Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish No vote creates divisions on both sides of border

On Thursday 18th September 2014 Scotland voted No in a referendum concerning Scottish independence. But while there was much rejoicing in the "Better Together" camp, the result may create some deep divisions, not only amongst the Scots but also between Scotland and its neighbours.

Issues of defence, financial concerns and what currency and independent Scotland might use were major questions that for some remained unanswered.

Scottish patriotism and a hope for a new start was not enough to swing it for Alex Salmond's Yes campaign.

High turnout

Voter turnout was extremely high, more than 90% in some regions, a clear sign that the issue was important in the minds of the Scottish people.

But shortly after 6:00 a.m. history had been made as it was declared that Scotland had rejected the chance of independence.

The final result was 44.7%, or 1,617,989 votes, for Yes, with 55.3%, 2,001,926, voting No.

Celebration in Westminster

In the hours that followed leaders of the major political parties came out to praise the decision. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted at the result and said that is was "time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward." 

Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted that the result was not a vote to maintain the status quo but a "vote for change".

All parties must now work for greater autonomy, a stronger Scottish parliament and a stronger Scotland, Miliband said. Indeed the decision should also spark discussions about devolution for Wales and England.

But while there was a sense of relief and celebration in Westminster, many English citizens expressed dismay at the result.

Anger on social media

Comments on social media showed there were deep divisions resulting from the whole campaign.

"As an Englishman I'm gutted, we've read on a daily basis the anti-English bile coming from a large proportion of Scots toward us, I was hoping for a resounding YES vote so we could cut the apron strings and the financial benefits we give these so called 'Bravehearts'," one man posted on the Daily Mail website under the moniker Bristolbeau.

He went on to accuse the Scots of "choosing to live off the back of the English lion rather than stand on their own two feet."

It was not a lone voice. Indeed the whole debate about Scottish independence has highlighted the iniquity that exists both north and south of the border.

Scots are widely seen as benefiting from free university fees, NHS prescriptions and eye care, on the backs of the English taxpayer.

West Lothian question

Many English also feel aggrieved that the Irish, Scots and Welsh also have their own national assemblies, while England maintains a national parliament where MPs from these states may still influence decisions made at Westminster. Indeed the debate surrounding the so-called West Lothian question will now be one that Westminster MPs will not be able to side track.

"Cameron has been so worried about the Scots he hasn't noticed how bloody angry the English are?" one man wrote on the Daily Mail website. "I can't speak for the Welsh or Irish but I suspect they feel aggrieved too, but they at least have assemblies."

It wasn't just comments on right wing newspaper websites that expressed anger. On the Guardian website there were also calls for English devolution and changes to the way Scotland is funded.

"People living in England have been treated as second class citizens compared to those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for far too long," one commenter wrote.

Cameron will certainly be under pressure to make reforms, not only from the electorate but also the opposition. Miliband has suggested reform is needed, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has also said the question over English devolution also needs to be tackled.

"If at first you don't succeed…"

Alex Salmond said he "accepted the verdict of the people".

However, there are many people in England who will not accept the status quo and will, in the coming months, demand change to the way England is run and the way Scotland is funded.

But what of the future of Scottish independence. Alex Salmond said he accepted that the people rejected the notion of independence "this time". The Edinburgh Agreement stated that a referendum must be held by the end of 2014. This has been upheld and there is no arrangement in place for another referendum on independence.

However, Salmond may be looking to history for inspiration. There is a well known legend surrounding Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329. It is said that in the early days of Bruce's reign he was defeated by the English and driven into exile. Whilst on the run he sought refuge in a small dark cave and sat watching a little spider trying to make a web.

Each time the spider failed, it began again and continued until it succeeded. Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict a series of defeats on the English, thus winning him more supporters and eventual victory. The story served to illustrate the maxim: "if at first you don't succeed, try try try again."

Salmond will no doubt be thinking the same as he retreats to lick his wounds.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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