Sunday

3rd Mar 2024

Scotland chooses to stay in UK

  • The No campaign turned out to be successful, in the end (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Voters in Scotland on Thursday (18 September) said No to independence from the UK, but the intense campaigning and the record-high turnout are seen as examples for separatist movements elsewhere in Europe.

Official results early Friday morning show that 55 percent of people opposed independence, while 45 percent voted in favour.

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  • Pro-UK stickers only appeared late in the campaign (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Turnout was at a record high, of 85 percent.

Scottish Nationalist Party leader, Alex Salmond, who is also the governor of Scotland, tweeted that "this has been a remarkable day. Scotland's future truly is in Scotland's hands."

Salmond is the one who initiated the referendum campaign and who had wanted three options on the ballot papers: independence; the status quo; or more devolution for Scotland.

He may have not won the independence quest - but he did win on the devolution front.

The British government led by David Cameron in the beginning only accepted the independence question, as they did not want to grant more powers to the regional government in Edinburgh.

The logic in Westminster was also that Scots will never vote for independence, given that polls at the time were showing a comfortable majority against it - as high as 65 percent in 2013.

But the Yes campaign gained traction and energised people who normally did not engage in elections, with a shock poll early September putting the Yes camp for the first time in the lead. Cameron and the leaders of the two other main parties in Westminister - Labour and the Liberal-Democrats - then signed a pledge to give more powers to Scotland if they vote No.

Cameron and the other leaders will now have to deliver on those promises and also face claims from the other regions - Wales, England and Northern Ireland - for more money and powers.

Daniel Kenealy, a political scientist with the University of Edinburgh, told this website that "in terms of this very long campaign the result for Yes is actually very strong indeed," as only a few months back people were talking about a 60 percent win for the No campaign.

"What this means, I think, for British politics is that much thought now needs to be given to our constitutional arrangements," he said.

In terms of demographics, an early analysis of the vote suggests that those born in the rest of the UK, Scotland's pensioners, and Scotland's middle class "sealed this victory for 'Better Together'. But the longer-term message is clear: constitutional change will have to be delivered," Kenealy said.

Tom Gallagher, an Edinburgh-based political scientist, also sees constitutional reforms ahead.

"I hope the UK political elite will put aside some of its partisanship so as to pursue governance reforms across Britain, perhaps offering an example to other EU states where there is also a populist challenge," he said.

Model for other movements

Even with the No, Scotland remains a model for other separatist movements in Europe and the world, it emerged at gathering of pro-autonomy and pro-independence parties in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Daniel Turp, a constitutional law professor at the University of Montreal and a supporter of independence for Quebec, said that the Scottish campaign was "very well organised" and that it started two years ago, with relentless efforts to change people's minds.

Turp said the No does not mean the fight is over: "We say 'a la prochaine' [until next time]. We had the same in Quebec - we said No twice, but I am convinced there will be a third time and then it will become independent."

A similar prediction came from Josep Maria Terricabras, a Catalan politician and chief of the European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, whose 12 members come from pro-independence parties.

"It's no tragedy, we'll try again and again. We are now preparing for 9 November," he said, in reference to a referendum in Catalonia which is however not recognised by the government in Madrid, since the Spanish constitution prohibits attempts to secede.

"We know our reasons are valid and powerful and we hope to convince them, if not now, soon, but hopefully not in the 23rd century," he joked.

Other movements such as the Frieslander in north-eastern Netherlands, are not pushing for independence, but for more autonomy and language rights.

"I believe in Europe of the regions, not the nations. Self-determination at a regional level, representation and laws decided at the EU level," Sjoerd Groenhof, an engineer from Friesland told EUobserver.

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