Greek Scott, Alley, expresses her afterthoughts on the referendum.
Scotland has spoken, a bittersweet result. They were one of the only countries in the world to vote against their independence, others include; Puerto Rico (three times!) in 1967, 1993 and 2012; Quebec in 1980 and Montenegro in 1992. I am a Greek Scot and I voted No to Scottish Independence. However, I do want to look at both sides of the referendum, exploring some of the reasons why people voted both yes and no. It was a very close call with both sides advertising their celebrity support, their patriotism and their ‘common sense’. To be clear, the referendum is over, even Salmond’s resigned – but something in the Scottish psyche has changed, and perhaps irreparably.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded in 1934 and though they had many favourable policies ,(such as social democracy), their main goal was Independence from the Union. They were voted twice in the 2007 and 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections and that gave the infamous Alex Salmond the prestigious role of Scotland’s First Minister. After winning the 2011 elections, SNP officially made it clear that they were going to host a referendum on the 18th September 2014 on the subject of Scottish independence. Personally, I don’t think many people took this very seriously. However, as Election Day grew nearer it seemed almost inevitable. As illustrated on the billboard the SNP wanted to target anti-Westminster sentiment and pledge that a democratically chosen Scottish Government SHOULD rule the people of Scotland. This seems all fair and well, but as our Prime Minster said, ‘If you don’t like me – I won’t be here forever. If you don’t like this Government – it won’t last forever. But if you leave the UK – that will be forever.’ Though slightly apocalyptic, he had a point. Another touchy issue was that of nuclear disarmament – a point that nearly had me swayed. Salmond openly talked about removing the Trident Nuclear Weapons and spending ‘nuclear warfare’ money on more substantial things like Health and Education. This was all part of Salmond’s ‘idyllic Scotland’, the best country in the world that will take strides in moral and ethical development. These ideas almost encouraged quite Braveheart-like anti-English sentiment. The final ‘aye’ reason I want to talk about is the oil in the North Sea. There has been much debate, confusion and resentment on this. Commercial extraction of oil in the North Sea has been happening since 1851. However, since 1971 Shell Expro has, according to some, ‘monopolised’ Scottish oil. The SNP believe that Scotland should benefit directly from these oil reserves, but according to many third party experts, it’s actually rather tricky to define where one country’s reserves begin and another’s end. There were also rumours that since rights had already been sold for the reserves, an Independent Scotland would not benefit anyway. All this added to the Nation’s confusion. Though there are many other reasons why people voted for Scottish independence it is time to divulge on the #bettertogether Campaign.
The ‘NOs’ have been called ‘Non-Scottish’, ‘traitors’, ‘disgraceful embarrassment’, ‘non-patriotic’, etc. The list is endless. This is because some of us decided that being part of a union is better than being a separate entity. Cleverly, the No Campaigners managed to remove the negativity of ‘no’ and replaced it with slogans like ‘better together’, ‘UK OK’ and ‘Delighted to be United’. For one of the first times in history, the three main political parties put their efforts towards letting Scotland know that Britain ‘wants you to stay.’ There were rallies held across the UK to show Scotland that, actually, the rest do care whether you stay or go. The United Kingdom is one of the most powerful countries in the world. We are a key player in international diplomacy and military – leading roles in the EU, UN and Nato. Why would Scotland want to leave that level of international security? There was also this underlying fear of change, that’s undeniable. Scotland’s future was uncertain and that terrified people. It would have been a bitter divorce, calling into question all that we benefit from being members of the United Kingdom. What would be our currency? What would happen to the NHS, our education, and the military? Where would we stand in the World, both economically and diplomatically? Would we be in the EU? The SNP did have answers for the majority of these issues, but still it just wasn’t sufficient to sway the whole nation. However, 44.7% of the population voted yes – clearly, something is going wrong. These issues undoubtedly need addressing, but perhaps they would need addressing in many parts of the UK not just Scotland. The United Kingdom as an idea is faltering and if Westminster is truly concerned then they need to work out the cause and tackle it, head on. If the referendum showed us anything, it showed us that at some point, somewhere, the Union has failed.
The Real Result
There has been aggression and distasteful behaviour from both sides of the spectrum. Scotland is now a nation divided; I have never felt such division in Scotland in all my life. Being in Edinburgh and Glasgow just before the referendum felt like being caught on both sides of the Berlin Wall. With ‘Yes’ and ‘No Thanks’ everywhere to be seen, bombarded everyday by the media and politicians – you started to really question, is all of this worth it? Has there been irreparable damage to Scottish nationalism? Or, will this all die down in a matter of months? The answers are unknown. Perhaps, in the years to come we will have to justify our decisions to our children and grandchildren. I just hope that when that time comes, we can.