By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Scotland has voted no in a poll for independence Thursday, but it remains historically significant for a number of reasons.
The Background: Scotland went through the task of deciding whether or not it wanted to remain a member of the United Kingdom or strike out on its own as an independent country. The question of independence was unique in that it wasn’t the result of war, political unrest or economic turmoil. The vote was divided into two camps — Union vs. Independence, Yes vs. No — and until the last breath of the campaign, both sides remained neck in neck.
The Vote: A mind-blowing almost 85% of eligible voters — anyone 16 years old and older who lived in Scotland — came to the polls and voted. The results were close, with 45% for independence and 55% for union.
The Aftermath: Okay, so Scotland didn’t get independence. Honestly, I wasn’t sure which way I wanted it to go. On one hand, I think it would be so exciting to witness the beginning of a country on such non-martial terms. On the other hand, the economic repercussions are pretty substantial — more than half of Scottish loans will now be held in foreign banks and it’s possible they will have to go off the English pound.
But I don’t think that everything is lost for Scotland, even if they didn’t gain independence. I feel like, if anything, this vote served as a wake-up call for England. Historically, they don’t have the best track record with Scotland, and perhaps the threat of “breaking up the family,” as David Cameron, the prime minister of England kept putting it, will shake England into giving Scotland some of the respect and autonomy it was asking for. And it could also have effects worldwide.
Scotland didn’t have to resort to violence or weapons in order to make it heard. It went through the political system and trusted the power of democracy. That kind of peaceful resistance, the iron spine of Scotland, can serve as a beacon for other countries looking to strike out in their own forms of independence. In a world that is constantly seething with war, Scotland stands apart from the chaos and shows that fighting for freedom doesn’t necessarily mean fighting with weapons, that taking a stand doesn’t mean taking up arms, and that pride for one’s country doesn’t mean attacking another’s.
British politicians, like Labour lawmaker Alistair Darling, said that any promises of political changes made by Westminster parties would be kept, which would imbue Scotland with more powers. The vote has caused deep rifts in how the English and Scottish communicate, but perhaps that dialogue, while awkward and fiery at times, can lead to a better understanding of each other.
Scotland didn’t get its independence, but hopefully it can still get the freedom it deserves.