Emotions are running high across the United Kingdom today as scores of Scots are casting their ballots in the polls to decide whether to breakaway Scotland from its 307-year-old union with England.
Approximately 4.2 million people (97 per cent of those eligible to vote) of the country’s 5.3 million residents are registered to vote in today’s election. The most recent public opinion polls performed over the final days and weeks of the campaign indicate the results are too close to call.
A pro-independence “Yes” vote will trigger Scottish independence, ending the political union it formed with England in 1707.
Some parallels can be drawn between the Scottish secessionist movement and the Quebec separatism, particularly the 1995 referendum that came down to a 50.58 per cent “No” result – narrowly beating the “Yes” campaign.
In both jurisdictions an ocean apart, the dream of independence is driven not by economic factors but by social, cultural and nationalistic reasons, although Quebec strays much further on this regard with heavy elements of xenophobic ethnic nationalism. That said, Quebec has never enjoyed nation status in its history whereas Scotland has.
Supporters of separatism also carry the assumption that currencies will be retained; similar to how Quebec wanted to keep the Canadian dollar, the majority of Scots voting “Yes” want to keep the pound and all the benefits that come with it as their currency.
Scots covet the oil- and fish-rich Shetland Islands in the North Sea as one of their future economic backbones for becoming an independent nation state, but at the same time there are doubts over the extent of the oil reserves and the question remains over how the reserves will be divided if at all.
Even then, there is a movement in Shetland to remove itself from a new Scottish state, similar to how the Anglophones of Montreal threatened to start their own independence movement or relocate their businesses to Toronto. Scottish banks have already stated that they will relocate from Glasgow to London if the results of a “Yes” vote are upheld.
Other Scottish considerations relating to trade have been taking a backseat within the discussions of the “Yes” camp, although the referendum is also a vote on the social and economic state of England and the United Kingdom as a whole. There is particularly growing discontent over inequalities and the growing centralization towards London.
Beyond the British Isles, a “Yes” result could have profound changes to global affairs and trade. Great Britain’s relative influence and power could be greatly diminished: it might lose its position as a member of the G8 and could even lose its permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Economic uncertainty from independence will slow down continental Europe’s economic recovery, adding to months of instability from the conflict in Ukraine, and go against the European Union’s aim of European integration.
For Scotland, it likely will not be admissible into the EU and trade agreements with other countries will be hard to come by during its nation state infancy.
Separatists in Belgium, Italy, Quebec and Spain’s Catalonia are closely monitoring the process and results of the Scottish referendum.
The results of today’s vote will be released tonight at approximately 11 p.m. PST.
Feature Image: Scottish referendum via Shutterstock