Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Scots head to the polls


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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) – Scots held the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands today as they voted in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to unravel a marriage with England that built an empire but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling and one-sided.

The question on the ballot paper is simplicity itself: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Yet it has divided Scots during months of campaigning, and polls suggest the result is too close to call.

A final Ipsos MORI poll released today put support for the “No” side at 53 per cent and “Yes” at 47 per cent. The phone survey of 991 people has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The future of the 307-year old union with England will be decided in 15 hours today; polls close at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. Barbados time). Turnout is expected to be high, with more than 4.2 million people registered to vote – 97 per cent of those eligible.

On a foggy morning in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, voters lined up outside some polling stations even before they opened at 7 a.m.

The campaign has generated an unprecedented volume and intensity of public debate and participation. The “Yes” side, in particular, has energised young people and previously disillusioned working-class voters.

As polls opened, the mood was electric, tinged by nervousness.

For some voters, this was a day they had dreamed of for decades.

“Fifty years I fought for this,” said 83-year-old Isabelle Smith, a “Yes” supporter in Edinburgh’s maritime district of Newhaven, a former fishing port. “And we are going to win. I can feel it in my bones.”

For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during three decades living in the United States with her late husband.

“The one thing America has that the Scots don’t have is confidence,” said Smith, who returned to Scotland years ago. “But they’re getting it, they’re walking tall.

“No matter what, Scotland will never, ever be the same again.”

Smith’s three children and seven grandchildren are all Americans, and several flew to Scotland for the referendum to support her.

Many opponents of independence agreed that the campaign had reinvigorated Scottish democracy.

“I support the “No” side, but it’s been a fascinating, worthwhile discussion about Scotland’s future,” said writing consultant David Clarke.

“If it’s a “No” it’s a win-win situation. If it’s a “Yes”, we will have to deal with the fact that it’s a “Yes”.”

First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the independence campaign, cast his vote near his home in northeastern Scotland. If the “Yes” side prevails he will realise a long-held dream of leading his country to independence after an alliance with England formed in 1707.

In a final speech on last night, Salmond told voters: “This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands.”



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