The results are in, and Scotland has decided: the United Kingdom will remain united.
There’s been lots of noise about the way in which the referendum has engaged young people in politics, both by enfranchising 16 and 17 year olds in the voting process, and in offering a real alternative to business-as-usual party politics.
With everyone from prime ministers to protest party leaders putting in a pitch about what the referendum result means for the future of the UK, the question of how to best bring together our four nations is more pressing than ever. Why not ask those who’ll be most affected by whatever changes (or lack thereof) are coming our way?
For many, the result is a huge relief, especially if you believe reports that the ‘No’ side was much more heavily driven by fear than the ‘Yes’ side, charged with hope. For most young Scots, though, it is the chance to feel part of something important that really matters.
Christopher Simpson, president and founder of the Cambridge University Scottish Society told HuffPost UK: “It’s been an invigorating debate, but it has the potential to be very divisive and the move now must be towards reconciliation and the honouring of promises so we can build the stronger Scotland that all 3.6m wanted, regardless of side.
“Scotland is the real winner, we have an energised and educated electorate (especially amongst young people), that will stand the country in good stead in the negotiations, the 2015 general elections, and the 2016 Scottish parliament elections.”
One of the biggest yet most quietly-uttered worries in the case of a ‘Yes’ victory waswhat might have happened to the perpetually delicate situation in Northern Ireland. Catherine Maguire, a Northern Irish student currently studying in England, explained: “The referendum was always going to have massive ramifications for those living in Northern Ireland.
“A ‘Yes’ vote would have undoubtedly stirred nationalist passions, whilst a ‘No’ vote would have been a resounding victory for unionists, who have felt that their place in the United Kingdom is being squeezed out.
“The resultant ‘No’ vote, for them, cements a political and cultural union to which they cling, at a time when some believe that their “rights” are being infringed, such as the flying of the Union Flag and traditional marching routes.”
According to Maguire, a yes vote would have demolished the cornerstone of the unionist’s beliefs.
“Unionism can scarcely exist if there is no Union to defend, but it would be a naive to believe that the old union will be returning to business as usual. It has changed as we know it, and we are moving towards a new political strategy.”
But she added the nationalists were the “real winners” in the debate, saying the campaign showed that it is possible to adopt an independence campaign that is not solely based on “romantic aspirations of self-governance”.
“Those who seek a similar poll here will look to Scotland 2014 as an example of a rational, democratic and peaceful independence campaign.”
Perhaps the most neglected of issues throughout the course of the campaign process was that of Wales. It has often been thought of the constituent nation of the UK to follow Scotland almost like a shadow.
After all, the referendum held in 1997 to determine whether or not Wales should have its own legislative assembly only won by a narrow margin of 0.6%, whilst the parallel referendum in Scotland took home a sizeable 48.6% majority.
It was thought that should Scotland choose to be independent, nationalistic feeling in Wales would increase. Though support for Welsh independence is historically low, with a recent poll for the BBC pitching it at only 5%, rising to 7% in the case of a Scottish ‘Yes’ vote.
We asked Josh Xerri, a Welsh student currently studying in England, what he thought of the result.
“I’m glad that Scotland voted ‘No’, he told HuffPost UK. “In this day and age you could argue that fewer borders, not more, are the way forward. That being said, I can entirely sympathise with the ‘Yes’ campaign. It’s something that I think you can only fully understand if you live in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.
“The single best thing that’s come out of this referendum is that it’s finally being actively talked about.
“There’s a strong feeling that Westminster has a ‘black hole effect’ on the rest of the Union, and one would hope that this vote has stirred up a lot of questions as to how we can readjust ourselves, not just in terms of the three smaller constituent nations, but also in terms of the problematic London-centric attitude that prohibits development for cities and regions outside of the M25.”
An even less widely-known side effect of a ‘Yes’ vote would have been that on Catalan nationalism. The most prosperous region of Spain, Catalonia’s leanings towards independence have grown in recent years as many have felt that they are subsidising the rest of Spain through its financial turmoil.
With the Catalan regional assembly set to approve legislation today allowing for a referendum on independence this November, Carlos Vazquez, a Catalan student studying in England, had this to say:
“What strikes me as similar is that there have been very large campaigns from local government in Catalonia to try to promote nationalism. I highly doubt, however, that we will ever reach the proportion of votes in favour of independence that Scotland has. In our case it’s a relatively small group of people making a relatively large amount of noise.”
Published in The Huffington Post UK (19/09/14)