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18 September 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 12:58pm

What happens if Scotland votes Yes? The Andy Murray Question and other unknowns

We've heard a lot about the implications for the currency and the EU, but what would a Yes vote mean for culture, sport, elections and international treaties?

By New Statesman

As Scotland goes to the polls today, a lot of voters will have heard arguments from all sides about the country’s finances and European Union membership. But what would a Yes vote do for culture? Would the music scene in Scotland be affected? If the jury’s out on its EU membership, how would an independent Scotland fit in to other international treaties to which the UK is signed up? When would there be further elections, if there would be any extra ones at all? And, the ultimate question, what does it all mean for Andy Murray?

The Staggers has contacted a few commentators to give their views on some of the lesser-known unknowns of an independent Scotland.


One significant element of the Scottish independence movement so far has been the internationalist, inclusive nature of a campaign which has drawn support from notable international success stories like Mogwai and Franz Ferdinand. Scotland remains a country where the arts and culture scenes focus on new and expansive ideas rather than peddling clichéd notions of national identity. With the confidence that a Yes vote will instil in the national psyche, I foresee this artistic internationalism only spreading in scope and potency.

However, I don’t see Scottish independence making any immediate difference to the economics of the homegrown music scene. Since no major record labels have offices in Scotland, the music business, with regards to mainstream pop music, is likely to remain a London-centric affair. While independent record labels like Rock Action and Chemical Underground are significant players in the Scottish indie scene, like all labels these days, they service an international clientele. The bottom line is that, for record labels, money talks regardless of where you come from.

The truth is that Scotland itself remains a small market for music and the arts, making it difficult to sustain a living wage without turning to the larger markets of the UK and Europe and I can’t see this changing anytime soon.

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Change to the street level Scottish music and arts scene should come in the establishment of a support structure for new artists. Gone are the days when the music business was a viable escape route for the poor and working class, as one look at the current charts will tell you. It would be nice to think that in a new Scotland, some time and effort might be devoted to the establishment of significant funding opportunities for artists who would otherwise be unable to commit time and effort to their dream career.

Kev Sherry is a Scottish indie musician who plays in the Glaswegian band Attic Lights. He tweets @KevSherry1


As Team Scotland demonstrated at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, it can exist and give a credible performance. 

However the big questions are whether Scotland could be recognised as a new National Organising Committee (NOC) in time for Rio 2016 Olympics, and how the Lottery funding for medal success would be distributed. Many suggest the timetable is far too tight for entry by Rio, although because in so many other forms of Sport Scotland compete as a nation they would meet some of the criteria.

To be admitted, prospective NOCs must have at least five national governing bodies that are affiliated to international federations – a test easily passed by Scotland – but also be considered an independent nation recognised by the international community. That’s uncertain in such a tight timescale.
The implications for Team GB would mean breaking up a system developed ahead of London 2012 that has placed the team 4th and then 3rd in the medals table – with one in five gold medallists in London from Scotland. If the timetable meant Scotland wasn’t admitted in time, a number of Scots would face the difficult choice to sit out Rio 2016 or to compete for Team GB. . . 
The distribution of the Lottery funding that has led to this success is uncertain. Both UK Sport and British Olympic Committee have maintained they will open negotiations after the outcome is known, although UK Sport is known to favour a complete and refreshed look at the distribution of funds.

There are of course many non-Olympic sports and competitions where Scotland already competes and Scotland has had its own reasonably successful sports systems for some time. 

And of course there is the Andy Murray Question – he has made it clear he would compete for Scotland – leaving England still looking for its first male Wimbledon winner since Fred Perry.

In Rugby, the British & Irish Lions would probably just simply become “the Lions” with little change. For many other sports, Team Scotland would have to learn in time to operate alone.
Andy Reed is director of the Sports Think Tank


Culture has had a close relationship to constitutional change for decades, of course – but what Manuel Castells calls the tools of “mass self-communication” just turbocharged it over these last few years of the #indyref campaign.

