On September 18, Scotland is poised to vote on separating from the United Kingdom and becoming an independent country. How would independence affect travel to the popular cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow? Will visits to the Highlands become a sea of paperwork?
Probably not. According to the Guardian, the Scottish National party, the lead campaigners for independence and the current party in power for the Scottish government, Scotland would remain part of the Common Travel Area (CTA), which allows all citizens of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands to travel freely across those borders.
However, crossing the border may not be as easy for international travelers. An independent Scotland may well join the European Union, but the government said that there are “no plans in the foreseeable future” for the country to sign on to the Schengen agreement that allows all EU citizens to cross internal borders (within the EU) without being subjected to border checks. (Once in a country that has signed up for the Agreement, international travelers, including those from the U.S., can also easily cross borders on public ground transportation. For example, trains between Italy and Switzerland do not stop for immigration or customs checks, and international travelers on board these trains do not need to have their passports ready for inspection.)
The Daily Mail notes that all new EU members must accept the Schengen open borders scheme, meaning travelers from the continent would be free to fly into Scotland without immigration checks.
But the UK and the Republic of Ireland have opted out of the scheme, and maintain border controls to vet travelers from Schengen countries. Because of Scotland's current status as part of the United Kingdom, it could also opt-out of the agreement, raising the prospect of "a new Hadrian’s Wall" between the two nations.
Over the weekend, Labour leader Ed Miliband reportedly said that manned border posts could be introduced if Scotland opts for independence.
So far, it does not seem that the situation would change for American travelers flying directly into Scotland: They would still need to provide a passport and clear customs as they do now.