This past year has seen what could have been the breakup of a relationship several centuries old, that of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
In September of last year, those living in Scotland were asked to head to the polls and decide the fate of their country by answering “Yes” or “No” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Any British, Commonwealth or EU citizens living in Scotland who were over the age of 16 were eligible to vote.
The referendum threatened to separate the United Kingdom, which first formed in 1707 via a union between England and Scotland.
The “No” side ultimately pulled ahead with 55 per cent of the vote. The referendum saw just under 85 per cent participation from those eligible to vote, making it the highest recorded turnout for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom’s history.
Since voting eligibility was mainly tied to the territory, there were many sharp divides in voting trends between different demographics. Those born in Scotland were more likely to vote for independence, while those born in the rest of the United Kingdom were much more likely to vote against.
Around fifty-two per cent of those born in Scotland voted for independence, compared to 42.9 per cent of those born outside of the UK, and 27.9 per cent of those born in the UK countries other than Scotland. This last demographic is composed of around 400,000 people, which makes up about a tenth of the vote.
While many of those voting for Scotland to remain within the UK were not born in Scotland themselves, all of them were residents who considered Scotland their home.
Despite the rather decisive outcome of the referendum, the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) seems to have plans for a second referendum in as little as five years’ time.
Scotland’s general election is coming up this year, and polls predict a majority government for the SNP, who plan to demand full fiscal autonomy from Westminster. Should this be granted, then a referendum is something for the far future, according to a senior SNP member. However, Britain can expect another independence referendum soon should their demands not be met.
Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who spearheaded the “Yes” campaign, promised last year that a referendum would not happen again for a long time.
“My view is this is a once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime, opportunity for Scotland.”
The use of another referendum as a bargaining chip, and perhaps a threat, has garnered a great deal of animosity towards the SNP, from Scots and non-Scots alike.
“This is a party that will stop at nothing to try and tear up last year’s clear result,” said a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives.
Both the Scottish Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats also spoke out against the plans for a second referendum, echoing the claims that there has been a clear decision made on the issue.