I’ve not been able to update my blog since I landed in Edinburgh on Saturday, being too busy dancing Ceilidhs, downing pints, visiting Tom Riddle’s grave, and decorating my flat. I have several backlogged posts from Germany to put up, so keep a vigilant eye on my RSS feed for posts on Dortmund pilsners and a day trip to Köln. But in Edinburgh at least, everything seems eclipsed by the Scottish independence referendum.
Thursday, 18 Sept., Scots will vote on whether to split from the UK, a controversy that reaches down to the very mechanism of the referendum: Scots who live abroad will not be able to vote (like the vocally ‘No’ former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson), while 16 year old Scottish residents will be able to cast their ballot.
From the highlands to the lowlands, a stimulated sense of Anglo-Scottish history is colliding with the wave of nationalism currently sweeping across Europe; Thursday’s vote will be an emotional one, something Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, of the Scottish National Party, was likely relying upon in his push to lower the voting age. In Edinburgh, from the Royal Mile to the airport’s arrival gate, you can’t escape the low murmurs: the polls have changed again; the ‘Yes’ votes leads for the first time, by a slim margin.
Walking around Scotland, locals and newcomers alike will notice the ‘Yes’ vote’s footprint first: you can find at least of their modest ‘Yes’ window signs on every block. The ‘No’ vote is less vocal, which should come as little surprise – one can’t exactly wave a flag to the tune of “I’m-proud-of Scotland-but-given-the-uncertainties-of-an-independent-state-and-semi-divested-economy-as-well-as-a-dual-national-identity-I-can’t-in-good-conscience-vote-for-a-split” – which seems to be the tune most ‘No’ voters are singing, quietly, to themselves. To put it more simply, I talked with a priest this afternoon who said, “I’d like to vote ‘Yes’, but I don’t think I can.”
As for the polls, savvy Scotts scoff: as my first Edinburgh cab driver said, “Have you ever actually met anyone who was polled? Course they take polls: everyone in the office, hands up if you want to split: lookit that, ‘Yes’ gains three points. There’s your news of the day.”
So, Scotland’s future won’t get any clearer until Thursday’s votes are counted – and no matter what way it all shakes out, there will be a great deal of uncertainty for some time to come. To address some of those issues, the University of Edinburgh on Monday night hosted a referendum debate, as part of Fresher’s Week – a brief, two hour break from the dancing and the drinking. The Teviot Row Debate Hall was packed – standing room only – as four partisans tapped their fingers at two tables on the stage.