by GRACE BURLEIGH '17
Fueled by the controversy of Brexit, Scotland has declared a second referendum for political independence from Great Britain. An initial poll for independence was taken in 2014, but lost by a mere 10% of the Scottish votes collected. However, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has supported a second vote for Scotland’s departure from the UK, much to the displeasure of British Prime Minister Theresa May. Consequently, political tensions are markedly high throughout the United Kingdom.
According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, 38% of Scots are in favor of independence, while the remaining 48% of the population wish to stay in the United Kingdom. These two groups are respectively represented by the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
The Scottish National Party (SNP)
Headed by Sturgeon, this group takes to heart her claim that “Theresa May is dragging Scots along with England over the metaphorical Brexit cliff,” and the country should take matters into its own hands instead. This concept of political freedom is highly appealing, even romantic, to many Scots, many of whom have long been resentful of British rule. Rather than this vote being a question of unity with Britain, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the SNP sees it as a chance to prove their fierce loyalty to Scotland, and Scotland alone.
Not surprisingly, popular slogans of this nationalistic party include: “End London Rule,” “Tories [British] Out,” and “We Are the Future!” Such emphatic patriotism finds a voice in Sturgeon, who affirms, “Scotland's voice will not be silenced […] The SNP in this election will--as we always do--stand up for Scotland. A vote for the SNP is a vote to protect Scotland's interests. Only the SNP stands between Scotland and an increasingly hard-line Tory government.”
The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (SCUP) The key message projected from leader Ruth Davidson MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) is that “at this moment, we [Scotland] should be pulling together, not hanging apart.” Davidson holds that not only has the SNP blatantly ignored the opinion of the people, but that the party has no legitimate concept of how to start and competently run Scotland without British aid. It’s no surprise then, that Theresa May is a strong proponent of the SCUP and a personal fan of Davidson.
My older brother, John Paul Burleigh worked under Davidson at the party’s headquarters in Edinburgh, and specifically interned with Lord Mark McInnes of the British House of Lords. As a result, J.P. has a keen understanding of politics in the UK.
“What you have to understand,” explains J.P., “is that Sturgeon took Brexit as evidence that the political situation in Scotland had changed enough to warrant another referendum. Yet many Scots are of the opinion that Brexit was a populist movement brought over by uneducated, rural English people,” and are thus hardly inclined to depart from the UK. As fervent as the SNP is, J.P. argues that “they deliberately overlook the majority opinion of Scotland to remain in the UK.”
What’s Going to Happen to Scotland? Theresa May has finalized June 8, 2017 as election day. If Scotland votes yes, then they’re Braveheart-bound to severing their relations with the UK and tasked with creating an entirely new Scotland, such as the forming of a Scottish military, currency, and government. If, as current statistics predict, they vote no, then their bond with England will be fortified enough to co-navigate the impending Brexit. J.P. isn’t shy to declare his own hopes for Scotland. “Of course, I want Scotland to stay in the UK. So much depends on this. And if they vote to leave,” laughs J.P. somewhat mirthlessly, “then all my work I did at the SCUP will be worthless. Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”