With the Scottish referendum for independence set to take place on the 18th of September, only months away, the Prime minister appealed on Friday for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Will it lead to a weaker Isles or is this a genuine opportunity for Scotland?
In 1707, after a period of economic hardship, Scotland was forced to unify with the other nations of the British Isles and become part of the United Kingdom. However, after years of Unification, Scotland has become disillusioned with the partnership and a desire to once again be an independent state has become popular with a growing number of the Scottish population, culminating in the creation of the Scottish Nationalist party in 1934. The SNP’s stated aim is to create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland and to do this they believe their ties with the rest of the UK must be severed. The ideas spread by the SNP have grown in popularity and, after the success the SNP experienced in the 2011 elections, it became clear that a referendum was needed to decide Scotland’s fate. The referendum will be simple, one question; “Should Scotland be an independent country”, to which voters can either choose yes, or no. Opinion is divided over the viability of the split, its potential economic repercussions being a serious cause for concern, not least because the rest of the United Kingdom may be seriously damaged by this final act of devolution.
The No Vote
In his speech on Friday, David Cameron appealed to the Scottish people to vote no on the referendum, and continue with the 307-year long union that Scotland shares with the UK. He warned that both countries would be weaker if Scotland went forward with the split, citing economic, cultural, diplomatic and the militaristic reasons. A Poll conducted on Sunday showed the most common concern of the Scottish population was the economy. Current opinion polls show that there is support for a “no” vote, and this can mostly be put down to the risks Scotland takes in regards to its economy; many not confident that Scotland is capable of going it alone and therefore not prepared to grant it the power it desires. It may have ample industry and the North Sea oil to support its population, but the threat of losing the pound and its access to the European Union’s free trade have all hit the support for independence. The European Union has said it would not automatically allow Scotland in, prompting Scotland to consider joining the Scandinavian countries. However, access to free trade in the European markets is vital for industry as business may face a dent in their profits if they stayed in Scotland after independence. With the economy seen as the most important battleground, these issues are creating stronger support for the continuation of the Union. The business investment that could be hindered would have an impact on jobs and ultimately be the reason for a “No” vote.
In addition, Cameron mentioned the international prestige that Britain could lose if the Isles split. Influence in areas such as the U.N., Nato and Europe would all be affected as Britain would not represent as large a population as before, which could prompt a decline in international relations and potentially mean we are unable to compete globally.
As discussed earlier, the economy could end up having the largest impact on the vote, however the cultural history of the UK would also be lost. Our cultural identity would be changed, as a country we have shared in prosperity and in hardship, in cultural events like the Olympics and in historic events like the World Wars – to split would be to sever the bonds which we as a union have developed over the past 307 years.
The Yes Vote
Nevertheless, if the yes vote succeeds there could be great potential for an Independent Scotland, with the ability to govern their five million occupants their way. Alex Salmond believes it could lead to a fairer and more prosperous country. The SNP believes that the creation of a state which does not rely on the governance of Westminster would be fairer and better represent Scotland’s needs and serve her people. Many agree with the prosperity argument, which states that Scotland has potential to generate a higher GDP without the rest of the United Kingdom and, with the support of oil, could ultimately provide a better economic outlook for its people. Many currently believe that there is a bias towards London and the South East in relation to economic policies and that the “Yes” vote would remove these barriers and allow Scotland to have its own affluence. Though highlighting a few here, further reasons behind a Scottish “yes” vote can be found at: http://www.scotreferendum.com/.
There is also strong support for independence within Scottish society that has come from the years under what could essentially be perceived as “British rule”. From as far back as the original union there has always been a strain of resentment which has emerged throughout the years with many attempts at gaining more power and the lasting growth of the Scottish independence party, which nowadays has a majority. It definitely feels as if this is something that Scotland as a nation has been building up to for a very long time, and if the referendum is “no” then it may only be a few years until another where the answer is “yes”. With the continued progress of the SNP it does seem inevitable that support will continue to grow, similar to the referendum on devolution where originally the answer was “no”, but in time became a “yes”.