Last week, the world held its breath as everyone waited to hear the outcome of the Scottish vote to secede from the United Kingdom. Mary Pitcaithly made an official declaration sharing that the ‘No’ side had won the vote 55% to 45%. So what is important to note concerning the referendum vote?
Anyone over age 16 who lives in Scotland was eligible to vote. Meaning, Scots who live in other areas of the United Kingdom (approximately 800,000) were ineligible to vote, while approximately 400,000 people from other parts of Britain but reside in Scotland could vote.
That being said, voter turnout was 84.5%. Across Scotland there were 2,608 polling stations which were open from 7AM to 10PM. The question on the ballot was a yes or no type asking “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Scotland’s History with the UK: On May 1, 1707 the Parliament of Great Britain was founded unionizing Scotland and England. The union was based primarily on England’s desire to keep Scotland from choosing a monarch different from that on the English throne. Simultaneously, the Scottish were in a difficult financial state following an attempt to colonize the Isthmus of Panama in the previous decade.
Following the voting result, Prime Minister David Cameron and other party leaders pledged “extensive new powers” to the Scots over their domestic governance. Currently, Scotland has considerable control over its affairs. Some Scots are calling for “maximum devolution,” asking for control over all Scottish affairs excluding defense and foreign policy.
What Is At Stake
It is no surprise that the union has been weakened by the vote; 45% of voters opted to leave the comfort of the UK for independence. The promise made by Prime Minister Cameron may not have been necessary but cannot be taken back. This pledge will now force the UK to create a new constitutional settlement with a more federal structure.
This change will not be simple: it is near impossible to identify a purely English issue as many decisions will ultimately affect Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Analysts are hypothesizing that a federal system would be destabilizing to the UK in general but will also put Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a weak position relative to England. Failure to deliver on the pledged powers would simply add to current Scottish resentment. Due to the referendum, the Scottish Nationalist Party has seen a surge in member numbers.
What Is Next
The referendum has divided the public with understandable passion—Unionists feel victory, Nationalists feel resentment, both feel uncertainty. This passion has ample potential to turn to anger and it should be the United Kingdom’s priority to bring the people together.
Sunday September 21, 2014 saw a reconciliation service hosted by the Church of Scotland at Edinburgh’s St. Giles’ Cathedral. Reverend John Chalmers asserted the service is a method to express commitment to working as one for the sake of Scotland, despite personal emotions of victory or grief.