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.
Who can vote for the referendum?
Most people age 16 or older from Scotland.
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.
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.
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.
This is another good website that simply explains the particulars.
This is the official Scottish Parliament website. Here, you can learn more about the history of the Scottish parliament and touring parliament.
Other than that, please stay tuned to the news. If you have any more questions about the vote, please leave them in the comments!