Not a simple ‘no’ from Scotland

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST

Published - September 20, 2014 12:19 am IST

It would be prudent not to read >Scotland’s ‘no’ to independence as a plain and simple ‘yes’ to continue with the status quo . The latest verdict is very unlike the ‘no’ vote in the 2011 nation-wide referendum, which may have almost indefinitely deferred the search for an alternative to the first-past-the-post mode of election of members of Parliament in Westminster. This result is more complex than the 55-45 per cent vote to stay in the union may point to: an outcome that is far more spectacular than any that pollsters had predicted. More than two out of every five Scots have voted to leave the United Kingdom, and so has their biggest city, Glasgow. Nobody understands what all of this means, better than the so-called Better Together campaign that was led by all the three mainstream parties at Westminster. In a desperate and last-ditch effort to save the union, all of them promised a great deal more of devolution of powers during the passionate debate prior to the referendum. The ruling Conservatives recognise that the time to redeem their pledge to voters begins now. The constitutional process that would eventually culminate in substantial transfer of powers, whatever the details, would take years. But Alex Salmond and his Scottish Nationalist Party can be expected to keep up the pressure in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. The future shape of Scotland will undoubtedly have implications for the rest of the regions, and indeed for the very nature of the union.

There is no denying also that the referendum carries a larger significance beyond the borders of the British Isles. Unmistakable — and probably uncharacteristic for an outsider — was the outspoken comment by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He recently told Parliament that the Scottish referendum was a ‘torpedo’ against European integration, and warned potential breakaway states aspiring to European Union membership of a cold reception. There is a context to Mr. Rajoy’s cryptic comments, which contrast with the milder, if sympathetic, support from U.S. President Barack Obama for a united Britain. Madrid, which has long faced a secessionist movement in the Basque region, is now bracing itself for a non-binding independence plebiscite in the affluent Catalonia province on November 9. Clearly, the currents of globalisation of the recent decades — or closer regional integration as in the case of Europe — have, to a greater or lesser degree, reignited the embers of nationalism and still more narrowly-based identities. An effective political counter to this resurgence could only lie in an inclusive order that can embrace and accommodate diversity.

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