It was a simple “yes” or “no” vote. Probably less intense than the war for Scottish independence depicted in Braveheart, but every bit as important. The small ballot merely read “Should Scotland be an independent country?” A “yes” majority would sever Scotland’s 307 year union with the United Kingdom, making it an independent country.
The Scottish independence referendum was held last week and a 55 percent majority voted “no,” keeping intact the United Kingdom, which is comprised of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
In essence, the “yes” argument sees the conservative-leaning UK Parliament as a strain on the largely self-governed Scotland. BBC News reports that tensions have recently mounted in the UK over two major issues: oil and currency.
Scotland’s economy is driven largely by its oil industry. Champions of Scottish independence sought to earmark a portion of oil revenues each year to create sovereign wealth for the nation. “No” voters argue that a larger government is necessary to further invest in oil.
As for currency, an independent Scotland would have tried to enter into a “currency union” to maintain use of the pound sterling. Brian Quinn, former executive director at the Bank of England, argues against a currency union, saying “By choosing to announce its preference to retain sterling as the currency of an independent Scotland, the current Scottish Government has effectively surrendered its freedom to determine monetary policy and severely circumscribed its freedom of action in the area of public finance.”
The people of Scotland have been actively engaged in the debate over the last two years or so, inundated with campaign ads, yard signs, and televised debates. Nearly 85% of eligible voters turned out to decide the future of their country, including newly incorporated 16 and 17 year-old voters.
“There can be no disputes; no reruns. We have heard the settled will of the Scottish people,” said UK Prime Minister David Cameron following the referendum. NPR’s Ari Shapiro reported from Edinburgh that the day felt “electric.”
With the UK intact, there is still political unrest, but British politicians are looking to meet the Scottish government halfway. Prime Minister Cameron seeks to give Scotland more power regarding its spending and taxes; negotiations are soon expected to take place. For more information, visit www.scotland.gov.uk.