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Another ‘vote no’ campaign

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Following the unsuccessful attempts of the patriotic people of St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 to adopt a home-grown Constitution and be rid of the British-concocted one, another country is trying to free itself from British constitutional influence and map out its road towards independence. That country is Scotland, the northern neighbour of England and part of what makes up the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish people are voting on Thursday of this week in a referendum aimed at deciding whether Scotland is to end its status as being merely a part of the United Kingdom, or to become fully independent. It is perhaps the most significant plebiscite in the history of either England and Scotland, and has inflamed tensions and fuelled differences not only cross-border, but even within families.

Scotland may seem far away to us, though a good number of our people can trace part of their ancestry to Scottish indentured servants. But the referendum in Scotland has other relevance to us as well, particularly as it is characterised by a VOTE NO campaign, very reminiscent in several aspects of our own referendum of November 2009.

It is also a most interesting development since it involves the British crown, from which Caribbean states and people had to wage their own struggles for independence and the framer of our independence constitutions, which in today’s world many of our sister-territories are seeking to change. Just imagining one part of Britain seeking independence was unimaginable for us not too long ago, as the clamour for independence would have been a half of a century ago.

Scotland may be a part of the UK now, but it has not been always that way. The people of Scotland have long had to wage wars to preserve their own territorial integrity from the English sovereigns and their marauding armies determined to conquer Scotland. In fact, after English conquest, the Scots were able to regain their independence via what is said to be the world’s first documented Declaration of Independence in 1320. A little less than 400 years ago, in 1707,Scotland opted to become part of the United Kingdom.

But this in no way has diminished the strong sense of nationalism and identity on the part of the Scots. So fierce is this, that in spite of being part of one nation, even sporting rivalries such as in football and rugby, became occasions for intense rivalry. As capitalism developed in Britain with London as the centre, the Scots began to feel more and more isolated from the British government and its slavish commitment to the barons of finance capital.

Nationalist demands led to a strong movement for Scottish affairs to be handled more by the people of Scotland. Out of this the British government was forced to accede to demands for a separate Scottish Parliament and this came into being in 1999, with the Scottish National Party winning an absolute majority in 2011 and forcing the referendum on independence.

The run-up to the independence referedum has turned out to be as heated as ours was in 2009. Scottish public opinion seems to be evenly divided on the issue, but in the last two weeks, the British ruling class is pulling out all the stops to try and ensure a NO vote on Thursday. An intense scare campaign has been launched, designed to keep Scotland and its oil resources (Scotland has the largest oil reserves in the European Union) within the British economic fold.

The big banks have threatened to move their main operations from Scotland, and nearly all the major British companies have come out with statements claiming that a vote for independence would damage the economy. The political leaders of the major British parties, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, have all joined in a frontal attack aimed at convincing Scottish voters that they would lose ‘big time’ should they vote for independence.

Cameron himself has been almost hysterically passionate, saying that any independence vote would be irrevocable, would lead to a “permanent split,” that there would be “no going back” and “no re-run”. No attempt at respecting the will of the Scottish people, no promise to negotiate a new relationship if Scotland votes for independence. It is so sad, so tragic, so shameful in a world where diverse countries in Europe are moving closer together, on an independent basis and even discussing political union.

One should follow these developments, recall the scare tactics we had here about our currency, just as those being raised in Scotland, and all the other rubbish spewed out to prevent constitutional reform. Scaremongering is always the refuge of scoundrels. The people of Scotland deserve better.

Renwick Rose is a community activist

and social com- mentator.

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