Scotland’s Referendum

Article by: Angelo Manaloto

In the world today, independence isn’t a topic that is suffused with much polarization. Usually, people are simply for it – for liberation, for freedom, and for autonomy as it’s become quite the norm.

However, the case of Scotland’s independence shows us that things aren’t that simple. The Scottish independence referendum on September 18 posed the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The 45% who voted “yes” defend their position with a number of reasons: sovereignty, securing oil funds in the North Sea, equal wages, and the generation of more jobs, particularly in the energy sector. Meanwhile, the 55% who voted “no” argue that it avoids a phase of uncertainty and economic isolation. There is also a belief that Scotland cannot make it alone.

After interviewing a number of our British teachers, it is plausible to say that the diversity of perspectives remains palpable even in ISM. Mr. Hobbins, despite “not having a strong opinion either way,” jokingly blames Margaret Thatcher “for everything he possibly can.” This is because the introduction of the Poll tax in 1989, one year ahead of its introduction in England and Wales, “went against the act of union,” upsetting the Scottish and caused the Scottish Nationalist Party to grow enormously. Having Irish blood he says, musters up an attitude that deems the end of the 400-year-long period of English colonialism as a “good thing.”

IB coordinator Mr. Relf sees the issue as a debate of emotion and reason. He believes the Scottish have “an emotional affinity” to their people that drives the independence movement forward and constitutes to their yearn for self-determination. However, he claims the arguments of reason, which are seated upon more “pragmatic ideas of economic stability, defense policy, etc.,” counter this. While Mr. Relf is glad that the vote exemplified the case of reason subverting emotion, he thinks Scottish independence would have indeed been an “exciting political shift.”

On the other hand, despite having lived in the UK for 20 years, Mr. Birchenall adopts a more impartial perspective According to him, his friends and acquaintances back in Scotland feel that Scotland would be better if it were “more like Scandinavia” and less like Britain. He notes how British politics have “swung right of the political spectrum”, providing “little choice” aside from neoliberalism, which opposes Scottish policies and beliefs that are more oriented with the left. Other issues he says are those of British foreign policy regarding military intervention as seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear weapons on Scottish soil, the direction of economic policies, and the feeling that British political trends just aren’t for them.

Usually, people agree to disagree; however, this is evidently just not that kind of topic. At the end of the day, those voting are going to have to make a choice between freedom and pragmatism. The choice may, initially, seem fairly obvious, but freedom, while it may have its benefits, comes with all the hardships of independence; unfortunately, predicting the economic and social implications of this choice is nigh on impossible at this current juncture. Only time will tell.