After independence: The UK carries on, Scotland starts all over again

By staff

Scotland would be classed as a new state if it gained independence in the 2014 referendum, according to a legal opinion published by the government.

The rest of the UK, by contrast, would exist as a "continuing state" which would not have to re-apply for membership in international organisations or re-negotiate existing treaties.

"What this legal opinion makes clear is that legally and constitutionally, leaving the UK would have serious repercussions which would affect all of us in Scotland," Scottish secretary Michael Moore said.

The opinion, written by international law experts James Crawford and Alan Boyle, states that due to the UK's prominent role in the international order, anything other than its continuation as a state after Scottish independence would be a massive disruption.

The UK is currently party to around 14,000 international treaties according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) database. It is also one of only five permanent members of the UN security council, a member of the EU and a key member of NATO.

Population and territory are also factored into the opinion. With an independent Scotland, the rest of the UK would still retain 92% of its population and 68% of its territory.

The opinion rejects the idea that a vote for Scottish independence would lead to the creation of two new states, noting that the only way for that to happen would involve the remainder of the UK agreeing to become a new state – something the UK government considers unthinkable.

Crawford and Boyle have based their opinion on the overwhelming weight of international precedent; citing UK/Ireland in 1922, Singapore/Malaysia in 1965 and Serbia/Montenegro in 2006, among others, as examples.