EDINBOROUGH, Scotland (PNN) - August 25, 2014 - Scotland's referendum on independence - a vote to decide whether Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom or secede - is less than one month away. The political leaders of each side will participate in the last televised debate before the Sept. 18 referendum on Monday night. Here's what you need to know.
The Act of Union between Scotland and England was signed on Jan. 16, 1707. It came into effect on May 1 of that year, creating the United Kingdom of Britain. The Scottish Parliament was dissolved, and a single Parliament was created at Westminster in London.
Scotland and England have a complicated history, but the short answer is that Scotland needed an economic boost. The country's finances were a mess after a failed attempt to establish a trading colony in Panama. This unsuccessful scheme "was conclusive evidence that Scotland's future prosperity was best served by union.
There are two groups: The Yes campaign is in favor of independence. The official name for this campaign is Yes Scotland. The No campaign wants to keep the Union intact. The official name of this campaign is Better Together.
Alex Salmondis leading the Yes Scotland campaign, which supports independence. He is currently the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Alistair Darlingis leading the Better Together campaign, which supports staying with the U.K. He was the British Chancellor from 2007 to 2010.
The referendum is scheduled for Thursday Sept. 18. There is just one question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Voters will tick one box: Yes or No.
For the most part, anyone over the age of 16 (the voting age was lowered from 18 for general elections) who lives in Scotland can vote. To vote, those who were not born in Scotland must be citizens of the EU or Commonwealth and currently living in Scotland. Members of the armed services who are now overseas but are registered to vote in Scotland can also cast a ballot.
The Better Together campaign argues remaining a part of the U.K. gives Scotland "the best of both worlds". The Scottish Parliament, re-established in 1999, can make local decisions about health, education, and transportation, while the small country of five million reaps the benefits of being apart of a larger economy. As part of the U.K., Scotland can easily trade across other parts of the U.K. and has access to more jobs. Scotland also has the protection of the U.K. armed forces and influence on the UN Security Council.
Those who support independence believe Scotland "would be richer" if it breaks from England.
Proponents of independence want Scotland to make its own decisions about how resources are controlled and money is invested. Rather than investing billion of pounds in nuclear weapons, for example, they would prefer it go to things like childcare or programs to retain talent and encourage young Scots to stay.
It's a close race. Right now, the polls are in favor of No campaigners, with data showing "just over a third of Scotland's four-million-strong electorate support independence, while around half favor staying in the U.K.," according to The Wall Street Journal. A large portion of voters have not yet made up their minds.
The three main political parties in London - Labour, the Tories, and the Liberal Democrats - are against independence. Leaving the U.K., they say, would have a huge cost for Scotland.
If Scotland votes Yes to independence, the country will be in full control of its defense, tax revenue, fiscal and foreign policies, and immigration. Discussions will have to take place to transfer power over from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament.