On September 18th almost 4.3 million Scots took to the polls to decide their nations future. On the ballot was a very simple yet powerful question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” After two years of campaigning by supporters of both sides, the Scots decided against leaving the United Kingdom. A continued alliance with the rest of the UK guarantees a much brighter future for Scotland, especially if the UK Parliament stands true to their promise to devolve further power to the Scots.
The loudest voice in support of an independent Scotland was the “Yes Scotland” campaign group while “Better Together” led the charge in campaigning against independence. Many notable figures chimed in on the debate including President Barack Obama and former president, Bill Clinton, both supporting the status quo.
The “no” campaigners cited uncertainty in how an independent Scotland would address various issues. Among those issues were Agricultural subsidy payments from the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. Some Scots feared that becoming an independent state would reduce their bargaining power in obtaining these funds as opposed to the strong, established bargaining power of the UK. These voters also feared that becoming a new EU member state could mean that these payments would be phased in, as that has been the case with other new EU member states. “Yes” supporters, on the other hand, believed that an independent Scotland could mean greater agricultural subsidies because the allocation of funds would be decided by an independent Scotland and not the UK.
Another important issue that divided voters was currency. “No” voters feared that an independent Scotland would lose the ability to use the Pound Sterling, as it would have been unlikely that the UK would have agreed to further keep the currency union. The possible options could have been joining the Eurozone or establishing an independent Scottish currency. Both options presented problems. Scotland’s major trading partner is the UK and a change in currency could have meant transaction charges that could hurt businesses on both sides. Adopting the euro would also be problematic; as it would likely take time before an independent Scotland could join the European Union.
Perhaps the biggest issue causing the divide between the “yes” and “no” voters was government revenue and expenditures. “Yes” voters believed that Scotland would be better off if they used their own revenue (mainly from North Sea oil) to cover their own expenses. “Yes” voters have grown disillusioned with London’s budget decisions believing that their taxes were being misspent by the UK’s parliament. Those who opposed independence feared a dwindling oil reserve along with the instability of oil prices and believed that a continued union would mean economic stability.
In the end, Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, at least until the next referendum. Regardless of this outcome, Scotland will likely be divided by this issue for some time, as the supporters of independence were very close to succeeding. 55% of voters (2,001,926 ) voted “no” while 44.7% (1,617,989) voted “yes”. This referendum was also of great significance to other states that seek independence such as Catalonia, who stated that they saw it as a model for a future vote to secede from Spain.
While an independent Scotland may have made many Mel Gibson fans happy, it seems the Scots likely dodged a bullet by remaining a part of the UK.
Andres Meraz is a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in Private International Law. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park where he received a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Government and Political Theory. While a student at UB Law, Andres spent the summer before his 2L year studying comparative family law and comparative environmental law at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. During the 2014 winter intersession, Andres will participate in UB Law’s 13th Annual Program in Comparative and International Law in Curaçao, hosted by the University of Curaçao.
In addition to being a CICL student fellow, Andres currently serves as the Outreach & Technology Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. He is also the current president of UB Law’s chapter of Phi Delta Phi ( ΦΔΦ) International Legal Honor Society, and has also recently worked as a Law Scholar for first year law students.