Brass Tacks

Scotland Peers into the Great Unknown

RSPB's Fowlsheug Bird and Nature Reserve, Crawton, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe
Scotland's future is cloudy.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The United Kingdom may be irrevocably transformed if Scotland today decides to break away and form a new country. Basic questions would loom large: What’s the currency? Join the European Union?

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time in Scotland.
    • A result will be announced on Friday morning local time.
    • Election officials expect the biggest ever turnout for a Scottish election.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Marion Voy is a tarot card reader, but today, as she watches the fog roll in from the North Sea at her home in Cockenzie on the east coast of Scotland, she is struggling to divine her country’s future.

“I think there will be a ‘Yes’ vote for independence,” she said hesitantly. “But I feel that actually, people don’t know what they want. I think the mist is symbolic. We are all feeling a bit lost.”

After a long, emotionally fraught campaign, Scotland goes to the polls today to vote on whether to separate after 307 years from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The result is still too close to call. One poll from Ipsos Mori showed 49 percent supporting  independence, and 51 percent against. A poll by YouGov shows 48 percent support for independence and 52 percent for staying in Britain.

The weather offers no help. In the United States, Republicans often benefit from bad election day weather because it keeps less politically motivated Democrats at home. In Britain, bad weather often hits voter turnout, and again, it tends to be left-leaning voters who stay home.

“As a Scot with a lifelong love of Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss. Simply put there is no more creative an act than creating a new nation.”

Sean Connery, former James Bond actor

Scottish voters tend to heavily support the left-leaning Labour Party in British elections.

But Scotland today is misty grey, with streaks of sunshine and some rain: A complete smörgasboard of northern European weather that could swing the vote either way.

The ‘Yes’ side is taking no chances. It has provided buses to take the elderly, the unwell, and simply anyone who lives too far from public transport, to the polling stations.

Although the Scottish National Party has led a confident, exuberant and sometimes aggressive campaign for independence, its leader, Alex Salmond, said supporters of the pro-independence side were “still the underdogs in this campaign.” He too urged everyone to get out and vote.

The issue has politicized everyone.

Andy Murray, the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, has been reluctant to offer his opinion. He is from Scotland but Great Britain has very few successful tennis players and his victories are celebrated as enthusiastically in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as they are in Scotland.

““The more I listen to the 'Yes' campaign, the more I worry about its minimization and even denial of risks.””

JK Rowling, Harry Potter author

Mr. Murray has been reluctant to support any campaign, but in the early hours of Thursday, he appeared to say he was voting for independence, tweeting that “No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. Excited to see the outcome. Let’s do this.”

The ‘No’ campaign against independence has focused on the uncertainties and risks that Scotland faces if it breaks away.

It scored an early public relations victory when Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling gave money to the ‘No’ campaign. She posted on her website: “The more I listen to the ‘Yes’ campaign, the more I worry about its minimization and even denial of risks.”

But this message of caution and prudence has been read by many Scots as an insult and a call to arms.

Sean Connery, the one-time James Bond actor who now lives as a tax exile in the Bahamas, wrote in a magazine article that “As a Scot with a lifelong love of Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss. Simply put there is no more creative an act than creating a new nation.”

“No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. Excited to see the outcome. Let’s do this.”

Andy Murray, Tennis champion

The issue has also panicked the U.K. government. The leaders of all three major parties have been campaigning desperately in Scotland, often to a hostile crowd.

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron pleaded with Scots not to make the referendum a protest vote against his government and its austerity measures. ”You make a decision and five years later you can make another decision – if you are fed up with the ‘effing’ Tories, give them a kick and then maybe we will think again. This is totally different decision to a general election. This is a decision about not the next five years. It is a decision about the next century.”

The issue has split Scotland on every level and many are not going to make up their mind until they are standing in the polling booth.

“My husband works abroad and he has a very clear idea of what result he wants, but I am not sure,” said Ms. Voy, the tarot card reader, as she finished breakfast and prepared to go out to cast her vote. “I am still divided. As we all are.”

The author, who grew up in Wales, is an editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin. To contact her: selva@handelsblatt.com 

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