23rd Feb 2020

Voting under way in Scottish independence referendum

  • Polling stations will stay open until 10pm local time (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Over 4 million people are set to cast their vote in the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday (18 September), with a record turnout expected as 97 percent of eligible voters have registered for the poll.

Polling stations open at 7am local time and close at 10pm. Exit polls are expected immediately afterwards, while the final result should be known early Friday morning.

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Opinion polls published in the last few days suggested the result will be too close to call, with the No camp ahead by two-three percent, which is within the margin of error.

If Scotland votes Yes, it will represent a political shock for the EU.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday called it a "torpedo below the waterline for European integration". He warned that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership and that the process will take years.

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel García-Margallo said that "it would start a process of Balkanisation that nobody in Europe wants," a reference to smaller states breaking off and becoming hostile to each other.

Madrid has weighed into the Scottish debate because it opposes a similar referendum from taking place in Catalonia. Local authorities want to hold a non-binding "popular consultation" in November.

In Spain, any such secession attempt would be unconstitutional. This contrasts with the UK, where the government in London has agreed that if Scots say Yes, the country can negotiate the terms of its break-up from the 300-year old union.

At a local standup comedy club in Glasgow on Wednesday, Spain was part of a special show about the referendum.

"Every year in summer, hordes of Scots board cheap flights to Spain. If Madrid opposes our independence, we'll just send more people, until they come around," one comedian said.

Another one quipped about the "Balkanisation" comment, saying that many Scots "now believe the weather will get worse if we vote Yes".

As for the EU prospects, he added: "we will not only leave the EU, but we'll be banned forever from the Eurovision song contest. Imagine how many Europeans will cheer for that."

A young comedienne joked that she is voting Yes "because when the US invades us for oil, I'll marry a GI. Then I'll get canned pineapple and nylon stockings all the stuff we don't get here on the black market."

Offshore oil in Scottish waters have been part of the campaign, along with the right to use the British pound if Scotland becomes independent.

The No campaign and business elites have warned that independence will create economic uncertainty and that Scotland will have no say over monetary policy decided in London.

Re-applying for EU membership also raises the question of the euro - as all aspiring members are required to adopt the common currency one day.

The UK and Denmark have negotiated an opt-out from the single currency, but all other countries are bound to join one day. The ruling Scottish Nationalist Party has said it will not adopt the euro.

It is instead looking to Sweden as a model, where the obligation to join still exists, but has been postponed indefinitely after Swedes voted against joining the single currency.

As for the use of the pound, as one comedian noted, the bills currently in circulation in Scotland have a Scottish marking that makes it difficult to use in England.

"Nothing will change. Have you tried using Scottish pounds in London? They look at it as if it were from Mars."


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