GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Scottish referendum on independence will take place 18 September 2014. If 40% of the population in Scotland vote in favor of separation, Scotland will be an autonomous nation once again, following 300 years of political fusion with Great Britain.
The movement is spearheaded by the opposing 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' campaigns, which advocate Scottish independence and United Kingdom solidarity, respectively. The First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is perhaps the most visible spokesman for the 'Yes Scotland' outfit. Allistair Darling is a longstanding member of the British parliament and heads the Better Together movement.
According to the 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' factions, social problems in Scotland need to be addressed. But the two camps are at odds over whether these changes can take place with London in the driver's seat. According to Alex Salmond, the power dynamic between the UK and Scotland are among the most unequal in Europe.
Poverty, drug abuse and suicide affect Scots at much-higher rates than their British or Irish neighbors. Recent studies conducted throughout the Highlands find that Scottish men have a suicide rate 73% higher than males throughout the rest of the UK. The same study found that female Scots committed suicide at twice the rate of women throughout the Kingdom.
Wealth inequality has fluctuated over the past decade but remains a serious problem in Scotland. Throughout the population, one in five children are living below the poverty line. A study published by Child Poverty Action Group finds that in many Scottish communities, one in three children are currently impoverished. The 'Yes Scotland' campaign believes that with increased autonomy, Scots will be able to address problems in their communities, without relying on representatives in Westminster as middlemen.
The agriculture industry in Scotland is particularly invested in the outcome of September's referendum. Currently, Scottish farmers receive subsidies through the European Union. The EU allocates a lump sum to the UK, and stipends are generated to English and Scottish farmers from these funds.
Pro-independence farming coalitions believe that farmers in Scotland are undervalued in these calculations. They argue that an independent Scotland would receive greater allowances from the EU. Opponents of Scottish independence claim just the opposite, stating that the UK has greater lobbying power in the EU debates, and Scottish famers are wrong to think they could collect larger subsidies as a small, independent nation.
One of the largest controversies in the debate over Scotland's future is centered in massive oil reserves located in UK waters, off Scotland's coast. Alex Salmond has claimed that £1.5 trillion in natural gas deposits lie within Scotland's jurisdiction, but this figure is largely disputed. The veracity of the estimate is unclear, and both sides have much at stake with regards to the amount and ownership of the deep sea oil in question.
Scots are still widely divided on the issue of independence, but the international community is not so unsure. In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has come forward in support of UK solidarity.
In September Scotland will make its voice heard. Preliminary polls show that Scots are within reach of the votes required to pass the referendum. If Scotland splits from the UK, the dispute over Scottish identity will only intensify. Arguments over currency, citizenship and the economy are guaranteed to draw conflicting viewpoints between officials.
- Salmond: 'It isn't George Osborne's pound' (itv.com)
- Salmond dismisses promises of further devolution (scotsman.com)
- Referendum campaigns mark milestone (bbc.co.uk)
- Scottish independence: Everything you need to know with 100 days to go (telegraph.co.uk)
- Scottish Voters 'Not Getting Full Picture' - Sky News (news.sky.com)