Scotland has decided: it will not be an independent country

Scottish independence

At the last turnout of the Scotland referendum the supporters of independence have been defeated by the will of the Scottish people: it is not time for a “Disunited Kingdom”

The striking history of the relationship between England and Scotland dates from Middle Ages, and the referendum that took place on the 18th of September is not a news.

There has been a long struggle, in the last decades, to claim for Scotland sovereignty. The failed referendum to have a Scottish Assembly, held in 1979 just a few months before Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party would have won the general elections, was only the first step of this path.

In 1997, the new consultation was a huge success, even though it didn’t touch all the problems that an independent Parliament in Scotland would have faced, starting from the taxation and the welfare system, which strictly remained under Westminster’s control.

Therefore, the campaign for a real independent Scotland became a common issue, relying on a lot of different topics, from defence to monetary policy.

Now, after the end of the campaign and the victory of the «No» to independence, it is hard to state what was the most successful issue raised by the «Better Together» campaign, but it is easy to underline some of the main concerns among Scottish.

The first, and most important, is the economy: it is difficult to imagine even if an independent Scotland should have had its own currency or if it should have continued to use the sterling in a sort of currency union with England. A few days before the referendum, the Royal Bank of Scotland had just announced it would have relocated its headquarters in London if the «Yes» would have prevailed. There was even the general fear of the rise of every good’s prices, starting from food and the most basic ones.

Moreover, it had been taken into account the diplomatic issue: would an independent Scotland had joined the EU? Would it have been able to be part of NATO? But the greatest diplomatic trouble was on the behalf of England: how would the United Kingdom still have claimed for sitting in the UN Security Council without such an important part of its territory, in comparison with raising powers like India, Brazil, but even with European countries like Germany?

Last but not least, there was a military and defence issue: a key part of British leading role at an international level still relies on its army’s efficiency and strength. With an independent Scotland, the losses in terms of men and warfare tools and supporting technology would have been a considerable wound in the British defence system.

In order to face these and other questions, the «Yes» campaign suggested that an independent Scotland would have had the power necessary to solve them, without the obstacles coming from the Westminster establishment. On the other hand, the «No» side relied upon the promise to devolve more power to Scotland, in case of a negative result of the referendum, as agreed in the last days of the campaign by the leaders of the three main UK’s parties, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg.

After the first (and unique) poll which had claimed the narrow advantage for the independentists, the three main British politicians had finally understood that only with the vow for more devolution of power to Scotland the region would have remained part of the United Kingdom.

It is still quite unclear what will be the core of the reform, that should take into account even Wales, Northern Ireland and England itself. According to some David Cameron’s comments, and to the final speech given during the campaign by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the devolution should be focused on the National Healthcare System, the flexibility regarding the level of taxation, and some other economic issues.

In his resigning speech after the defeat of the «Yes», even the leader of the Scottish National Parliament, Alex Salmond, made a plea to Westminster to ensure that the Parliament will maintain its promises. To some extent, the real victory of the Scottish National Party has been the recognition from England of the most relevant issues that have challenged Scotland last years.

salmond
ALEX SALMOND, FIRST MINISTER OF SCOTLAND, WHO RESIGNED ON SEPTEMBER 19TH AFTER THE INDEPENDENTISTS’ DEFEAT

Behind this broad pictures, the most successful question for the «No» side has been that of the real usefulness of this referendum for the Scottish people. Taken for granted that Scotland has a strong history in all its “national” traditions, it has been ruled by English monarchy for the last three hundred years without any kind of sovereignty. Nowadays, in a multipolar world, it is difficult to imagine that the division of an existing country, particularly a power like the United Kingdom, would have been a better effect than an internal process of reforms. This is even the judgement of the international community, and the message addressed to the British people by US President Barack Obama is particularly relevant: USA needs a strong ally like United Kingdom in order to better perform their common role in different parts of the world and in order to face together the new crisis in Iraq and in Ukraine, just to mention the two most challenging ones. Two separate allies would not have the same military and political power than one together could deploy.

There are still a lot of uncertainties about the future of the British isles, but the decision not to put an end to one of the most successful union of two kingdoms in the whole European history has definitely hit the hopes of the other regions in Europe claiming for independence, like Catalunya in Spain and Flemish region in Belgium. Maybe the national States of our days will reshape in the future, according to social, political and economic changes, but now it is time to reform them from inside, trying to find new solutions to common problems in the fundamental unity of the State and the Parliament.

Roberto  Zambiasi

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