Scottish Independence: Impact on the Internet

Scotland faces a decision tomorrow: to stay or to go.

As a British citizen, this is likely to have a large impact on my life. These changes might also impact techies across the world. Here’s how.

On Thursday 18th September 2014, Scotland had a referendum to decide whether they should leave the United Kingdom. Scottish voters were asked the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” to which a 10% majority answered “No”.

This blog post was written before the votes had been counted and imagines possible side effects on the world of technology should Scotland have voted for independence.

Country Code

If Scotland becomes independent, a two letter country code (ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) will be assigned. This country code is used in language codes (eg en_gb) and country TLDs (.uk is an exception here).

There’s no particularly obvious available country code for Scotland, but perhaps AB would be a good option: Alba is the Scottish Gaelic (gd) word for Scotland. This is just my personal opinion but for the purposes of this article I’ll be using AB as Scotland’s potential country code.


As mentioned above, this country code is what’s generally used for ccTLDs. A new .ab domain name could, and often does, cause havoc! There will probably be a sunrise period or priority for .uk or .scot registers.

But where would that leave .scot? Would .scot be abandoned? Would .ab ever take off? The uncertainty may lead to poor take up of both domains or a rush to buy one of each.

Would .uk users keep their current domain names, or would they be keen to move over?

Language Codes

Assigning a country code allows for new language codes: en_ab (English as spoken in Scotland) and gd_ab (Scottish Gaelic as spoken in Scotland); there is no language code for the Scots language.

This could mean updating applications all over the globe to recognise the new en_ab version of English. Not to mention if the country code for the remainder of the United Kingdom changes from gb to something more appropriate, uk perhaps. Applications would need to recognise en_uk, en_ab and en_gb (for compatibility’s sake) as what we now think of simply as en_gb; we have enough trouble as it is with en_us!

Perhaps, however, a new country code for Scotland would allow websites to tailor their copy to Scottish dialect.

A TLD just for Scotland could also see the birth of a more general acceptance of gd_ab too.

What about GB?

As I swept over above, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (to give the UK its full name) would not really be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should Scotland leave the union. Great Britain is the island made up of the three countries (yes, countries within countries – it’s all very confusing!) of England, Scotland and Wales.

The current country code for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is gb so perhaps after a yes vote tomorrow, the code would change to uk (which is already reserved for the country) – which would bring the .uk ccTLD in line with the ISO standard!

As mentioned above, language codes, however would not be such an easy transition.

The Flag

As well as adding Scotland to lists of counties along with its flag, the Saltire, have you even considered the leg work involved in replacing all the flag sprites/images across the web should the UK’s flag change?

Although considered unlikely, Scotland leaving the union may lead to their removal from the Union Jack. The Union Jack (or Union Flag) is made up of the St. George’s Cross (for England and Wales), St. Andrew’s Cross/The Saltire (for Scotland) and St. Patrick’s Cross (originally for Ireland and now representing Northern Ireland).

A new flag could also filter down into other Commonwealth countries who use the Union Flag as a part of their own.

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