In terms of policy and institutions, the truth is that Scottish culture seemed to hint at the benefit of a Yes result a couple of years ago, when an artists’ revolt in 2012 removed the then head of Creative Scotland. I helped facilitate a nationwide reengagment exercise called Open Sessions that year. It was clear to me that the ethics of culture as linked to freedom, social meaning, the integrity of craft and technique, the sustainability of creative cultures and places was the settled consensus of artists and creatives in Scotland – in sharp distinction to the “marketing and promotion” view of the rUK Arts Council. The new head, Janet Archer, has responded very well to this consensus.

My own view is that, along with many other areas in Scottish policy, arts and culture would really begin to benefit from all the powers of the Parliament being integrated under independence. Just one crucial area, briefly: public broadcasting and media regulation. With control over budgets, licensing and bandwidth infrastructure, could we see a dedicated Scottish arts/culture/science channel – which could not only commission and forge the future, but properly curate the past of Scottish culture for domestic and global audiences? But there are many others, and in my opinion an independent Scotland would be of great benefit to Scottish artists and creatives.

Pat Kane is a Scottish musician, and half of the pop duo Hue and Cry with his younger brother Greg. Kane is a writer on political and cultural topics, and was an activist for Scottish self-government in the 1980s and 1990s

International treaties

A vote for Scottish independence would not cause a major disruption to the machinery of the UK’s foreign policy. 

The UK would retain its Foreign and Commonwealth Office, foreign embassies divvied up with Scotland but would remain under the control and ownership of the ‘rump’ UK, and the country would retain the membership of international organisations and the legal signatory of treaties and other international commitments. 

Formally there would be no change to the current situation for the UK, which would be considered the ‘continuing state’. Scotland would be a new entity in international relations. And there are plenty of post-world war two precedents for how to establish the foreign policy and international role of a newly independent state in international affairs. 

The newly independent state would need to take decisions on the size of its new foreign ministry and the locations of its embassies. Following the pattern of other newly independent states these would be in the major centres of diplomatic activity of Brussels, Geneva, Washington and New York. 

Additionally a Scotland seeking EU membership would also establish diplomatic missions in all the EU’s 28 member states and embassies, or major consular facilities, in countries with a large Scottish diaspora.

An early objective for Scotland’s foreign policy would be to seek United Nations membership, (which should be straightforward), NATO and EU membership would be much more complicated – and prolonged – processes possibly taking five years or longer.

Scotland would also need to decide which treaties and international agreements that it would like to accede to. 

Currently the UK is a signatory to over 14,000 agreements so a considerable backlog of work for Scotland’s Parliament (and once it has written a constitution to determine who exercises its foreign policy powers including decisions on making war). 

An independent Scotland could also decide on a major for a role for its citizens in foreign policy with a constitutional commitment to referendums for major decisions such as membership of the EU and NATO.

Professor Richard G Whitman is an associate fellow at Chatham House and director of the Global Europe Centre


Imagine it is 7 May, 2015 – general election day. Scotland has voted to go its own way the previous September. Given the fact that independence won’t kick in until 2016, all of the Scottish Westminster seats are to be contested, something that could give our unwritten constitution a workout it has never previously been subjected to.

The Tories could win a majority, which would be the simplest outcome in many respects. The Scottish seats would just fall away in 2016, within a reduced Labour opposition. But if Labour gets a slim majority, ending up with seats in say, the 330 – 340 range, that’s where the fun begins. What then happens in 2016 when the Scottish seats leave, evaporating Labour’s majority? Is there another election? What if losing the Scottish seats means that the Tories are then the largest party? Could they form a government?

However, all of this speculation misses the point. Even if the Tories were to get a majority in 2015, I don’t think they could form a five-year government in good faith. Leaving the other Westminster parties out of the negotiations with the Scottish parliament would feel wrong and is too much of a burden on any one single political entity. Everyone should be at that table. Therefore, if Scotland does vote to leave the Union, I think the only reasonable way forward in 2015 is for some sort of temporary government of national unity to be formed, with the agreement that another election would have to be held in 2016. This may seem drastic to some, but think about it: the country has just split in (not quite) half.

The next big question then is this: who becomes the Prime Minister of this national unity government?

Nick Tyrone is a writer and specialist commentator on electoral systems. He is the author of The Westminster Outsider: What’s Wrong With Politics and How to Fix It. Read his blog here

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