Scottish nationalists have long argued that being governed from London has deprived their country of its fair share of the wealth from Britain's oil and natural gas fields, which mostly lie in North Sea waters off their shores.
"It's Scotland's oil" was the rallying cry in the 1970s that helped raise the profile of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which now leads the country and is pushing for a vote to secede in the referendum on Thursday. Alex Salmond, the politician leading the separatist movement, has pointed to North Sea energy as the treasure that would help finance an independent Scotland — ensuring that the country could continue the generous public spending, including free university tuition, that he is promising voters.
But North Sea energy revenue — even if the bulk of it went to a stand-alone Scotland, as is expected — would not be sufficient to justify such a big bet on the country's economic future.
The approximately 5 billion pounds, or $8 billion, that the British government received in tax revenue from North Sea energy last year would have been the equivalent of only about 3 percent of the Scottish economy.
Scotland has many other industries working in its favor, including banking and financial services, textiles, whisky and tourism. They would continue to play their parts, although the big banks, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, have both indicated that they would move their headquarters to England if Scotland secedes, and some other multinationals might be harboring similar thoughts.