Thanks to that famous Scottish freedom fighter Mel Gibson, most people are fairly clued up on the concept of Scottish independence. Until things get brought back to the modern day, that is. So here’s a quick Scottish politics lesson for dummies: since 1999 Scotland (like Wales and Northern Ireland) has had a devolved parliament. This can best be compared to a state in Germany or the USA. We’re allotted money by the UK government. We are in charge of our own healthcare and education, among other things. Defence and foreign policy is decided by Westminster, which does of course have Scottish representatives. At the moment, the ruling party in Scotland is the SNP or Scottish nationalist party, who managed to win an outright majority in a system designed to prevent outright majorities. Pretty popular then. They want to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.
So do I believe independence is just around the corner? To be perfectly honest: no. (Disclaimer here: I’m Scottish, with an English mother and an Irishfather. If you want an answer from a nationalist, look elsewhere.) The SNP’s overwhelming popularity doesn’t necessarily prove that most Scots want independence: the party garnered support through its social and environmental policies (free higher education and nuclear disarmament to name but two) and also won votes for the simple fact that they aren’t the labour or conservative party. It’s also worth remembering that we’re in the middle of a recession: the canny Scots would hardly choose this economically trying time to go it alone.
Until now, the likely outcome had been a middle way, known as independence lite or devolution max. (‘Would you like some devolution max with your cultural patriotism, sir?’) This would have granted Scotland more autonomy without actually breaking up the union. However, UK prime minister David Cameron doesn’t want this option to be part of the referendum and that could swing it either way. Only one thing is sure: we’re Scots, which means we don’t like the English (cough, Cameron) telling us what to do.
Image: (cc) San Diego Shooter/ Flickr