On September 18th, the residents of Scotland (16 and older) will head to the polls to say Yes or No to the question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?". The answer to this simple question will decide whether Scotland will become the world's newest independent nation or, continue its 307-year-old alliance with Britain.
Though they have remained together for over three centuries, the relationship between the two has been somewhat testy ever since the 1707 Act of Union joined the Kingdom of Scotland with England and Wales. However, the seeds of regaining independence were not planted until May 1999, when Tony Blair, the leader of the UK's Labour party won a landslide victory by promising Scotland a devolution or the right to make their own laws about certain issues like education, transport and tourism. Upon being elected Mr. Blair made good on his promise and the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time, in 292 years!
Everyone appeared happy with the arrangement until the 2007 elections, when the Scottish National Party won 47 seats, one more than the ruling Labour party. This led to a coalition government with Alex Salmond, the SNP leader at the helm. Not satisfied with Britain still making all the major decisions for Scotland, Salmond began to push the British Parliament for more autonomy. By 2010, he had convinced the coalition government to draft a bill on an Independence referendum. The document proposed that the UK should extend the Scottish Parliament extra powers or better still, grant them complete independence.
Things began to escalate after the 2011 elections, which the SNP party won with a landslide victory. With Salmond still leading the charge, the new government launched a massive campaign to try convince Scottish residents and the British government to allow Scotland become an independent nation. By January 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron, had no choice but to agree to the one-question referendum to see if the majority of Scotland's residents felt the same way. He even agreed Salmond's request to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 and that the referendum be presented to the public in 2014.
This gave Salmond ample time to begin a 'Yes Scotland' campaign and write up a detailed, 677- page White Paper. Entitled 'Scotland's Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland', it outlined all the benefits the Scottish residents would have, if they voted for independence.
While Britain did launch a counter campaign entitled 'Better Together' to defend the Union, the officials were not too concerned. They believed that come September 18th, Scottish residents would do the 'right' thing and stick with their 307-year-old partner.
However, with less than a week to go, things are not looking as promising. A poll taken on September 7th, indicated that 51% are ready to take charge of their own future and intend to vote for independence. This new information seems to have finally woken up the British officials, which is why on Tuesday, September 9th, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband, scrambled over to Scotland to convince the residents not to vote for this drastic measure. They even promised the residents further fiscal autonomy if they chose to stay with the Union.Is it enough to convince this nation of 5.3 million people not to secede?
Turns out that the British officials are not the only ones eager to find out. Everyone, from the nationalists who have been leading the charge on separating Quebec and Catalonia from their respective countries to corporations like British Petroleum and even the International Monetary Fund, is waiting with abated breath to find out what the Scottish people decide on September 18th - So stay tuned!
Resources: telegraph.co.uk, cnn.com, newstateman.com, BBC.co.uk