliaments, such as New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

623. Will Scotland have a Scottish Electoral Commission on independence?

Yes. A stand-alone Scottish Electoral Commission will be established for the date of independence, based on the existing arrangements. That Commission will oversee the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May 2016.

From the date of independence, the Boundary Commission for Scotland, which reviews and advises on parliamentary constituency boundaries in Scotland, will report to Scottish Ministers instead of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Structure and Capacity of Government

624. How many Ministers would there be in an independent Scottish Government?

The structure of government will be a matter for future Scottish governments to decide.

The current Scottish Government's plan is to structure government into nine portfolios, each of which will comprise at least one Cabinet Secretary and supporting ministers. This structure is designed to continue the current Scottish Government's approach of more flexible and more efficient government, and will include:

  • Office of the First Minister
  • Finance and Economy
  • Health, Wellbeing and Social Protection
  • Education, Skills and Employment
  • International Relations and Defence
  • Justice, Security and Home Affairs
  • Environment, Rural Scotland, Energy and Resources
  • Culture, Communications and Digital
  • Law Officers

The current system of appointing Ministers would continue. The First Minister will be appointed by Her Majesty, following nomination by a vote in the Scottish Parliament. Other Ministers will be appointed by the First Minister, with the approval of Her Majesty, but only after the Scottish Parliament has agreed.

625. Will Ministers' salaries and expenses be changed for independence?

No. The system of Ministers' salaries and expenses will remain the same.

626. Will there be a bigger Scottish Government after independence?

On independence, the Scottish Government would take responsibility for all of the things that are dealt with at Westminster and so would expand to make sure that this can be delivered.

With independence, responsibility for a wide range of currently reserved services and functions will be transferred to the Scottish Government. The Westminster Government employs nearly 30,000 civil servants in Scotland at present. By way of context NHS Scotland employs around 150,000 people; Scottish local government employs around 250,000; and the Scottish police and fire and rescue services employ 30,000.

The government of an independent Scotland will also employ additional staff to deliver its new functions on matters such as taxation, defence and employment. Some services will continue to be delivered jointly with the rest of the UK, for either a time-limited period of transition or on an ongoing basis.

627. Will an independent Scotland replicate all the different departments operated by the Westminster Government?

No. The functions of all Westminster Departments will transfer to the Scottish Government. The structure of government in an independent Scottish Government would not replicate the fragmented departmental structure of government at Westminster.

628. How many people currently work for the Scottish Government and the agencies?

There are around 16,700 public servants within the Scottish Government and its agencies, and around 14,000 staff in devolved public bodies (excluding NHS Scotland and public corporations).

629. How many people in Scotland work for the Westminster Government?

There are around 30,000 civil servants employed by Westminster and 6,500 UK public bodies staff working in around 30 locations in Scotland (excluding public corporations, the armed forces and financial institutions), with some providing services on a UK or GB basis.

630. Will becoming independent create more jobs in the Scottish public sector?

Independence will provide opportunities for employment in Scotland in government functions where jobs are currently located elsewhere in the UK. Given that the Scottish Government will be taking on a range of new responsibilities, there will be new job opportunities in the public sector in Scotland.

The current Scottish Government has a strong record of valuing public services in Scotland and is operating a policy of no compulsory redundancies within the devolved public sector.

631. What will happen to the people working in Scotland for the Westminster Government on independence?

Having people with the skills to deliver government priorities in Scotland is an asset. The Scottish Government will work with Westminster to preserve continuity of employment for all staff either by way of transfer to the Scottish Government or through continued employment with the Westminster Government where it continues to require their skills.

632. How many civil servants will an independent Scotland employ?

The final number of civil servants working in Scotland will depend on a number of factors, including agreements reached on shared services between the Scottish and Westminster Governments and decisions to be taken by the Scottish Government on the design and delivery of Scottish policies and services.

