Scottish Independence and the Referendum

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A general overview of the upcoming referendum on Scottish Independence.

Introduction

Described as Scotland’s “biggest choice since 1707” (McLean et al, 2013, p. ix), the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence will provide a pivotal event for the current and future populations of Scotland as voters get the opportunity to decide whether or not they are to remain a part of Great Britain or become an independent nation. As McLean et al (2013) have referenced, 1707 was a year of major importance in Scottish history because it saw the passage of the Union with England Act by the Parliament of Scotland, thus legitimising the reciprocal Union with Scotland Act which was passed by its English counterpart the previous year (Davis, 1998).

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The Acts of Union have now stood for more than three centuries and, although there have been proposals to challenge it in recent years, this is the first time that the Scottish public have been given the opportunity to vote on the issue in a formal referendum. This essay will examine the issue of Scottish independence by providing an insight into the historical and political events that have led to the 2013 proposal to hold a referendum on the issue. It will also look in depth at the campaigns for and against Scottish independence in order to assess the approaches that each one has taken in order to sway voters towards their individual cause. This will ultimately facilitate the drawing of the conclusion that Scottish independence has the propensity to fundamentally alter the political landscape of the entire international community rather than being limited to a British and European context. However, although both campaigns relating to the referendum are fundamentally flawed, the choice made by the Scottish people will decide the nation’s fate for the foreseeable future.

Historical Background

Although this referendum is the first in/out vote to be held in relation to Scottish independence in the 21st century, votes have previously been held over the issue of devolution. In both 1979 and 1997, Scottish devolution referendums were held with varying outcomes (Deacon, 2012). In the 1979 case, the yes vote did gain a majority but failed to attract 40% of the total electorate and therefore failed to achieve change (Dardanelli, 2006). However, in the 1997 referendum, there was clear majority support for both devolution of the Scottish Parliament, which was achieved in the Scotland Act 1998, and Parliament establishing the base rate of income tax (Dardanelli, 2006). In both instances then, there was significant support for the devolution of Scotland and important powers. As such, sovereignty has been an issue for some time, which is further reinforced by a study of cultural identity by Bechhofer and McCrone (2007). The study suggests that the Scottish people have come to feel more comfortable with the Scottish identity,

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