The Scottish Referendum

So unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve probably heard (at least in passing) that Scotland is having a vote to determine whether they want to leave the United Kingdom today. As an American, I feel I have absolutely no right to weigh in an opinion on the matter, but I’ll do my best to explain what is going on if you’ve been out of the loop.

Scotland has been a separate country in the past, becoming an independent kingdom in the Middle Ages.  By 1603, Scotland entered a personal union with England when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I as the ruler of England. The two countries were very briefly united under a single government when England was a Commonwealth in the middle of the 17th century, but this did not last when the monarchy was restored in 1660. However, in 1707 Scotland and England united to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Almost 100 years later Ireland joined to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. (I’m choosing to skim over Irish history here, to deal with for another day.)

Back to the present, there was an agreement in November last year between the Scottish Parliament and United Kingdom government created the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill. The official question on the bill is “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and voters can only respond with Yes or No. To pass this bill, there will only need to be a simple majority. This will take some time to count though, as nearly everyone over 16 is able to vote (4.3 million people) and the news is reporting 97% of all possible voters registering.

The polls closed about 2 hours ago, but there are 32 local authority areas to count. Current estimates are saying that we should all expect the final results to be announced by chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly at 6:30 to 7:30 Friday morning. Any guess is as good as another as to what we’ll hear tomorrow, as the latest polls taken 2 hours ago stated that “No” was at 54% and “Yes” at 46%. I have not had any Scottish people to ask on opinions, but nearly all the English I’ve asked think it’ll never actually happen.

So what are some of the reasons I’ve heard from either side? Please, please keep in mind that I am not saying these are the be-all, end-all reasons for the independence referendum or that it’s a comprehensive look at a complicated issue. On the Yes vote they believe that Scotland:

  • Can stand on their own for an economy with the strength of the oil industry and the general workforce of the Scottish people.
  • Won’t have a fair voice in government with it continuing to operate in England and want to have the final say for what is best for Scotland and not just the financial district in London.
  • Is an independent country and should be treated as such, not as an afterthought from the government now.

On the Better Together (No vote) they believe that Scotland is better staying with the United Kingdom because :

  • Economic security for Scotland, in the United Kingdom without Scotland would still be the same, whereas Scotland would become a relatively small player internationally.
  • There is no guarantee of continuing membership with the European Union or NATO (especially as Spain is threatening to veto based on their own nationalist concerns).
  • International opinion from both the US and EU political and business leaders indicates that they would prefer the United Kingdom to remain, well, united.

So what do you think will be the turn out? Do you think Scotland has thought this out far enough into the future? What would change? We’ll all find out in about 7 hours! Regardless of the outcome, I’m excited as an outsider to witness this major point in history and wish only the best to all the affected parties. Will report back with results in the morning (though surely I’d hope you’re all watching the world news for this!).

— Kate (and M)

 

map of the countries in the british isles