iStock/Thinkstock(GLASGOW, Scotland) — The Scots are about to decide their destiny.
With a mixture of raucous argument, romantic nostalgia, economic number-crunching, and hair-raising suspense, millions of Scots are bracing for the vote Thursday. The urgency in the air is palpable.
What is striking is how vital and universal this debate is. Everyone you meet is talking, canvassing, dreaming, fighting and playing the bagpipes — or at least it seems that way, sometimes. An astonishing 97 percent of Scots eligible to vote have registered for this referendum.
The most recent polls show that those who want Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom have a very slight lead — but one within the margin of error.
In these last 24 hours, it seems, those who will vote “no” to Scottish independence have finally roused themselves and found their passion and their voice.
In Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday morning, speakers young and old, professional politicians and ordinary citizens, poured out their hearts before a fired-up crowd, urging a rejection of separation from London.
“We are Clyde-built,” said one shipbuilding worker, referring to the river that this proud industrial town bestrides. “And what we’ve built together in the U.K., we will keep.”
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scotsman from Kirkcaldy, seemed almost overcome with emotion as he summoned the ghosts of the United Kingdom’s war dead down through the centuries, “Scotsmen, Welshmen, Englishmen and Irishmen lying side by side.”
“We who vote no love Scotland,” Brown said.
But on the other side, there is plenty of passion, too. And there is hope that a dream long deferred is about to come true.
“Freedom!” hollered David Bell, a taxi driver, in a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland, last night.
Holding up a 10-pound note with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth on it, Bell savagely crumpled it up in his fist, saying, “Take that!”
The pro-independence movement goes deeper than all that, though. At the heart of the argument for separation from London is a bitter dissatisfaction among many Scots with a trend in the United Kingdom since Margaret Thatcher towards a more market-based conservatism than people in Scotland want. Scots have come to see themselves as more European, more socially democratic, and less reflexively pro-American in foreign policy than the establishment that governs them from London.
There are all kinds of practical problems with independence: Would Scotland use the pound sterling as its currency? What would happen to the U.K. national debt? Would the Union Jack, the flag that combines English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh elements — need to be changed?
But in the end, the question for the voters here is simple and profound: What does it mean to be Scottish?
It’s rare that a people get to ask that sort of question so clearly and so formally as they will Thursday. And after all the arguing and the speechifying and the bagpiping, the Scots are ready to give their answer.
More ABC news videos | Latest world news
Read More →
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio