Scotland hours away from historic vote

2014-09-17 22:52:41 | Al Muslim News
Scotland hours away from historic vote

 

Both excitement and anxiety are mounting as Scotland readies to hold a knife-edge referendum to determine whether to break away from the United Kingdom and become independent. With just hours left before the historic vote on Thursday, most opinion polls and experts say it is a vote too tight to predict. Opinion polls have failed to put either side decisively ahead. In its final hours, the battle for Scotland had all the trappings of a normal election campaign: "Yes Scotland'' and "No, Thanks'' posters in windows, buttons on jackets, leaflets on street corners and megaphone-topped campaign cars cruising the streets blasting out Scottish songs and "Children of the Revolution." The gravity of the imminent decision was hitting home for many voters as political leaders made passionate, final pleas for their sides. More than 4.2 million people are registered to vote in the country of 5.3 million people. including, for the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds - with neither side assured of a victory. The latest polls released by Ipsos MORI, on Wednesday, put opposition to independence at 51 percent and support at 49 percent, with five percent of voters undecided. The company had conducted a telephonic poll of 1,373 people.Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a Scot, told a No campaign rally that the quiet majority of pro-Union Scots "will be silent no more," while pro-independence leader Alex Salmond urged voters to seize a democratic opportunity 307 years in the making. Cathy Chance, who works for Britain's National Health Service in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, said she would leave Scotland if it became independent. "I don't want to live under a nation that's nationalistic,'' she said. "I don't think the world needs another political barrier.'' On the other side, "Yes" campaigner Roisin McLaren said she was finally letting herself believe independence might be possible. "My family has campaigned for independence for a long, long time, and it's always been a pipe dream,'' the Edinburgh University student said as she knocked on doors in a last-minute effort to convert wavering electors. "Just in the last few days it's seemed possible, within reach. I can almost taste it.' ' Politicians on both sides expressed confidence in the Scottish public, but uncertainty rippled below the surface. Brown, Britain's former leader, told supporters that the patriotic choice was to remain within the U.K. "The vote tomorrow is not about whether Scotland is a nation - we are, yesterday, today and tomorrow,'' he said. "The vote tomorrow is whether you want to break and sever every link,'' with the rest of the country. Salmond, the energetic leader of the Yes campaign, said Scots would seize "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the future of this country into our hands.'' Despite gains in support for independence in recent weeks, Salmond said his side remained the underdog. "However, as we know in life, in politics and certainly in this festival of democracy, underdogs have a habit of winning sometimes,'' he said. A "Yes" vote would trigger months of negotiations between Scotland and the British government over the messy details of independence, which Scottish authorities say will take effect on March 24, 2016, the anniversary of the date in 1707 that Scotland decided to unite with Britain..

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