Scotland Decides

This is a historic week in Scotland. Scotland is voting to decide if they want independence from the United Kingdom. Scotland joined the United Kingdom in 1707 through the Act of Union. In November of that year, the joint parliament met for the first time at Westminster. Early mention of a Scottish Parliament can be found dating back to the year 1235. Scottish Parliament was reestablished in 1999. Thus this explains why the current Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh is a modern building. It is located on the Royal Mile and is surrounded by ancient limestone buildings. The current parliament has rights to make rules for Scotland on devolved matters. All taxes are currently collected by the United Kingdom and then distributed back to the individual countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland for further distribution. Scotland also has a specific number of seats at Westminster, but that doesn’t mean that the dominate party in Scotland is the dominant party in Westminster. This has created rough feelings as not all decisions made at Westminster were decisions that all Scottish people agreed with.

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Picture of the Scottish Parliament

Who can vote for the referendum?

Most people age 16 or older from Scotland.

Scotland Geography

Wikimedia Photo

Why or why not vote for independence?

A large part of the debate is over economics, taxation, and money. In the North Sea, a large supply of oil has been found. Some people believe that the revenue from that should go directly to the Scottish people and not be shared with the rest of the U.K. Others say that Scottish people wouldn’t necessarily be better off economically on their own. London and southern England are economically prosperous areas. If Scotland broke away, they wouldn’t have any of that revenue to support them. Also, there is uncertainty as to how long the oil supply will last. People are concerned that Scotland would not be okay economically when the oil supply is depleted.

Scotland is a very socialistic country. Currently, the majority of healthcare is free from the government (Well, nothing is free. It is paid for through taxes.) Also, if you are Scottish and go to a university in Scotland, you have no tuition fees and the government gives you a stipend per semester. There is much uncertainty as to what will happen to these government programs if Scotland becomes independent.

Another large uncertainty is dealing with the money system. Currently, the United Kingdom uses the pound. If Scotland were to become independent, would they use the pound? Possibly. Would they join the European Union and use the euro? Possibly. Currently, the U.K. is part of the EU but does not use the euro. To join the EU, Scotland would have to reapply, and the EU would vote. I was talking to a Fresher (first year university student). He said that he went to the bank to set-up a new account in Edinburgh. They weren’t making any appointments after Thursday. Apparently, the bank is afraid that everyone will be coming in to withdraw all of their money and didn’t want to make any appointments for any time after the vote.

Many people don’t see the problem with the current government. In their eyes, they have always been a part of the U.K., and that has been perfectly fine. They don’t see why they would want to change now. Some people from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland love Scotland and don’t want to see her leave the U.K. Others don’t see why you wouldn’t vote for independence for your home country. In general, most people are so fed-up with the debate and politics everywhere. Talking to the locals, a lot of people don’t really have any definite answers from either side of the campaign. Many people just want the whole thing to be over, there to be no political uprising or chaos, and life to go back to normal. All I can say is nothing will be back to normal until at least next Friday when the vote count is released.

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Hills near Edinburgh Castle, picture thanks to Edinburgh Evening News

What is the atmosphere like?

First of all, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. Edinburgh is home to 5 different universities and a whole host of people from different backgrounds. During this time of year, there are many tourist floating about the streets. Generally, the city-centre is flooded with people. On the street corners, you will find political campaigners and a handful of bagpipers. A “no” campaign will be just across the street from a “yes” campaign. Yesterday there was a large march in Old Town. It was reported that over 15,000 people came to Edinburgh to participate. Coach buses of people came in flooding the streets. This was the largest demonstration yet. Some of the people of Edinburgh wish that the council would have forbidden the march. As many people have commented, they only expect that there will be more and more campaigning in the next week. People just hope that there won’t be too many riots when the results do finally come out.

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Old Town, Edinburgh

So, what does a “Yes” vote actually mean?

Even if there is a “Yes” vote, Scotland will go through a series of negotiations with Britain. This means that nothing takes place on Friday after the vote anyways.

 

Where can I find more about Scottish Independence?

One of the best places for new updates is the BBC Scotland Decides.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/events/scotland-decides

This is another good website that simply explains the particulars.

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/scottish-independence-referendum/about#who-can-vote

This is the official Scottish Parliament website. Here, you can learn more about the history of the Scottish parliament and touring parliament.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/history.aspx

 

Other than that, please stay tuned to the news. If you have any more questions about the vote, please leave them in the comments!

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Mid-Autumn Festival

MidAutumn Festival - China9/8/2014. It is the Mid-Autumn Festival for this year. It is the second most important festival in Chinese culture (the first one is the Chinese Spring Festival). In Chinese culture, people pray to the Sun for a plentiful harvest and people pray to the Moon in appreciation for the harvest. So, you can say the Mid-Autumn Festival is Chinese thanksgiving. Koreans also celebrate it as 추석 (Chuseok), but I’ll let Dani write more about that later.

What do people do for Mid-Autumn Festival? Families gather together on this day and have a party while watching the Moon. Many people eat moon-cake during this party and different cities have their own way to celebrate this festival.

MidAutumn Festival - China 2The moon is important in Chinese culture as the Chinese calendar is based on the changing of the moon. Every Chinese month is a period from the new moon to the full moon and then back to the new moon again. As such, every Chinese month has 30 days and every 15th day in the month is the day that has the full moon. Normally, the Mid-Autumn Festival has the biggest and brightest moon in the whole year. Chinese people associate “reunion and happiness” with the full moon, and associate “separation and loneliness” with the incomplete moon. When a Chinese person sees a full moon, they miss their family and friends more.

Moon-cake is the special food for Mid-Autumn Festival. It is said that since the Tang Dynasty(618~907 A.D.), the moon-cake was similar to the one that you can find today. Here is the history behind the moon-cake:

MooncakeDuring 1271~1368 A.D. China was controlled by Mongolia. During that period, Chinese people were treated as animals. Chinese people didn’t have names, only a number was used to identify themselves from others. For example, the first emperor after this period is Zhu YuanZhang, but this name was given by himself, because he was called 88 when his parents were living. He could only choose his own name after all of his family members had been killed. When Double Eight was leading his army to fight with Mongolia, he had to capture a city, NanJing, which is protected by a tall and strong wall. Double Eight asked his men to cook a lot of moon-cakes and put notes in them, which said, “We are coming to attack after 10 days.” They sold the moon-cakes in that city on Mid-Autumn Festival because only Chinese people eat moon-cake and celebrate the festival. Therefore, when his army came after 10 days, they found the city was already controlled by the citizens. If you go to the city, NanJing, you still can see the broken walls that were broken during the second World War.