Scotland Says No
| 12 December 2016

The Scottish Independence vote could have ended up being a huge deal for Scotland, if the result hadn’t been ‘no’. The results for the Scottish independence referendum on the 18th September 2014 revealed the Scottish decision, with a 55.3% swing in favour of the Union. In total, 3,623,344 votes were cast - 84.6% of the Scottish electorate - in all of Scotland’s 32 council areas. The ‘No’ side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 votes for ‘Yes’, leaving Alex Salmond, then leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the leading force behind the fight for independence, to concede defeat.


You may wonder if this is surprising, so let’s look back a few years to early 2012 when John Curtice stated that polling showed minority support for Scottish independence at 38%.There were only certain points in the last 3 years where it seemed that Salmond and the fight for independence would win, but their vote would rarely surpass the ‘No’ vote by much. For example, 23-28th August 2013 the votes were tipped in favour of independence at 44% to 43%. Then again, on 10-11th September 2014 – just 8 days before the final poll it seemed that the ‘Yes’ vote had begun its ascent to victory, at 49% ‘Yes’ to 43% ‘No’. Although admittedly the sample size was much smaller than in the referendum itself where the ‘No’ vote found itself in a 10.6% lead.


Had Scotland voted for independence it would have achieved a great deal, and this would have been highly significant for the entire population. This is why almost 2 million were in favour of independence. The most economically substantial gain would have been control over the 24 billion barrels of oil which remain in Scotland’s North Sea. ‘Yes Scotland’ promised to use the oil revenue to form a sovereign wealth fund to benefit future Scottish generations. As well as this, Salmond – evidently attempting to appeal to female voters, who were revealed to be more undecided and pro-union than male voter -, promised free nursery for all Scottish children under the age of five. Salmond also wished to increase net migration from 15,000 people to 24,000 per year, seeking more working-class people to counterbalance an ageing population.


On the other hand, Scotland could have lost two crucial things – the pound sterling and EU membership. Furthermore, Salmond promised to close the nuclear submarine bases which defence analysts believed would have left the UK vulnerable to attack. However, the polls in the final weeks turned towards independence and the UK’s national parties were rattled. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister, stepped decisively into the debate and became the voice of the ‘No’ vote. He promised a pact for Scotland that would devolve tax raising and welfare powers. He was at his rhetorical best:


"Let us think of ourselves not as yes and Scots but simply as Scots and let us be a nation, united again," Brown said. "I am sure we can find ways to unify against the odds … let us seek to find high ground in trying to find a way forward for the future."


Although the arguments were framed mainly in economic terms, they were really about national pride and cultural identity. The ‘Yes’ vote won the day amongst the young, and the ‘No’ vote amongst the old... Is it over?

James Routledge 2016