Scotland Independence Referendum - September, 2014
Referendum Hangover - Sep 19th, 2014
EDINGURGH – It’s the morning after. After staying up all night waiting for the results to trickle-in, bleary-eyed Scots are digesting the verdict of their historic referendum on independence. For a while it looked like it might be a tight race with Dundee and Glasgow voting Yes. But before dawn at around 5:30am, the No-side pushed past the fifty-percent threshold and finally ended up with 55%. The Yes-side conceded defeat with just 45% support. It was crushing loss.
“I’m quite angry. I’m pissed off,” says die-hard separatist Bruce Ogilvie from Angus.
Bruce is dressed in a green tartan kilt and carrying the Scottish flag, the Saltire, on the Royal Mile in the heart of the ancient capital.
“We’re not going away,” he says, “we’re like Quebec and we’re going to carry on until we get justice here.”
There is little faith among Yes-voters that British Prime Minister David Cameron or the political elite in Westminster will keep their promise of giving Scotland more powers.
“Let’s get real here. Scotland is going to be shafted,” says Bruce, “we are going to get nothing.”
Others are even more pessimistic about Scotland’s future. Natalie Maitan sells handmade jewelery to tourists and believes Scots will be punished for taking the UK so close to the brink.
“I’m expecting future sanctions from Westminster for stepping out of line rather than future powers,” she says.
Disillusioned with politics, Bruce is ready more extreme measures.
“We don’t want referendums any more. We want a revolution,” says Bruce. “We need people marching on the streets.”
But that’s unlikely anytime soon. Only a handful of Scots are so radical. The ball is in Westminster’s court and most are waiting to see if Cameron lives-up to his pledge of more powers for Scotland. If he fails to meet expectations, separatist passions could be re-ignited.
But for now everyone is exhausted. After a grueling campaign and being up all night, both sides are emotionally drained. Many are taking the day off and staying in bed. Call it the Referendum Hangover.
Britain on the Brink - Sep 16th, 2014
LONDON - With only 3 days to go until Scotland’s historic referendum on independence, people across the United Kingdom are holding their collective breath. The latest polls show the vote is still too close to call. Both sides are in a virtual tie. While Brits are not prone to making emotional displays of patriotism, they are certainly being asked to do so this week.
British comedian Eddie Izzard led a rally in Trafalgar Square in hopes of mustering a last ditch display of national unity. David Beckham and other celebrities have made passionate pleas for Scotland to stay. Even Irish rocker Bob Geldolf – who knows a cause when he sees one – delivered a speech. Sympathizing with disillusioned Scots he said, "we're all f***ing fed up of Westminster (the British parliament)" but that the United Kingdom was worth saving. It wasn’t exactly Live Aid but it may sway a few of the half-a-million Scottish voters who are still undecided.
I covered the 1995 referendum in Quebec and there is a similar numb feeling in the air in UK this week. Everything is on hold. There is strange dizzying realization that your country could suddenly break apart. It’s kind of like waiting for an earthquake. A ‘Yes’ victory would be a devastating psychological blow to Britain – yet another fall in what has been a steady century of decline.
As was the case in the Quebec referendum, young voters in Scotland tend to support independence. But the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party has achieved something the Parti Quebecois only dreamed of: giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds. The voting age in Scotland has been lowered and this could tip the balance in the Yes side’s favour. The referendum will be the first time young Scots will be able to exercise their right to vote – and what a electoral debut!
Seventeen-year-old Neil Heatlie has just started studying engineering at Glasgow University. He’s young, confident and says he’ll be voting ‘Yes’. “We could become a more prosperous country with independence,” he says.
But Neil also reflects the general sense of fairness that Scots display over their English neighbours. “I think we could create a more equal society because the UK is one of the most unequal societies in the world.” Anyone who pays the ridiculously expensive rents and transport costs in London would agree.
Money & Ethnics
Despite Scotland’s oil wealth most business leaders have come out against separation and have warned of economic catastrophe. It could even lead to another Great Depression for Britain. Scotland can forget about using the Pound and the British passport. Those will be familiar arguments to Canadians and Quebec separatist leader Jacques Parizeau who blamed the ‘Yes’ sides loss in 1995 on ‘money and ethnics.’ But while big money in the UK is definitely on the side of the union, the ethnic vote in Scotland is more complex. Many Polish and eastern Europeans, for example, have moved to Scotland in the last decade. But there has been a recent rise of the far right nationalist parties in Britain and the ruling Conservatives are promising a referendum in 2017 on taking the UK out of the EU. So in an odd twist of logic, many of Scotland’s European ethnic groups will be voting ‘Yes’ to keep the country in the European Union.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was back in Scotland Monday making a last pitch for the union. He warned Scots that separation will be a “painful divorce” with no shared currency and a border that may not be crossed easily.
Instead Cameron offered Scotland more political powers. “The status quo is gone. A vote for ‘No’ means real change.”
If Scotland does indeed vote ‘No’ and accepts the offer, how long before Wales and Northern Ireland ask for the same devolved powers?
No matter the result on Thursday, the United Kingdom as we know will change forever.