633. How much will it cost to set up the new public services that an independent Scotland will require?

Scotland already pays for the services we receive from Westminster and UK public bodies through our taxes. The size of the one-off investment in systems and processes that Scotland will make as a result of independence will be a small proportion of an independent Scotland's total budget, and will be offset by the opportunities that independence will provide to deliver improved government and services in the future. It will depend partly on the negotiations on apportioning assets and liabilities that will take place following a vote for independence and partly by future decisions about whether and how quickly to introduce new systems.

634. Will the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (the TUPE Regulations) apply to transfers of staff from the Westminster Government to the Scottish Government on independence?

The TUPE Regulations themselves do not cover transfers of staff between government departments, but equivalent measures are in place to protect the terms and conditions of civil service staff when their functions transfer. We will work with Westminster on the transfer of staff between the Scottish and Westminster Governments to ensure that this protection applies on independence.

Scottish Local Government

635. What will happen to local government in an independent Scotland?

Local government will continue to be an integral and essential element of the overall good governance of Scotland.

The current Scottish Government will guarantee the position of local government in the constitutional platform which will take effect on independence and also argue for Scotland's permanent written constitution to set out the status and rights of elected local government.

636. Will there be any change to local authority boundaries?

Any future proposed changes to boundaries would be for the parliament and government of an independent Scotland to consider and decide.

637. Will local authorities be autonomous and independent of central government in an independent Scotland?

Local authorities are democratically accountable to their local electorates, not to the Scottish Government. We expect this important principle to continue with independence, and to be reflected in the permanent written constitution of an independent Scotland.

638. Will local authorities continue to deliver the services they do now?

Yes. Independence itself will not change the services local government delivers. It would be for future parliaments in an independent Scotland - in consultation with local government - to decide whether there should be any subsequent changes.

639. Will there be any change to scrutiny arrangements for local authorities?

The process of becoming independent will not change scrutiny arrangements for local government. Since the Crerar Review in 2007, the Scottish Government has simplified arrangements, improving the way in which scrutiny is delivered and making it more proportionate and risk-based. This is still evolving as part of public service reform, and local government is directly involved with scrutiny bodies in shaping the direction of these arrangements. We expect this to continue in an independent Scotland.

640. What will the impact of independence be on local taxation, such as business rates and council tax?

Local taxation policy will continue to be determined by the Scottish Parliament and Government in partnership with local government. Council tax and business rates systems are already devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There will be no change to their operation as a result of becoming independent.

The current council tax system is unfair, which is why the current Scottish Government has fully funded the council tax freeze for the last six years and frozen the tax at 2007/08 levels. We are committed to continuing the freeze for the lifetime of this Parliament and will consult with others to develop options for a fairer and more progressive local tax, based on the ability to pay and would take this forward after Scotland becomes independent.

This Scottish Government acted swiftly to establish arrangements when Westminster abolished Council Tax Benefit in April 2013. Together with our local government partners, we committed a total of £40 million in 2013/14 to ensure that around 560,000 people in Scotland previously in receipt of Council Tax Benefit were protected from Westminster's 10 per cent cut in funding for successor arrangements.

The Scottish Government remains committed to Scotland continuing to be the most attractive place to do business in Europe, as demonstrated by the changes we have made to business rates arrangements.

641. Will local government have more say on how money is spent in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government believes that local government should have the power to decide what is best for local people. Local authorities currently have the power to raise over £4 billion a year in taxes, borrow money and, since 2007, spend that money how they see fit because of reduced central 'ring fencing'.

642. Will there be opportunities for greater local autonomy and decision-making responsibility in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government is clear that the people who live and work in Scotland are best-placed to make decisions about our future. This is the essence of self-determination, and accordingly we are committed to subsidiarity and local decision-making in public life. Our commitment to local autonomy and self-determination is central to our approach to local government.

For example, our island communities have challenges and opportunities that are different from those in other parts of the country. That is why the Scottish Government has established the Island Areas Ministerial Working Group, to engage in discussions with Orkney, Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar about the opportunities that are important for our island communities in the context of the referendum and independence.

