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Scotland votes no

Settembre 2014
La Gran Bretagna rimane unita, gli scozzesi hanno detto no all’indipendenza. La furba mossa di Cameron si è rivelata vincente: la Scozia non voleva l'indipendenza, ma solo più autonomia. Ecco perché il primo ministro britannico ha giocato con il fuoco…

di Mark Worden

The people of Scotland have said No to independence from the rest of the United Kingdom. Before the vote, opinion polls suggested that the No vote would win, but they also suggested that it would be very close. At the end of the day, the 55 per cent (No) to 45 per cent (Yes)  margin was bigger than expected.


The reason why the Scots voted against full independence was simple: they didn’t want it! What they really wanted was “Devo Max” or maximum devolution, in other words greater autonomy. A referendum on this issue would have produced a majority, but British prime minister David Cameron (an Englishman with a Scottish surname) insisted on an “all or nothing”  referendum: the Scots had to say Yes or No to full independence. It was an enormous gamble by Cameron. Had the Yes vote won, Great Britain would have been broken up (after 307 years of union) and, according to one newspaper, The Independent, Cameron would have been remembered as “the worst prime minister in history” and “the George Bush of Britain.”


In the last days of campaigning the Yes vote began to grow and the No campaign (“Better Together,” an organization supported by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties) began to panic. All three party leaders went to Scotland and promised greater devolution in the event of a No victory: they promised the Scots what they actually wanted! This morning, when David Cameron spoke to the press outside 10 Downing Street, he repeated the promise, and offered greater autonomy for Wales, Northern Ireland and many regions of England. This promise will not be popular with many members of his own Conservative Party, who already accuse him of being “weak” with the European Union.


The other factors in the No campaign’s victory were fear and uncertainty. According to the British government, an independent Scotland would have been poorer: according to the SNP (Scottish National Party), it would have been richer, thanks to its small population and its massive reserves of fish and oil. The truth is no one really knew the answer. And no one knew the answer to a number of administrative issues: who would be the head of state of a new Scotland? What currency would it use? Would it stay in the European Union? What would happen to the armed forces?  These were frightening questions and, according to another paper, The Guardian, even the Yes campaign’s leader, Scotland’s First Minister (and SNP leader) Alex Salmond, was scared of the prospect of  an independent Scotland! Political observers say that the No campaign’s leader, Alistair Darling (a Scotsman and former Labour minister) did an excellent job in exposing the fact that Salmond didn’t have the answers to the economic questions. The rest of Europe was also frightened: a Yes victory would have led to similar requests for independence in Catalonia and other regions.


One of the positive aspects of the referendum was that 84 per cent of the electorate voted. According to another paper, The Daily Telegraph, this was the highest percentage since the introduction of universal suffrage in Britain in 1918. Also, 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote for the first time. It created a lot of interest in politics, and this is a good thing.As for the referendum itself, if Cameron keeps his promise of greater devolution, then the Scots will be reasonably happy.  But perhaps he could have offered “Devo Max” without an independence referendum. The referendum was fascinating, but was it also a waste of time?

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