One quick look at the map of the UK shows the biggest impact a loss of Scotland would have on the Divided Kingdom (f/k/a UK) of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, should the "Yes" vote in the Scottish referendum garner a majority in one week:
In case it's not obvious, the answer is territory. For better or worse Scotland is blessed with one of the lowest population densities in the developed world, with its 5.3 million citizens living spread across almost 79,000 square kilometers. This represents some 32% of the U.K.’s current land. As the WSJ compares, with about 165,000 square kilometers of land, the new U.K. would come close to the size of Tunisia—while currently it is bigger than Romania or Belarus.
But how else would a Scottish departure impact the UK? Here are the answers courtesy of the WSJ:
- Fewer people, but not that many fewer. For starters, the new U.K. would lose 8.4% of its population, going from 64.1 million people to 58.7 million people. How would that affect its international standing? Well not much. The country would only go down two levels in the ranking of most populated countries in the world, to 24th from 22nd—just behind Italy, according to World Bank statistics.
- More crowded. People would live, on average, closer together: The new U.K. would host 355 people per square kilometer, compared to the current 263—it would become the 29th most densely populated country in the world, up from the 44th.
- Fewer mountains. And not as high. Just like popular culture would guess, a big chunk of all this Scottish land is made up of mountains. According to The Database of British and Irish Hills, an online project that classifies all mountains in Britain and Ireland, 63% of all mountains in the U.K. are in Scotland. As the Scots would also keep the tallest ones—the tallest non-Scottish mountain, Snowdon in Wales, ranks 109th—the new U.K. would lose in height: The average mountain would go from being 377 meters (1,237 ft) tall to 322 (1,057 ft).
- More cars. Surprisingly, having more land to roam and steeper slopes to overcome doesn’t drive the Scots to buy more cars—the number of licensed vehicles person is smaller. Therefore, the new U.K. would have more automobiles per person.
- Longer lives and fewer deaths. Life expectancy without the Scots would rise by a narrow 0.4 years for men and 0.3 years for women, but the mortality rate would be reduced by 1.7%. The reason is that Scotland has a very high mortality rate: 640 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 539 in the current U.K. as a whole.
- Fewer Jacks and more Olivers. If baby first names in 2013 are to be any indication, the U.K. without Scotland will make the name “Jack” less popular: The name “Oliver,” which currently ranks second to it, would have been the most popular in 2013 had the Scots been taken out of the picture. Top female names would remain the same.
- Good-bye Union Flag? The one “Jack” that could be affected the most is the flag of the U.K.—the Union Jack. Without Scotland, the blue saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross could be removed from the pattern, although authorities have stated that the flag should not be affected even if the Scots were to leave the Union.
- No more curling medals. As Scotland has its own national team in most disciplines, the U.K. would not be severely affected. One notable exception is curling: A Scottish creation, this sport has so far given the U.K. 20 medals. Nineteen of them were awarded to Scottish athletes—including the Bronze medals won by the women curlers this year at Sochi.