By Greg Pimentel
For decades now, the people of Scotland have struggled with a question that many people can relate to all too well: at what point does the difficulty of remaining in a bad relationship outweigh the struggle of starting afresh? This past week, the Scots put their troubles to a vote in a national referendum on whether to remain in union with Great Britain. Although the breakup of the United Kingdom was avoided in the polls with a 55 percent vote to stay and 45 percent vote to leave, the fundamental problems with their relationship remain intact, and the desire for independence endures with it. It is high past time for the Scots to realize enough is enough, and make the firm decision to end their union with Great Britain.
The consistent, growing desire for independence is not merely a cursory whim of Scottish politics. It is derived from fundamental political, historical and economic differences between Scotland and Britain. Modern Scotland is a developed nation of over five million citizens, possessing a distinct cultural and linguistic history, as well as a robust and modern economy. Fueled by a rich array of technological and natural resources, Scotland is already a productive country in its own right, possessing the largest petroleum reserves in Europe and a growing technology sector. It is eager and ready to determine its own economic policy a desire that has been largely impeded by British control of economic policy.
Despite their economic potential and desire for greater autonomy, Scotland has been consistently overshadowed by the influence of the Westminster government in London throughout their 307-year “union.” It was only in 1998 that the Scots were granted a devolved Scottish Parliament with limited domestic powers – powers that are entirely arbitrated and established by the British government. Despite the wishes of its population and its cultural roots as a sovereign, independent nation, only in the past decade has Scotland gained a vestige of regional autonomy. Although they may hold seats in the British House of Commons, the Scottish hold only 59 out of 650 seats, which can frequently lead to Scottish concerns being overlooked or outvoted.
A significant example of this lack of local control is the presence of nuclear submarines at ports in Scottish towns, an unpopular effect of the U.K.’s Trident nuclear weapon program. Despite their unpopularity with the local population and frequent protests, the British representatives have consistently outvoted the Scottish representatives and continued the unwanted presence of nuclear weapons in Scotland. In addition, the Scots have favored stronger ties with the European Union, while the Tories in Westminster have sought to find ways to leave the EU. The examples are endless. Regardless of the issue, whether it is domestic spending or economic policy, the British government tows Scotland unwillingly along, and this has not gone unnoticed or unprotested by the Scottish people. Of course, the British government has had to work overtime these past few months on pressuring Scotland to remain locked into their antiquated and dysfunctional political arrangement, alternating between vague promises of future reform and threats of economic and military abandonment.
The Scots have refused to let the matter drop, however. With over 97 percent of the electorate registered to vote, this past referendum sends a powerful signal to the British government that the Scots are intent on realizing the self-determination that lies at the heart of a true democracy. For the first time in decades, real change from the status quo of British dominance has been advocated, and has been met with broad support from the country. Scottish politics is now abuzz with ambitious plans for social reform, energy independence and new domestic policies to make sure the wealth from manufacturing and industry stays in Scotland. All that is lacking is the political power necessary to bring these ideas to fruition.
The question of independence for Scotland is not simply a political gambit to gain political traction in an outdated political system. It is a wholehearted attempt by a people to shape a better system altogether. Scotland’s future should be decided by the people who care most about it. It should be determined by those who live there. The surest sign of a healthy society is a citizenry that is actively involved in determining the direction the country is taking, and an unprecedented number of Scots participating in the latest referendum – many for the first time – shows that Scotland is more ready than ever to put British scaremongering aside and put an end to their dysfunctional relationship once and for all.