On September 18, more than 3.6 million Scots cast a ballot answering the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” In the weeks leading up to the vote, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties vowed to cede some powers from the UK government to the Scottish Parliament if a majority of Scottish voters rejected independence. The Telegraph reports the leaders of the 3 main parties “argued it would provide ‘certainty’ for Scottish voters that further devolution would follow a No vote and contrasted this with the doubts over a separate Scotland’s finances, currency and public spending.” The legislation for devolution has yet to be written, however the plan is to give “the Scottish Parliament more control over income tax and housing benefit.”
On the morning of September 19, it was announced that 55.3% of Scottish voters cast a ballot opposing Scottish independence. Reuters reports, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised “not only to fulfill the pledge to Scotland but also to make it part of an overhaul of the balance of powers across the rest of the United Kingdom, within the same timeframe of a few months.” This was not part of the pre-vote plan, and does not seem to have the support of the Labour Party. Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, says that such changes would need to be approved by British voters next fall.
The Guardian reports Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, is now accusing “the leaders of the three main UK parties of tricking hundreds of thousands of voters into rejecting Scotland’s independence by reneging on a last-minute vow of more devolution.” An exit poll by Lord Ascroft Polls revealed that at least a quarter of “no” voters seem to have been tricked, telling a pollster “A NO vote would still mean extra powers for the Scottish Parliament together with the security of remaining part of the United Kingdom, giving the best of both worlds.” That quarter of no voters equals about half a million votes, which was more than enough to sway the outcome of the election.
Despite the rejection of independence, at this vote, there is no doubt that a large percentage of Scots are not happy with the union they’re in. It is yet to be decided if Scots will get a chance to vote on independence in the future. However, if devolution is delayed or is deemed insufficient, it seems likely that the independence movement will continue to grow.
Here in the US, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly 1 in 4 Americans are open to the idea of secession in some sense. The poll found 23.9% said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state leaving the US. That poll did not ask if people supported other states withdrawing from the US, and seemed to indicate that support for secession seems to be directly tied to the party affiliation of the President.
As a supporter of self-determination, I support all people who seek to declare independence. I also have hope that within the next few years secessionist movements in the United States will be independent of national politics, and that within my lifetime the US federal government will no longer exist!