Scotland to vote for independence
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A referendum vote on Sept. 18, 2014 is set to determine whether Scotland will become the next new independent country in the world. The Parliamentary Acts of Union in 1707 merged the previously separate kingdoms of Scotland and England into a single political unit, today known as the United Kingdom (which also includes Wales and Ireland). But Scotland may politically sever itself from the rest of the island next fall if a majority of the Scots living in Scotland or serving in the military abroad vote “yes” to Scottish independence. The possibility of this vote became legally permissible with the creation of the Scottish parliament in 1999, which was given the power to make laws on any matters not specifically reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The campaign for independence is led by the First Minister Alexander Salmond of the Social Nationalist Party (SNP), a social-democratic party and the largest political party in Scotland. His Yes Campaign supports independence on largely nationalist and ideological grounds, claiming that independence will not only give Scots a more robust national identity, but also provide the self determination that the Scottish electorate deserves, through increased power over legislation, including defense and foreign policy.
Opponents of independence have titled their campaign “Better Together,” arguing accordingly that Scotland is stronger both politically and economically as part of the United Kingdom than it could ever be alone. Scotland originally agreed to unite its parliament with England’s for the sake of economic recovery after a failed attempt at colonization. The two economies remain tightly intertwined, and opponents of independence claim that a “yes” outcome on the referendum could only hurt the economy. Many people cross borders for work, and families are split across the two countries. Opponents also express doubt that an independent Scotland would be able to raise taxes, create a defense force or participate in the EU effectively.
Kitty Campbell, a first-year university student in Scotland, feels very passionately that independence will negatively affect her nation. She explained, “I think the basis on which Alex Salmond has run his campaign is primarily on nationalist feelings from the heart rather than looking at the facts and figures and using rationale.” In fact, she claims that he “regularly makes up statements in an attempt to strengthen his cause, but when questioned about such statements, he has little evidence to back them up.”
For Campbell, the outcome of the referendum is hard to predict, as the voting age has recently been lowered to 16 and many people are “still sitting on the fence.” However, she fears that in the case of independence, “the Scottish economy will decline because we don’t have enough money to support ourselves without reliance on England.”
In fact, there seems to be consensus among political analysts that the main effects of the referendum would be felt mainly by Scots, whether positive or negative. However, the referendum did receive mention in a recent BBC Global News podcast in which four top foreign and economic correspondents predicted the most important political events for 2014. James Robbins explained that, “the result . . . is much less important internationally than the fact that the referendum is being held. In countries where there are strong separatist or independent tendencies, I’m thinking of Spain in particular, there’s real alarm in Madrid about this question being put and real jubilation in Catalonia among Catalans who want an independent state.” Lyse Doucet added that while the vote could also stir up activism among the Kurds or Kashmiris, ultimately, “the bitter lesson of South Sudan . . . is a cautionary tale.”