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Where the impact of the Scottish referendum lies

25 Sep Where the impact of the Scottish referendum lies

After Scottish voters delivered a relatively clear decision in the referendum on independence for Scotland, the bargaining for further powers to be devolved to the Scottish government has already begun. This was promised by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties in the lead up to the day of the referendum. Already there have been accusations that the Conservative-led government is reneging on its promises on this count. The Conservatives are now facing pressure from within their ranks for more exclusive powers for England as they speak more about English “home rule” and “devolution”.

It was feared that a “Yes” vote for Scottish independence would trigger the appetite for independence around the world. Links to separatist regions around the world, such as to Xinjiang in China, have been made by the media. But these comparisons are admittedly far-fetched, as they involve political systems that are dramatically different from the UK’s. More comparable examples are perhaps that involving countries like Indonesia, which has been undergoing decentralisation since the end of the Suharto years – its special region of Aceh was granted autonomy after a peace agreement with the Indonesian government.

Implications for Europe

The main repercussions of the Scottish referendum would lie within Europe. The Spanish region of Catalonia has been closely watching the Scottish referendum, as it heads for what the Spanish central government calls an “illegal” referendum in November. This could in turn fuel further such movements in Europe. It may also have implications for debates on independence for the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada, where there have already been two referendums on independence in 1980 and 1995, both of which delivered a “No” result.

A possible referendum rerun?

Even more important, arguably, is the issue of the UK’s membership in the European Union (EU). The next major referendum to be held in the UK would be the “in” or “out” referendum on the country’s EU membership in 2017, as promised by Prime Minister David Cameron. The Scots have tended to be more pro-EU than the English, and one of their key plans – should they have won independence – would be to apply for EU membership. Thus, if the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU, Scotland may decide it wants a rerun of the independence referendum. The outcome would be what could truly destabilise and unsettle the global economy – a weakened UK and a weakened EU.


EU set for challenging but promising future [SIIA, 25 August 2014].

Hague says English devolution to be ‘election issue’ [BBC, 22 September 2014]

Getting to “sí” [The Economist, 19 September 2014]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons