Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Votes

Today's the day that decides whether Europe in the 21st century resembles that of the last century or if self determination in a time of diminishing resources means a united Europe breaks into several small pieces. Catalonia has set a date in November to vote to ask Madrid for the right to vote on independence and Northern Irish leaders say they will review their future status in the rest of the United Kingdom if Scotland votes "Yes" today. The question? "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Simple enough with widespread implications. A sense of humor helps...seen at Gretna Green on the English/Scottish border:

In many respects the vote seems like a peculiar exercise in tomfoolery. Scottish leaders insist come independence they will continue to use English pounds under the control of the bank of England, and the Royal Mail will deliver the post and Scotland will be part of the European Union. All of which is in question as English leaders say they want no part of sharing anything with an independent Scotland, except their share of the National Debt; while EU leaders say Scotland will have to apply for membership and that could take a decade to process if Spain doesn't veto their application as vengeance for Catalonia's renewed drive for freedom.

At this point all the considerations in the independence fine print are left behind as just about every single Scottish resident is showing up at the polls today between seven am and ten o'clock tonight local time. (The UK is five hours ahead of US Eastern time). One thing the independence vote has done that is positive and worth noting is that it has generated debate, some violent, but this is as pure an expression of true grassroots democracy as any we have seen on either side of the Atlantic. Earlier this year European Union nations voted for their members of the European Parliament and we saw a huge upset with right wing anti-union members getting elected. Watching those results I tried to imagine an upset in a Presidential election in this country. And frankly I could not see that. Voter apathy in the US is the product of that electoral certainty. Scottish voters, as young as 16, are streaming to the polls because they know their vote counts. They have no electoral college to interpret their wishes, or multi year monstrously costly elections decided by money long before votes are cast. Money has been spent and claims have been made because the outcome of this vote, likely to be known in 12 hours, is in doubt, too close to call.

As you watch this vote ask yourself what the Federal government would do if Montana elected to vote to secede. Inconceivable isn't it? More to the point I'd love to see something as simple as a viable third party candidate run for President with an actual chance of winning. Democracy is supposed to allow for upsets and whether or not Scotland decides to end its 300 year old union with England there can be no doubt they have stepped up to vote in a race with no certain outcome. Watch Hilary Clinton's race for President and ask yourself how uncertain is that outcome by comparison. And how expensive. And how little policy will change after it's all over. And then ask yourself what it must be like to be a Scottish voter today.

All photos from The Scotsman newspaper website.


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