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Beginner's Guide to Separation

Trident submarine
The Trident submarine fleet is based at Faslane on the Clyde
BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Beginner's Guide to Separation will be broadcast on Thursday, 6th December 2007 at 20:30 and repeated on Sunday 9th December at 21.30 GMT

Ever since a Scottish National Party (SNP) minority administration was elected at the Holyrood parliamentary elections in May, the momentum towards a referendum on the principle of Scottish independence has been intensifying.

The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has spoken of 2017 as the date by which the country might secede from the rest of the United Kingdom.

But if the Union were to be ended, exactly how would that be achieved?

The issues go much deeper and wider than who-gets-what of the North Sea oil revenues or arcane formulae over public spending: they go to the heart of what the nations are.

Unstitching a three hundred year-old cord linking historic nations would dramatically affect the monarchy, the economy, the armed forces and Britain's international position - to name but four.

And not just England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be involved.

Europe, too, would have a say as one long-standing member state - the United Kingdom - would, it is expected, be succeeded by two new ones: Scotland and the rest of the UK.

This week's edition of Analysis considers these issues from both sides of the border.

It asks who would comprise the negotiating teams and also poses the critical economic question: how would the liabilities - pension costs, for example - as well as the assets be shared?

It also considers the role of the monarchy; and the way in which SNP policy on nuclear weapons would impinge on Britain's nuclear deterrent, with the Trident missile-equipped submarines based around thirty miles from Glasgow.

Drawing on contributions from economists, military experts, historians and political insiders, Analysis presents the guide on how the Union could be taken apart.

How long might it all take? And, if it all came to pass, how far would separation affect the rest of the United Kingdom?

A journalist who reported from the former Czechoslovakia in the 1990s as it split into two separate states, Chris Bowlby considers the lessons of that divorce as he presents the beginner's guide to separation.

Presenter: Chris Bowlby
Producer: Simon Coates
Editor: Hugh Levinson




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