By Lukas Vojacek
Six years ago, a narrow majority of the Scottish population decided in the national referendum that they wish to remain living under the flag of the United Kingdom. But then, Brexit happened and mainly pro-European Scotland is currently being dragged out of the EU “against its will”.
We asked some of our students here at Strathclyde what is their opinion on the heated topic and it seems that at least young Scots, especially the individuals who could not vote in the previous ballot in 2014, would like to say UK their farewell.
“I have always supported the idea of an independent Scotland and should another referendum be held in the future, I would absolutely vote yes” says Kirsten Glover, who is about to graduate from French and Spanish.
“I think those in UK Parliament are prioritising English needs over the people of Scotland, so definitely yes” adds Bronagh Wylie, a Postgraduate student of Media and Communication. All of the respondents agree that the Brexit result only strengthens their beliefs and highlighted that Scotland holds different values to the rest of the UK.
“Scotland should be in the European Union. Support for independence will increase as people see the impact of Brexit in the coming years” thinks Kenny Macleod, who is doing a course of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde.
Students are also not too concerned that divorce with the rest of the country would cause them many troubles in their personal lives. “I think gaining independence would be a painful experience for a few years but it would improve the country in the long run” says Kenny Macleod.
Kirsten Glover is even more optimistic: “Independence may even improve our relationship with the UK, as it would remove the resentment that many Scottish people feel towards Westminster.”
“The only problem might be that my boyfriend lives in England so it could be harder for me to see him. Otherwise as a student living in Scotland, I can imagine the independence would be more beneficial for me” claims Bronagh Wylie. It therefore seems that young generation in Scotland has a clear vision which path should the country follow in the future.
However, their dream of independence will probably not become reality soon. Apart from the coronavirus – the dreadful disease that has, during the last weeks, paralysed life and business Europe, there are other obstacles that will be very difficult to remove in upcoming months or even years. First of all, the current British government is strongly opposing to the idea of a new Scottish referendum. According to Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office it would be just “waste of time and public money”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated recently that 2014 vote was “once in a generation event”.
Scottish Parliament can theoretically hold referendum even without a blessing from the Westminster. This option was nevertheless rejected by Sturgeon and Strathclyde students do not like it either.
“It is important that the referendum is legitimate, in order to be legally recognised by the EU and to avoid problems similar to that of Catalonia” says Kirsten. Spanish region that she mentioned, declared independence in October 2017 but did not receive recognition from the international community.
And Scottish youths clearly do not want their government to make the same mistake. “Referendum without London’s approval wouldn’t work unless there was a large swing in favour of independence” points out Kenny Macleod. And that exactly might be the largest impediment.
The latest polls made by several organizations in January 2020 suggest that only about 52% of Scottish inhabitants are convinced that Scotland should become a separate state and a large number of people are not sure about their opinion yet. That gives “the yes side” quite uncertain chance of winning and losing twice in a row would surely crash the desire for independence for decades. On the other hand, support for Scottish withdrawal from the UK seems to be slowly growing. How to resolve this tangled up situation?
“We don’t want more extremely close results and have people change their mind. Maybe it’s best to wait and see what happens” notes Bronagh.
Kirsten agrees: “We must wait until there is a clear mandate. So right now, is not the time. However, as a young person who wants to embrace the plethora of opportunities offered by the EU, I hope that restrictions of Brexit will show people that independence is the only way to hold on to our values and live the way we want to. Let Brexit do its thing.“
Or in other words, it looks like that pro-independent Scots maybe lost the battle for now, but war is far away from being over. And when the present coronavirus issue disappears, we can expect the political fights to break out again. Johnson’s cabinet needs to consider that before making any hasty decisions.