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The kingdom stays together

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After months of vig­orous cam­paigning from the High­lands to Edin­burgh, Scot­tish cit­i­zens on Thursday shot down a his­toric ref­er­endum that would have made Scot­land an inde­pen­dent country.

Regard­less of Thursday’s out­come, Scot­land get­ting offi­cial say on seceding from the United Kingdom will rever­berate throughout Europe, says assis­tant pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and international affairs Mai’a K. Davis Cross, who closely mon­i­tored the inde­pen­dence referendum.

Early polls leading up to Thursday’s vote, in which about 4.3 mil­lion people were eli­gible to cast a ballot, indi­cated the result would be close. But 55 per­cent of voters ulti­mately said no to the ques­tion “Should Scot­land be an inde­pen­dent country?,” and the nation will con­tinue its union with the United Kingdom.

There are a number of regions in Europe with sim­ilar sit­u­a­tions to Scot­land, Cross explained, such as the Cat­alonian region in Spain or the Flemish-​​speaking region in Bel­gium, that are part of one country but have their own iden­tity and would like to break free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a con­cern of a domino effect in parts of Europe,” Cross said. “It could encourage the Basque region or Cat­alonia to say, ‘We would also like inde­pen­dence and maybe join the Euro­pean Union.’”

Aside from the his­toric prece­dence, Cross said what made Thursday’s vote fas­ci­nating is the Euro­pean Union tends to hold regions within member states together because of the tremen­dous amount of sup­port the Euro­pean Union pro­vides to those regions.

Regions get to have a major say in the direc­tion of EU policy, espe­cially on issues such as the pro­tec­tion of their lan­guages, cul­ture, and forms of edu­ca­tion,” Cross said. “Typ­i­cally the dynamic is the EU encour­ages regions like Scot­land to stay with their member state.”

This push for Scot­tish inde­pen­dence began in 2013, when the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment passed a ref­er­endum bill. The pro-​​independence move­ment, Yes Scot­land, believed Scot­tish cit­i­zens are the ones who should make deci­sions about the country’s future, not Eng­land. Better Together, the anti-​​independent cam­paign, looked to main­tain the country’s union with Britain.

Scot­tish inde­pen­dence has been a pop­ular topic of con­ver­sa­tion in Cross’ Euro­pean pol­i­tics courses this semester, and the unprece­dented event could play a role in her research into how cer­tain crises impact Europe.

I think it would be inter­esting to see how some of my work antic­i­pates the out­come of this event,” Cross said. “This is a much smaller crisis com­pared to one like the Euro­zone eco­nomic crisis of 2009, but my argu­ment is these crises tend to make the Euro­pean Union stronger. When it looks like the region might be on the verge of failure, Euro­peans tend to use the crises as oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow stronger.”

Had Scotland’s cit­i­zens voted for inde­pen­dence, Cross said the next expected step was for the country to apply for Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship. Many believed it could have been the eas­iest step toward mem­ber­ship growth in the union’s his­tory. “Scot­land has already been part of the EU, through the United Kingdom, for decades now,” Cross noted. “It is abiding by all the EU bylaws and regulations.”

– By Joe O’Connell

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