5 reasons why many Scots will vote for independence

Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence could mark the end of the United Kingdom, a 307-year-old sovereign state made up of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Recent polls show the vote will likely be close, and a “yes” vote would have huge consequences not just for Scotland, but for the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Why do so many Scots say they plan to vote for independence, despite economists warning against fragmentation? The WorldPost has compiled a list of five reasons below explaining why Scots may want to break away from the U.K.

They want to see the Labour Party get elected.

Voters in Scotland have traditionally been left-leaning, and the country typically returns a huge majority for the Labour Party. The center-right Conservatives, meanwhile, usually fare poorly in Scotland — out of the 59 seats contested in the 2010 general election, Labour won 41 while the Conservatives won just a single seat (the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party took the rest).

England, conversely, is far more likely to vote for the Conservative Party, which is currently in power. So despite voting overwhelmingly for Labour, Scotland often finds itself under the rule of the Conservatives. If Scotland becomes independent, so the argument goes, Scots will finally get a government of their choosing.

They want to get rid of the Conservative Party for good.

Thursday’s vote is not just about independence. For many Scots, it’s also about making sure the Conservatives never again govern Scotland.

Since the 2008 financial crash, the British government has been married to a series of draconian austerity policies, including cuts to public sector jobs and a squeeze on welfare benefits. Low-income families in Scotland have been acutely affected by these policies. According to a June 2014 report by UNISON Scotland, the country’s budget has been cut by 6 billion pounds and 50,000 public service jobs have already been slashed.

They view autonomy as a symbol of national pride.

Although many economists have argued that it is in Scotland’s best interest to remain part of the U.K., there is a clear emotional pull toward voting for self-rule. As The Economist notes, “the referendum will turn not on calculations of taxes and oil revenue, but on identity and power. The idea that Scots can shape their own destiny, both at the referendum and afterwards, is exhilarating.”

In 1999, Scotland created its first parliament, giving the country a degree of autonomy on matters ranging from education to health. However, this has only fueled nationalist desires to control every aspect of governing the country. It has also been made clear that this is likely a one-off referendum. If Scots pass up the chance to vote for independence on Thursday, they may not get another chance for generations.

They believe having autonomy would improve the economy.

The camp in favor of independence has argued that an autonomous Scotland will be better at managing its economy, particularly when it comes to taxes and the oil reserves sitting off the Scottish coast. There is also widespread opposition in Scotland to nuclear weapons, and the “yes” campaign has promised to remove the weaponsentirely from the country.

Polls also suggest that the majority of Scots want to remain part of the European Union. Even if the U.K. leaves the EU in the next few years, an independent Scotland could vote to keep its EU membership.

They have been swayed by a brilliant campaigner.

Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland and the leader of the “yes” campaign, has proved to be a hugely effective campaigner, rallying Scots (particularly the younger generation) around the push for independence. In an August poll of 505 voters conducted by the polling company ICM for The Guardian, about 71 percent of decided voters said they supported Salmond, compared to 29 percent who said they backed his counterpart for the “no” campaign, Alistair Darling. It is a testament to Salmond’s leadership (and the lackluster “no” campaign) that the vote is too close to call with only two days left.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

Here’s what to expect after Scotland’s independence vote

The campaign pushing for Scottish independence has gathered considerable momentum in recent weeks, with the result of Thursday’s referendum likely to be close. Should Scottish voters choose to leave the United Kingdom, the decision will have far-reaching consequences for the people of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Even if Scotland remains part of the U.K., the small island off Europe’s coast will be inexorably changed forever.

Here’s what to expect after the result comes in.

There will likely be another 18 months of debate.

If the Scots vote in favor of independence, untangling more than three centuries of a political and economic union will not be easy, especially given the rancorous nature of the campaign. One of the most contentious issues to be addressed in the 18 monthsbetween Scotland voting for independence and becoming autonomous would be the country’s currency.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the “yes” campaign, has argued that an independent Scotland should be allowed to continue using the pound. But Westminster has said this is not a possibility, questioning why the U.K. should agree to a currency union with a country that votes to leave.

In response, Salmond has threatened to renege on the offer that Scotland would take on a share of the U.K.’s national debt if it votes “yes” on independence. If Westminster still rejects a currency union, Scotland would have to use the pound unofficially (similar to the way Ecuador and El Salvador use the dollar) and eventually move toward the euro. However, as Paul Krugman points out in The New York Times, “the risks are huge.”

“Everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous,” he writes.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research warned this week that Scotland could fail “within a year” if it uses the pound informally and refuses to take on a share of the national debt.

The vote could galvanize independence movements around the globe.

The Scottish independence debate has captured the world’s attention, with many governments concerned that a “yes” vote could inspire independence movements closer to home.

As the BBC notes, a recent editorial in the Hungarian economic news site Portfolio warned that “Europe will in all likelihood be infected by Scottish independence … Catalonia, the Basque Country, Flanders and even Venice are keeping a close eye on developments, which may once and for all justify their own aspirations of autonomy.”

Further afield, separatist movements from Quebec to Okinawa could be influenced by a Scottish vote for independence.

The United Kingdom may need a new prime minister.

If Scotland becomes independent, Prime Minister David Cameron may be forced to resign. His government is already unpopular thanks to austerity measures, and Cameron faces criticism from many members of his own center-right party over his stance on gay marriage and Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Even if Cameron survives until the next election in 2015, he will likely be punished at the polls for the breakup. Either way, the prime minister’s political career could be riding on the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

Even a “no” vote could spark huge political change.

After realizing that public sentiment in Scotland was shifting toward a “yes” vote on independence, the government in Westminster quickly backed a series of measuresthat would give Scotland more control over finance, welfare and taxation — almost all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs.

Even if Scotland votes against independence, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will likely demand a similar set of measures. Some politicians are even calling for an English-only parliament to match the regional bodies in the rest of the U.K.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.