MOSCOW, September 18 (RIA Novosti), Ksenia Bortsova – As the referendum's date drew closer, many addressed the long-term consequences of the vote and its impact on political and economic situation in the UK, but less attention was paid to some other important questions such as what impact Scottish independence would have on the shared history of the United Kingdom, whether the Queen would remain head of state and what independence would mean for Scottish education.
Back in 1707, the Act of Union bound England, Scotland and Wales together. For over 300 years, many Scots got used to being part of the United Kingdom, despite the fact that the union brought some of them troubles and uncertainties. But come September 18, Scots will finally have a chance to rewrite their history.
THE QUEEN OF SCOTS
The Scottish government proposed that the Queen remain head of state in Scotland in the same way she remains the head of state in some independent Commonwealth nations like Canada and Australia. Her Majesty will be succeeded by her heirs and successors to the Crown according to law. As the country remains a monarchy, Scotland will continue to contribute to the Queen's expenses through taxes.
The Scottish and English crowns were united in 1603 by James VI of Scotland who became James I of England more than a century before political union between the countries.
As usual in the twofold situation, the Queen herself refrained from making any comments regarding the referendum, only saying that everyone "should think very carefully" before making such an important decision.
THE SCOTTISH HERITAGE
The British Museum is widely seen as the first cultural evidence of the union between England and Scotland, and is currently the biggest international lender of objects in the world. Many people started getting worried ahead of the vote about what would happen with the museum and its artefacts, arguing that it would be unthinkable that such institution would break its links with Scotland should it become independent.
Scotland has its own national museum located in Edinburgh with collections of Scottish antiques, culture and history. Apart from Scottish collections, the museum contains artefacts from around the world.
In response, the "Yes" campaigners argue that the national galleries both from London and Scotland have long-established arrangements for loans, exchanges and partnerships that will be unaffected by the upcoming referendum.
But some questions regarding the future of art held in national collections north and south of the border between Scotland and England remain unanswered, such as where the particular works of art belong. If works of art are deemed to belong more to one patrimony than the other, then some sort of division process is necessary, but neither the Yes Scotland, nor the Better Together campaigns have made any clear statement about how they will approach this issue.
No discussions have taken place yet over what would happen to UK-wide programs such as Accreditation and Acceptance in Lieu (AIL), and existing statutory schemes that provide exemptions or relief from capital taxation, like the Conditional Exemption or the Cultural Gifts Scheme.
Under such arrangements, designed to encourage donations of works of art of national importance to national institutions in return for a tax incentive, there is a requirement for such objects to remain within the United Kingdom, otherwise the tax deferred by HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) may become payable.
Most likely, this will become a serious issue that needs to be addressed urgently if the independence in Scotland is achieved.
However, the Scottish government has an answer for those worrying about the future of World Heritage Sites in an independent Scotland. There are currently five World Heritage Sites in Scotland recognized by UNESCO: the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, and St. Kilda. Their status will not change after the referendum.
Scotland also ensures that as an independent nation, it will continue to meet its obligations that flow from its membership in international organizations concerning culture and heritage.
Historic Scotland, which is an executive agency of the Scottish government charged with safeguarding the nation's historic environment, or its successor body will also continue functioning as usual.
The Scottish National Party has also made assurances that they will do everything possible to value, nurture and promote the culture and heritage of Scotland.
However, it is clear that independence would mean a lot for British art. In particular, there will no longer be British art, there will be Scottish and English art instead, something that the public has not heard of for a while.
Such a partition may be even more accurate for some artists. For example, well-known painter Thomas Gainsborough after the referendum may well be referred to as "so absolutely English," which he actually is.
The earliest examples of Scottish art date back to the Bronze Age and include the first representations of objects. There have been many extraordinary early modern Scottish painters, as well as contemporary artists, however the political union with England has led to Scottish art's sublimation within British art. Now it might change. If voters achieve independence, Scottish painter David Wilkie may no longer be called one of the leading British artists of the 19th century, but instead distinguished for his Scottish origins.
With regards to the film and television industry, Scotland is expected to benefit from independence. Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop believes that independence will boost the industry and support an increased production of film and television shows.
EDUCATING INDEPENDENT SCOTS
The Scottish government promises that access to higher education will be based on ability, not wealth, so it will continue with the policy of tuition-free education for Scottish students.
Although university tuition is absorbed for Scottish students and those from mainland Europe, English, Welsh and Northern Irish students would have to continue paying for education under Scottish independence.
Scotland already has a different education system to the rest of the United Kingdom and it would be no more different if the country achieves independence. A lot of Scottish schools currently offer A Level and GSCE programs and there is no reason to believe this would not continue.
However, the Academics Together group, part of the anti-independence Better Together campaign, warns that if Scotland votes "Yes", Scottish universities, three of which are among the top 100 globally, will lose access to the UK research network. "Independence would disrupt the integrated research network which has provided an outstanding research environment for the whole of the UK," said 65 leading researchers from Scotland in an open letter urging Scots to vote for the union in order to have the best of both worlds.
Academics are also alarmed that Scottish universities will lose UK-wide financial support. In 2012-2013 Scotland secured approximately 13 percent of the UK research council grants and project funding, according to the British government. That significantly exceeds Scotland's share of population, GDP and tax contributions estimated to be approximately 8 - 9 percent.
Indeed, some academics have expressed a wish to relocate elsewhere if Scotland votes to leave Britain, the Guardian reports. Professor Louise Richardson, the principal and vice-chancellor of St Andrews, shares that concern. "If we were cut off from national research councils it would be catastrophic for this institution," she told the Times in 2013 adding that the university will lose its top academics.
The Scottish National Party tried to assure the academics that universities will get as much funding as needed. "[We] will ensure that the levels of public investment in university research are sufficient to enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive," the government said in a report titled "Scotland's future." It also promised to maintain all existing collaborations and extend Scotland's network of partners globally.
For their part, the Academics for Yes campaign argues that Scottish universities will get more recognition globally if people support independence. They also point out that education is not a privilege but a right and tuition has to remain free.
To conclude, no matter what the vote's result will be, Scottish people have already had a chance to express a so-called "braveheart factor," their striving for the independence, coupled with an historic antipathy for the English.
Independent or not, culturally, ideologically and politically, Scotland will always differ from the rest of the United Kingdom.