The Group is covering issues such as energy, the Crown Estate and transport. With independence we plan to bring forward an Islands Bill to implement conclusions of this work. For any issues of interest to mainland Councils with islands, the Government has committed to separate discussions with the Councils in question.

Similarly we are working as part of the Scottish Cities Alliance - comprising the seven local authorities with cities within their boundaries - to consider how issues specific to Scotland's cities can be best tackled in the future.

643. What will independence mean for cross-border relations with the North of England?

An economically stronger Scotland would be a major boost for our close neighbours in the North of England and provide a counter balance to the economic draw of London. Recognising that the emergence of a successful independent Scotland could have a number of effects, North of England councils have instigated an initiative, known as "Borderlands", and are committed to working together with Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway to explore synergies in tourism, transport and business links.

Scotland already has strong ties with the North of England, and it is in both our interests that these be developed and strengthened further with greater practical co-operation, for example, on transport and business links. The "Borderlands" initiative shows the co-operation possible in that context: independence and interdependence.

Charities and the Third Sector

644. Will the third sector be supported in an independent Scotland?

The current Scottish Government is committed to supporting the development of a capable, sustainable and enterprising Third Sector. The sector plays a key role in achieving the Government's purpose by supporting Scotland's communities and in the delivery of public services. It has specialist expertise, the ability to engage with vulnerable groups and individuals, and a flexible and innovative approach. With independence, the current Scottish Government's vision for the ector will not change - we want to continue to work with our Third Sector partners, ensuring that everyone in Scotland has a successful and fairer future.

645. Will UK-wide/cross-border charities still be able to operate in an independent Scotland?

Yes, just as charities currently operate cross-border between the UK and Ireland. Responsibility for the legal framework surrounding charities operating in and/or registered in Scotland is already devolved to the Scottish Government. However, income tax and corporation tax exemptions and reliefs for charities are reserved, along with legislation covering tax relief on Gift Aid, investment income, trading profits and Capital Gains tax.

The Scottish Parliament in an independent Scotland will control both charity law and tax matters. This will enable Scottish governments and the Parliament to consider taxation policy that would enhance opportunities for charitable giving.

646. How will charities be regulated in an independent Scotland?

The regulation of charities operating and/or registered in Scotland is already devolved. There are arrangements in place between the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and the Charity Commission to regulate and monitor charities registered in England and Wales but operating in Scotland. There is a memorandum of understanding that sets out the current operational arrangements for OSCR and the Charity Commission to work together to provide better regulation and guidance for charities that operate across England, Scotland and Wales. It will be in everyone's interests for this process to continue following independence.

647. For cross-border charities, how will an independent Scotland ensure that a fair share of charity income is deployed in Scotland?

Decisions on funding are for charities themselves and there are no legal provisions in place currently that require funds to be distributed in a particular way between the nations of the UK.

648. Will UK-based charitable trusts still fund and support the work of charities operating in an independent Scotland?

There is no reason why they will not. Trustees themselves are, and will remain, responsible for deciding which charities they fund and support.

649. Will charities continue to benefit from relief on charitable donations after independence?

Yes. The current Scottish Government will ensure that charities continue to benefit from tax relief on charitable donations.

650. Can charities get involved in the referendum process?

Charities play an important part in our society. Campaigning is a legitimate way for many charities to achieve what they were set up for, which is to further their charitable purposes. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has published practical guidance for charity trustees to help them to decide how they may participate in the referendum process. In general, a charity may take part in the process if it can show:

  • it is advancing its charitable purposes
  • the charity's governing document does not prohibit such activity
  • it is not advancing a political party
  • Charity trustees are acting in the interests of the charity, and with due care and diligence

How can I ask more questions?

We expect you to find the answers to your questions here. However, if there is a question not covered, please visit www.scotreferendum.com/contact/ for details of how to submit your question. We will add further questions and answers to the Question and Answer section on the scotreferendum.com website.