Scotland independence plan shows 'position of strength,' government says

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Story highlights

  • Scots are due to vote in a referendum for independence on September 18, 2014
  • It could see Scotland leave the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • The Scottish government released a "blueprint" for an independent Scotland Tuesday
  • The paper says Scotland would stay within the EU and retain the pound sterling and

An independent Scotland would retain Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, keep the pound sterling currency, and remain within the European Union, according to a policy document presented by Scotland's devolved government Tuesday.

The release of the draft plan -- known as a white paper -- comes ahead of next year's referendum on independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The September 18 2014 referendum will allow Scots a straight yes-or-no vote on staying in the union.

If they vote yes, the country's first independent election would be held on May 5, 2016, according to the white paper.

Releasing the "Scotland's Future" document in Glasgow, Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond said "Scotland's future is in Scotland's hands."

"This white paper is the most detailed blueprint that any people have ever been offered anywhere in the world as a basis for becoming an independent country," he said.

"It puts beyond doubt that an independent Scotland would start from a position of strength -- in fact become independent in more promising circumstances than virtually any other nation in history."

But Better Together campaign leader and former British finance minister Alistair Darling said it was "a fantasy" to say Scotland could leave the UK but keep all the benefits of UK membership.

"The white paper is a work of fiction. It is thick with false promises and meaningless assertions. Instead of a credible and costed plan, we have a wish-list of political promises without any answers on how Alex Salmond would pay for them," the Scottish lamaker said.

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Why is Scotland seeking indepence now?
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In his presentation, Salmond highlighted what he said was Scotland's "underlying economic strength."

"An independent Scotland could have the eighth-highest economic output and the tenth-highest national income per head of population in the whole of the developed world," he said.

The plan says over the past 32 years, Scotland has contributed more tax per head of population than the UK as a whole and on independence would continue to have healthier public finances than the UK.

But the country would retain the pound sterling as its currency as part of a "formal Sterling Area," it says.

Monarch

Other key points outlined in the paper including maintaining Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as Scotland's official head of state.

It says an independent Scotland would have a points-based immigration system, targeted at Scotland's particular needs and would ensure that British citizens "habitually resident" in Scotland would automatically be considered Scottish citizens.

Existing Scottish citizens would have the right but not the obligation to hold a Scottish passport.

Foreign policy

The paper says an independent Scotland would establish its own network of overseas embassies and consulates but would have a "close and constructive" relationship with the rest of the UK on many foreign policy issues.

The government's policy is to remain inside the European Union, the paper says.

"Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will immediately seek discussions with the Westminster Government and with the member states and institutions of the EU to agree the process whereby a smooth transition to full EU membership can take place on the day Scotland becomes an independent country."

Defense

An independent Scotland would make "an early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons a priority," the paper says.

"This would be with a view to the removal of (Britain's nuclear deterrent program) Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence," the paper says.

Scotland would negotiate with NATO to become an independent and non-nuclear member of the defense alliance, it said and would commit to a £2.5 billion ($3.38B) defense budget, building to a total of 15,000 regular defense personnel.

"We are prepared to negotiate arrangements for the continued use of defense infrastructure in Scotland by UK forces and vice versa, at least for a transitional period," it added.

The Act of Union joined Scotland and England in 1707 and Scotland is currently governed under the umbrella of the British government in Westminster in London, alongside Wales and Northern Ireland.

Westminster returned some autonomy to the three nations, and gave them the right to form their own parliaments, in the late 1990s.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Salmond, signed a deal in October 2012 paving the way for Scots to vote on independence from the United Kingdom.

Read more: New deal could lead to Scotland's independence