Today Scotland decides whether they want to stay a part of the UK or become independent, the result cannot be guessed – polls suggest that it is going to be a very close result.
United Kingdom has existed for just over 200 years, when Ireland also joined with England, Scotland and Wales. Scotland first joined with England just over 300 years ago to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Since The Scottish National Party (SNP), founded in 1934, who wanted a referendum on Scottish Independence in hope of achieving that goal, won a majority vote under the leadership of Alex Salmond in Scotland in the 2011 elections. Following an agreement between the Scottish and the United Kingdom governments, the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, setting out the arrangements for this referendum, was put forward on 21 March 2013, passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14 November 2013 and received Royal Assent on 17 December 2013.
The referendum question is “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. Voters can answer only Yes or No. With some exceptions, all residents in Scotland aged 16 or over can vote, making the decision in the hands of 4 million people. To pass, the independence proposal requires a simple majority. The two main sides are the “Yes Scotland” campaign, who have famous supporters including comedian Frankie Boyle, Vivienne Westwood and Alan Cumming. The “Better Together” campaign, who are encouraging Scots to stay within the Union, include Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling, Susan Boyle and Billy Connolly.
It is not hard to see that by having the leaders of the three main parties that the Scots ultimately want to break away from coming to Scotland almost begging them not to leave the union will undoubtedly have a backfiring opposite effect on Scottish voters.
The arguments for Scottish Independence have many different bases, such as many laws which are enforced in Scotland are decided and passed in England, and are intended primarily for England without much consideration for the Scottish people; even if Scotland do not benefit from those laws. The ideas include Scotland would have a much stronger economy and that as Scotland owns huge shares in oil, this would not have to be divided into the rest of the UK – in an Independent Scotland. Scotland would also benefit in breaking away from the English Parliament as it is considered less democratic than the Scottish Parliament, which does not reserve places for church members and uses a proportional electoral system for appointing members of parliament. Politically, Scotland is becoming very different to the rest of the UK, and many Scottish people are fed up of decisions made in Westminster making an impact on them.
However, those campaigning against Scottish Independence view unity as strength – in its unity with the UK, Scotland is part of a very powerful, rich and influential state. Becoming independent would arguably significantly decrease Scotland’s global presence and influence, and that going independent is an extremely large economic gamble, particularly in times of recession and rising unemployment. Also, Britain is heavily indebted to foreign countries, which Scotland is partly responsible for. In becoming independent Scotland would have to negotiate with the countries remaining in the UK as to which debts Scotland should pay off, and how much Scotland owes. This would take a lot of time and resources.
Like many other non-Scottish Brits, my stance on this issue is very relaxed. If the people of Scotland wish to be Independent and this decision has been made democratically by the majority, the people of the rest of the UK should respect that and maintain an otherwise healthy relationship with Scotland, whether they are involved in our Union or not. The only personal concern is, as a political “leftie”, that in the 2015 General Election – and indeed every subsequent election for the rest of time – the safe Labour seats that come from Scotland, of which there were 41 out of 258 for the whole of the UK in the 2010 General Election. If Scotland were to go Independent, a huge chunk of Labour seats would be eliminated in the Westminster based General Elections, which could cost the Labour Party any future victory. At the very least it would make it incredibly difficult for Labour to win and any party other than the Conservatives to ever be in government in the UK. Whilst this decision is only for the Scottish, the implications of a Yes vote could impact the rest of the UK for generations to come.
It has been said in the last couple of days that if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ and does become independent, then the Labour Party will likely delay their conference, which is due to be held over the coming weekend in Manchester, as MPs would have to urgently debate future of UK, economy and Scottish seat holder roles. Polls suggest that the outcome could be extremely close – as of 9pm on the eve of the referendum, it is 49% Yes and 51% No, with some people still undecided. For now – we can only wait and see.