“Should Scotland be an independent country?” 4.3 million Scots will be answering this question today after months of anticipation, discussion and debate. Scotland’s independence referendum certainly stands out – it’s rare for a vote like this to take place in a country free from war, political chaos and violence. South Sudan is the most recent nation to gain its independence after a referendum was passed with almost 99 percent of the vote in 2011. Will Scotland join it and some 22 other countries that have said yes over the past seven decades? We’ll find out tomorrow.
Statistics and information about Scottish independence
In March 2013, the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill was put forward by the Scottish and United Kingdom governments. This set out the arrangements for a vote to take place on Thursday 18 September 2014 in which all Scots aged sixteen and over would have the chance to vote either ‘Yes’ for an independent Scotland or ‘No’ to remain part of the centuries old union with England.
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In 1707, Acts of Union were passed by the Scottish and English parliaments, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain. This occurred, however, against the backdrop of historical conflicts, broken royal unions and deceit. What then, compelled these two traditionally warring nations to join in union?
In 1698, almost all Scottish land owners invested heavily in the Darien scheme. This attempt at securing a trading colony on the Isthmus of Panama was both daring and, ultimately, a failure. The Scottish elite were left bankrupt and, combined with the threat of an English invasion, were therefore swayed to back the union.
Fast-forwarding to 2014, there is certainly no risk of an English invasion but key in the debate between Holyrood and Westminster is the economic impact of independence. This complex topic has advocates on both sides, with the Scottish leader, SNP politician Alex Salmond claiming that factors like North Sea oil and Scottish tourism are such powerful economic forces that Scotland wouldn’t merely survive as an independent country, but prosper.
The UK government, led by the Conservative David Cameron, state that Scotland would in fact suffer as a result of leaving the union. The government forecast that Scottish spending, debt and borrowing would increase in the years following independence whilst revenues would fall.
In the months leading up to the referendum Cameron and co. started to play hardball, announcing that, in no uncertain terms, a currency union would not happen, meaning an independent Scotland would not be able to keep the British pound. Joining the European Union and potentially the eurozone would, however, seem to be a popular option.
As the debate rages, the Scottish people are starting to make up their minds. Despite natural fluctuations, the vast majority of the polls show that the ‘No’ vote is winning. This could be down to the fact that a large amount of Scots aren’t confident about the financial prosperity that Salmond promises or the perceived risk of increases in taxes. When all is said and done though, it could simply come down to a question of national pride.
You will find more statistics at Statista