Scotland votes no, still gains partial independence

Scottish citizens decided in a 55-45 vote, as polls closed last night, to remain part of the United Kingdom. But Adam Kaul, associate professor of anthropology at Augustana, said the country still gained partial independence.
“That’s one of the ironic things, is that the Scots won either way,” said Kaul. “They would have either gotten complete independence, or they would have gotten all these new powers. So this no vote is good for them.”
More than 85 percent of Scottish citizens casted a yes or no vote, including 16 and 17-year-olds for the first time.
British Prime Minister David Cameron promised Scotland constitutional reforms, which will give the Scottish more control over taxes and welfare.
The conversation of Scotland’s separation from the U.K., which includes England, Northern Ireland and Wales, grew in popularity over the past few decades, but has been a controversial topic for centuries.
Kaul, who studied at Durham University in the U.K. and travels yearly to Ireland, said Durham shows this lifelong battle between Scotland and the rest of the U.K.
“There are castles everywhere because that land had been fought over so many times,” he said. “So this is a battle that’s been going on for, you could say, many centuries.”
Scotland joined the U.K. in 1707 after the decision to create one parliament in London for England and Scotland. Scotland was close to bankruptcy at the time, and Kaul said the unification was never solid. He said England has held more power over Northern Ireland and Wales, too.
“Each of these entities have their own historical relationship with England, which is kind of the seat of power, essentially,” Kaul said. “And because of that, they have different kinds of rights and responsibilities in relation to England.”
A more modern shift in political power from England and the U.K. to Scottish government, also known as “devolution,” was manifested during the Scotland Act of 1998, which created a Scottish parliament.
“The Scottish parliament still has to answer to Westminster, but they’ve gained a lot of independence,” said Kaul.
He said if Scotland had voted to separate from the U.K., the politics, economy and more would have had to be reconstructed.
“There would have been questions about what currency they use,” said Kaul. “Would you continue to use pounds? That wouldn’t make sense. Would you use the Euro?”
Kaul said the country would have had to set up borders, which would affect commuters traveling between Scotland and England. Britain stores nuclear weapons in Scotland, which would have had to be relocated, and oil drilling and trade would have changed.
“Everything is combined right now–schooling, education, businesses, politics,” said junior Elena Leith. “I think if they had become an independent nation, they would have had to restart themselves and I don’t think that’s possible in this day and age.”
Leith, of Scottish decent, occasionally travels to Scotland where her father was born and teaches at the University of the West of Scotland.
Leith said it would have been difficult for students going to school in neighboring England because citizens would have to apply for new documentation and receive new passports and IDs.
Kaul and Leith also attributed the cultural differences between the Scottish and the English to why so many citizens voted for separation.
“There’s a bigger political and cultural difference in Scotland than there is in the rest of England,” said Kaul. “Scotland is far more to the left and far more interested in providing a social safety net for its citizens than there is in England.”
“Scotland was born an independent nation and was conquered by England, and Scotts are touchy about that subject,” said Leith. “If you are Scottish, you’re not British, you’re Scottish. It’s very much a pride thing.”
Another result of the election, Kaul said, is that Northern Ireland and Wales are now included in the conversation of separation from the U.K.
“Now you’ve got Northern Ireland that you’ve got to deal with; you’ve got Wales that you have to deal with,” he said.”How is that relationship going to change for them? And that’s a thorny issue.”
Whether Cameron’s promise to give Scotland more independence plays out, Kaul and Leith said the discussion and election were important for history and for Scotland as a nation.
“The whole thing amazes me,” said Kaul. “It’s such a historic decision either way.”
Leith said the polls being so close shows Scotland’s nationality.
Kaul said the election was a “vote of the next generation,” stating the peaceful discussion of separation fundamental in how much support Scotland received globally.
“Here you have a discussion of splitting a country, and Scottish citizens can debate it peacefully, with the majority of the country voting,” said Kaul. “I think the rest of the world should applaud that.”