Report for RFI English broadcast on 19th September 2014. Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom with nearly four million people casting their ballot in a historic referendum on independence. The vote marked the end of a two-year debate about the country’s future. A look back at polling day and the legacy of a monumental decision.
Click here to listen to the report on the RFI English website.
Two years of campaigning has led to this moment.
More than four million voters finally gave their answer to this question: Should Scotland be an independent country.
Many lined up outside polling stations early on a foggy Thursday morning to make their vote count.
Voter 1: “I voted yes.”
Kalvin Ng: “And why did you vote yes?”
Voter 1: “I think it’ll be great for Scotland to have its own powers and I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Voter 2: “I voted no. Because I tried to look at both arguments and tried to decide which one would be best. In a way I don’t feel that going to independence will bring more prosperity. I think staying together in a good economy, we’ll be able to do that.”
The Yes campaign said Scotland would be wealthier and fairer if it breaks the 307-year old union with England.
The No side argued there was too much risk, and the country would struggle financially.
Alan Convery from the University of Edinburgh says voters feel the Yes message was more positive.
Alan Convery, lecturer in politics, University of Edinburgh: “I suppose it’s been quite difficult for the No campaign because they’re a group of three political parties, so it’s been quite difficult to get one message across…and also because the Yes campaign are talking about a vision of the future that can’t really be tested against reality, whereas of course the No campaign are having to campaign for a status quo that’s already here and can be tested against different assumptions and different questions.”
Both sides focused on grassroots campaigning, with doorknocking and public rallies.
But sometimes, passions boiled over.
Despite the divisive campaign, Convery says both sides have pledged to respect the result and move on.
Alan Convery: “I think political leaders in Scotland on both sides will be well aware of the need to try and bring perhaps 49% of the country with you.”
This was also the first time that 16 and 17 year olds have been able to vote in a major election anywhere in the UK.
Ceris Aston, who campaigned for a yes vote, says it has galvanised young people.
Ceris Aston, Yes campaigner: “They were really happy that they had the vote, and they were really engaging with the issues. And they were saying that some of their peers weren’t that interested but a lot have really sort of become politically engaged, and I thought that was really hopeful.”
But Convery says it’s unclear whether this new generation of voters will remain interested in politics.
Alan Convery: “I think there would need to be a real effort to try and engage with this level of political interaction. A referendum generates, you know, a lot of passion and a lot of interest. I don’t know whether any future general elections will generate that same amount of passion just because people will perceive that perhaps there’s less at stake.”
The people of Scotland have decided.
Some will celebrate the outcome, while others will be bitterly disappointed.
It will be up to political leaders here and in the rest of Britain to see where they take Scotland from here.