Should Scotland be an independent country?’ According to the majority of Scotland, it shouldn’t. At 55.3% against the question, the lead is clear enough. However, the questions that have arisen from the referendum are manifold and will not be answered any time soon.
In Europe alone, twenty-nine states contain separatist movements seeking to secede and form independent states. Comparatively, Scotland is incredibly lucky to have been granted the opportunity to decide on whether or not to secede and have the offer of no-barrier-exit somewhat simply on the table.
Catalonia stands out as the prime example of a community seeking to establish itself as an independent state.
The Centre for Opinion Studies shows that Catalan support for independence was 48.5% last year and only 18.6% favouring their current status as an autonomous community. With the Scottish Referendum making global news, having an 84.5% voter turnout, the question is; can such a democratically provocative issue be legitimately denied by any aspiring democracy?
The optimist could say that a government may abstain from issuing such a referendum because for the sake of all citizens, if the UK has taught us one thing, would-be separate states are ‘better together’. Conversely, the pessimist could say that a government may abstain because regardless of the outcome of the Scottish Referendum, Scotland would always receive more powers than it had beforehand. The incentive for any self-interested government is to abstain from referenda.
However, adherence to such an incentive is undemocratic if opposed to clear demand and may not hold up to the scrutiny of other governments. It may be that a door has been opened that cannot be closed and there will be referenda in other regions to come.
Devolution is now the order of the day domestically, but in what form may be a divisive issue in Westminster. It may now be time to tackle the West Lothian question as to why politicians in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to influence issues affecting England alone. It may be that if powers devolve to Scotland, they may devolve elsewhere.
To an extent does Yorkshire have an identity not far from the Scottish identity? To deal with the West Lothian question in a manner whereby only the English affect England seems to me to undermine ‘Better Together’.
To have us united only in so far as intra-country affairs seems to subvert our sense of unity and restructure ourselves in a manner not dissimilar from the EU. The question of devolution will certainly be salient in parliament for some time and may not be uncalled for, but the dilution of the British identity seems at risk as a result.
The Scottish Referendum generates other questions not to be ignored. Was allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote a success? In a campaign which at times seemed to both drive and be driven by the opinion polls, to what extent should they be allowed to influence politics?
The Scottish Referendum may now be done and dealt with, but its impact may well develop across the globe for years to come, with more than a simple yes-no question to be answered.