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July 02, 2014 19:00

Scotland's independence could have serious economic, even military, political consequences - Russian expert

MOSCOW. July 2 (Interfax) - Currently the number of people supporting Scotland's independence is lower that the number of those opposed, however the situation could change in ten weeks prior to the referendum, Head of the Center for British Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe, Yelena Ananyeva, said.

"I suppose that for now the situation is not in favor of Scotland's independence. In April sociological polls showed that the share of people supporting and opposed to independence were almost the same and was at the level of statistical error. But in May the share of independence supporters went down," Ananyeva told Interfax on Wednesday.

During the time left until the referendum it is difficult to forecast the balance of affection and dislike regarding the region separating from the UK, however the number of both parties will definitely grow, the expert said.

"The share of supporters and those opposed will grow now as the share of those undecided will decline. For now it is hard to conclude based on poll results, which will not give a full picture after all. It is one thing to answer as a respondent during a survey and a different one to approach the ballot box and to drop the bulletin," Ananyeva said.

The victory by Scottish nationalists during previous elections to the regional parliament should not be tied with the popularity of the independence idea among Scots, she said.

"The Scottish National Party won at the elections to the regional parliament in 2011 not because the population supported independence but because of Labor party is losing. Scotts are disappointed in the Labor Party. Back then the Scottish National Party received 47% of votes. While 33% supported independence," Ananyeva said.

At the same tine, the Scottish National Party has quite a strong political rival in the Scottish parliament - the union of three leading parties Better Together, which always have their arguments against independence, the expert said.

"A big campaign 'for/against' separating from the UK is underway in Scotland. The Scottish parliament listens to both parties. All three leading parties - conservatives, laborites and liberal democrats - have united in the Better Together movement. It concerns what will be beneficial for Scotland from the economic viewpoint and what will not. Independence supporters talk about oil reserves in the North Sea sweeping the Scottish coastline, while those opposed note that these reserves will last 40 years," she said.

Official London has recently started taking the situation with the coming referendum much more seriously, Ananyeva said. "First London did not treat this seriously. It can not be ruled out that soon emotional tensions regarding this will be higher and populist talks will be stronger," she said.

According to Ananyeva, the previous maneuver by British Prime Minister David Cameron, which allowed decreasing political potential of Scottish nationalists, should be taken into account. "Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond wanted the referendum ballot to have two questions - on independence and on expanding powers of the regions within the UK. But David Cameron excluded the second question, having put the question on dependence point-blank and, thus, having taken away the opportunity to blackmail London constantly from independence supporters. And now, if the independence idea is not supported at the referendum, then the issue will be removed, at least for the coming generation," she said.

Since the Scottish National Party supports Scotland's membership in the European Union and NATO, both unities have said already that in case of independence the new state would have not seek membership from the very beginning, the expert said.

At the same time, one aspect unpleasant for NATO exists if Scotland secedes from the UK. "The Scottish National Party says that Scotland will remain in NATO but will remove nuclear weapons from its territory. These are submarines with nuclear missiles located at a navy base in Scotland. Of course, no one in the Alliance accepts this," Ananyeva said.

The independence referendum of Scotland, which was part of the UK since 1707, will take place on September 18, 2014. If independence supporters prevail, the new state will be proclaimed on March 24, 2016.

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