The owner of the drugstore in High Street leans conspiratorially across the counter. “I believe that opinions are also sharply divided in Strichen,” she says hesitantly. With an unmistakable Scottish accent, she draws the visitor into her confidence, adding, “Probably 50-50.”
Welcome to Strichen, the home of Alex Salmond. The brawny leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party hopes to lead his country to independence, like a modern William Wallace in “Braveheart.” Rather than by the sword, he’s counting on a referendum on September 18 to end 307 years of union with England. But even in this tiny locality, where Mr. Salmond lives in a mill near a stream on the edge of town, not everyone is behind him.
The rift that has emerged in Scotland over this important issue also runs through this gray town on Scotland’s coast, a place that seems so very far away from the grand politics of London and Edinburgh.
Elderly residents, in particular, ask themselves what the step into independence is supposed to bring. “Many don’t see why they should leave Great Britain,” an older gentleman in the street says succinctly. He adds that numerous decisions are already made in Edinburgh and, in any case, many people in this swath of land are doing well economically.
At a first glance, it is hardly noticeable that the town is one of the gravitational fields in the coming vote over independence. There’s a poster in front of the drugstore declaring, “Change for the better.” The sign doesn’t refer to the referendum, but to the availability of a free health check-ups.