Scotland's Vote for Independence: By the Numbers

In a race that is now considered too close to call, Scotland will soon decide whether to remain part of the U.K. or become the world's 196th country. What would that mean for the Scots and the rest of the U.K.? Here are a few charts to help break it down.

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Scotland, England, and Wales have been united as Great Britain since 1707, but more than three centuries of shared history could finally be coming to a close. The union will be put to the test on September 18, when voters take to the polls to decide a widely anticipated referendum determining Scotland’s status.

The referendum will not only test the desire for greater powers for the Scottish government and financial autonomy, but also determine ownership of the lucrative North Sea oil and gas off Scotland’s coast. Besides allowing Scotland to retain more of its oil wealth, a successful bid for independence would mean keeping the pound for currency, pursuing NATO and European Union membership, and continuing allegiance to the queen.

The question facing Scots this month is a simple one, but with deep economic and political ramifications: Should Scotland be an independent country?

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The Yes camp has been growing since last year. Scottish politicians are predicting a notable 80 percent turnout, and recent polling suggests the gap between those who favor independence and those who wish to remain part of the U.K. is narrowing. The vote is already cause for concern in Wales and northern England, whose people fear a loss of political balance in the U.K.

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If revenues from oil and gas in Scotland's waters are included, its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would be significantly higher than that of the rest of the U.K. According to one survey, Scots spend less on food, housing, and transportation than their fellow U.K. residents do, but spend more on alcohol and tobacco. Life expectancy in Scotland is shorter than in most other European countries.

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Scotland is the second largest country in the United Kingdom—smaller than England but larger in area and population than Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Scotland comprises the northern third of the island of Great Britain and 790 surrounding islands. In global terms, Scotland is roughly similar in geographic area to Serbia, the Czech Republic, or South Carolina. If Scotland does vote to become independent, it will become the world’s 196th country.

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If Scotland votes “yes” to a split, the U.K.’s population will drop by around 8 percent. There are just over five million Scots, according to the latest estimates. Two percent of Scotland’s population lives on its 93 inhabited islands.


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