Tomorrow Scotland faces a monumental vote which will decide whether Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom or splits to become independent, leaving the Kingdom a little less united.
On the one hand, I have no right to say what is best for a country where I do not live, on the other, Scotland is one of my favorite places and I care about its future. I first visited Scotland during a semester abroad in college. Many of my fellow English Majors were determined to go to London, but I wanted to try something a little different. I knew nothing about Scotland, save for a beautiful glossy brochure advertising the University of Edinburgh, and that somewhere in my ancestry there were Scots roots. So I applied for a visa, filled out the necessary paper work for my college, packed a suitcase and hopped a plane. What ensued were some of the most exciting a stimulating months of my life.
Scotland is a beautiful country, with a long, rugged history, mysterious rain-drenched landscapes, and friendly, passionate people. I was instantly enamored and have made many subsequent trips back to Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Glasglow, Inverness and the Highlands.
Coincidentally, I timed my first stay in Scotland for the 300th anniversary of unification with England. (The Kingdom of England including Wales and the Kingdom of Scotland unified in 1707, although the countries had shared a monarchy since James VI of Scotland become James I of England in 1603). In 2007, there was a palpable desire toward independence, that at the time seemed unlikely to come to fruition. Street graffiti declared ‘Scottish not British’ and Scotland was already operating with its own parliament.
As an American it is interesting to watch another country contemplate separation from the United Kingdom. (Sure, when we did it the situation was colonization, and globalization wasn’t what it is today, but it still draws a curious parallel.) Could September 18th become Scotland’s version of our July 4th? Any time there is upheaval in country partnerships there are always people on both sides of the debate, because both sides have valid concerns and aspirations. I do not know what the right answer is for Scotland or the United Kingdom. If Scotland votes Yes it will fulfill a national dream that until now appeared unattainable. However, the repercussions will be many and are sure to create a tangle of consequences, some currently unforeseen. And yet, voting No, is saying no to a real chance to implement a long-time desire for independence. The question is a truly politically, culturally and historically complex query.
Until recent weeks the United Kingdom and the world were certain that the No votes would prevail, but now, with less than a day until the vote, it is too close to call. As Scottish poet Robert Burns said, “there is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”
The world will just have to wait and see what Scotland decides.