SCOTLAND set up a historic independence referendum after its leader signed an agreement with Britain's prime minister finalising arrangements for a vote that could lead to the demise of its three-centuries-old union with England.
Scotland's drive for sovereignty, led by its nationalist leader Alex Salmond, echoes separatist moves by other European regions such as Catalonia and Flanders which feel they could prosper as separate entities inside the European Union.
One of the most contentious issues at stake is the ownership of an estimated 20 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves beneath the North Sea.
Britain is also worried about the future of its nuclear submarine fleet based in Scotland as Mr Salmond says there would be no place for nuclear arms on Scotland's soil after it gains independence. Many Scots are unconvinced about independence. Opinion polls show only between 30 and 40pc are in favour.
But Mr Salmond is banking on his skill as an orator to convince doubters that independence would allow his country to pursue a more distinct left-leaning agenda than its southern neighbour.
However, London argues an independent Scotland would struggle to make ends meet as the bulk of its current funding comes from a £30bn (€35bn) grant from the UK government.