Scotland votes on independence

EDINBURG, SCOTLAND — Taking the tram into Edinburgh from the airport earlier this week, I saw the YES and NO signs in many apartment windows. Some were more detailed: “Proud to be Scots, Delighted to be united.” I saw a young man in a kilt with a big beautifully painted YES sign and a middle-aged woman striding along Princess Street, with a contraption on her belt and an attached NO sign bobbing along above and beside her. Seeing this, the elderly couple seated behind me on the tram said “Good for her.”

YES signs adorn apartment windows in Edinburg, Scotland. (Photo by Wendy Holmes)

YES signs adorn apartment windows in Edinburg, Scotland. (Photo by Wendy Holmes)

The signs are advocating for – or against – independence from England. This will be determined today by the vote of Scottish residents of 16 and older – even if they’re English or American. The ballot will read, “Should Scotland be an independent nation?”

I grew up in the Scottish Borders, known for their wonderful sheep-herding collies, their fighting regiment (KOSB, King’s Own Scottish Borderers), and their Reivers, historical tough guys who made frequent forays over the hills to England to steal sheep, cattle, and whatever else they could get their hands on, knocking some English heads in the process. In spite of the proximity to England or maybe because of it, Scottish Nationalism is alive and well in the borders.

But today’s vote is not just a matter of national pride or approval/disapproval of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

Some of my Scottish relatives were annoyed at me for timing a visit to coincide with the Independence Vote, saying I was giving the vote more credence than it deserved. There were too many unknowns, they said. No sensible person would vote YES without knowing what would happen to the currency, how much North Sea oil was really left, and how much of the British national debt an independent Scotland would be forced to assume. One cousin, over 70 and long retired, had just moved into a newly built bungalow constructed on part of the garden of his big stone house, now up for sale. The old house had to be sold and his property agent was telling him that a YES on independence would make this more complicated.

“My heart says YES but my head says NO,” my cousin said. Many Scots must be thinking the same thing because I’ve also read this in the newspapers. He’s worried about young voters who think it their patriotic duty to vote YES and he thought it unfair that the voting age was reduced by two years, from 18 to 16, for this poll only.

Another branch of the family has strong nationalist credentials, though maybe not of the Alex Salmond variety. One of my aunts was a friend of Wendy Wood (died 1981) who was an artist and prominent Scottish nationalist. She designed postage stamps that were used illegally all over Scotland and she was suspected of stealing William Wallace’s sword from Stirling Castle in the 1970s. My Aunt’s house was searched for the sword because of her connection with Wood. My aunt’s son, of the same age as my NO-voting, is an enthusiastic YES-vot for independence, as are his wife and daughters. They emphasize the fear-mongering of English politicians in an all-out effort to get Scots to refuse independence, as well as significant differences between Scotland and England (in law, in education, in religion, and in politics) that have always existed.

It’s like this all over Scotland.

Later in the evening, my husband saw a NO demonstration taking place around a statue of Wellington with a YES hat on that NO demonstrators apparently couldn’t reach to remove. The demonstrators were older, not unlike like the guard at the National Gallery of Scotland who told me that he was ex-British Navy and worried about his pension under a new regime.

Many think the vote for independence will break on largely ageist, the young voting YES and the old saying NO. It hasn’t looked that way to me. There was a demonstration outside, with two aging NOers wearing Union Jack hats being lambasted by an eloquent and vehement YES lady of about the same years. I gave her a thumbs up.

I have no idea of how the vote will go but, if I were able, I’d vote for an independent Scotland.

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Wendy Holmes is Professor Emerita at URI and the Education Coordinator for the RIPDA

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