Scots save UK’s integrity
Referendum votes against division
Cameron’s efforts put paid
Further devolution of powers likely
English celebrate historic victory
New Delhi: The people of Scotland had given a historic verdict on Thursday keeping United Kingdom intact. Conservative Party’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg must have heaved a sigh of relief on hearing the result. It was a setback for Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, who spearheaded the movement to separate from UK. The Scots gave a very clear majority to the Unionists by voting roughly 54-46 in favour of remaining as part of the UK.
The result was not entirely unexpected although the Unionist entertained doubts about the outcome after noticing a surge during July and August in the mobilization of those who wanted to go out of the UK. The opinion polls held a few days before the referendum indicated that the gap between the people who wanted to vote No to separation and those who wanted to say Yes was only four percent, 52-48.But the actual results turned out to be much clearer.
The English people gratefully thought of a similar exercise undertaken in 1995 in Canada in wake of the demand by the people of Quebec who wanted to have independence. Even at that time, Quebec voted against the demand for independence saving the integrity of Canada. It was a close shave with the integrationists winning by a thin margin unlike in the UK now. The last minute promise of devolution of powers helped the integrationist then.
Scottish National Party had won majority in parliament elections in Scotland and the campaign conducted by its leader Salmond caught the imagination of the people. At the heart of the Nationalist campaign was the claim that Scotland would be more prosperous if it went alone. The separatists blame successive British governments for every problem they have been facing. Salmond made Utopian promises for the people of Scotland. The idea that Scots can shape their own destiny is exhilarating. But the last minute rush of the prime minister to Scotland to persuade the people not to go away changed the atmosphere. The Westminster politicians of all stripes have made it clear that if Scots say ‘No’ to bifurcation, the devolution of powers would be more and the local administration would gain greater clout.
Even now the former prime minister of UK, Gordon Brown, promised nothing less than a modern form of Scottish home rule. Scotland which had parliament since 1999 has already been granted some rights over education, health and law and order. Salmond is presiding over the administration. Decisions in these matters of education, health and policing are being taken by the Scottish parliament and not the Westminster in London. More powers in other areas are slated to be devolved in 2016.
Scots are pro-Euro in their outlook, different from the English who have a lot of reservations about European Union. The move to exit from European Union may be slowed down for the present. The uncertainty about the currency and the tax revenues is also out of the way. The English, Welsh, Scots and the people of Northern Ireland can continue to live together in the UK and the possibility of another referendum in Scotland can be ruled out for a generation. The Better Together campaign has succeeded to keep the country intact.
People of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh might wonder at the result of the Scottish referendum. There was so much in common between the campaign conducted by Salmond in Scotland and K Chandrasekhara Rao in Telangana. Only difference is the politicians of the erstwhile AP have not been as polished and democratic as the Scots and the English. Emotions were aroused by politicians on both sides of the divide and reason had taken a long leave. Had there been a referendum on the lines of the one taken place in Scotland, the result in Telangana might have been different making bifurcation inevitable, but the acrimony, recrimination and bad blood would have been avoided. There is so much for Indians to learn from the referendum held in Scotland since there are many areas like Vidarbha demanding statehood. Aspiring for a statehood is, of course, different from demanding Independence. The comparison between Scotland and Telangana is limited only to the extent of the campaigns and the process of decision making.