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A bit like the Arab Spring, but with less sun
Within the next two years, the people of Scotland will be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum that will determine the future of the country: whether or not Scotland shall remain a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Union with England was not a decision made by the citizens, nor was it the result of a war. Instead, it was the consequence of the Scottish nobility’s misguided attempt to become an Imperial power. One quarter of the nation’s wealth was invested in the Darien scheme, a plan to establish a colony in Panama. Unfortunately for the investors, Scotland’s main export good was wool, and there’s not a lot of demand for jerseys in the rainforest. When the troubled colony was finally captured by the Spanish, the landowners and politicians who paid for the scheme found themselves with no money. Luckily for them, England was willing to bail them out–in exchange for the country. Despite widespread discontent amongst the people (many of whom lost money in the Darien scheme but never saw a penny of the compensation) and after some more bribes were given to politicians, the deal went ahead. And so, in 1707, Scotland was bought for £398,085 and ten shillings.
Now, 300 years later, Scotland is slowly regaining sovereignty. In 1999, the devolved Scottish Parliament was established, allowing Scotland to regain control of its own domestic policy. In last year’s Scottish election, the unthinkable happened–the Scottish National Party (SNP), Scotland’s major nationalist party, won a majority of the seats in the Scottish Parliament. Unthinkable because, like New Zealand, the Scottish Parliament uses MMP, a system under which it is (theoretically) near impossible for one party to gain majority.
One of the SNP’s election promises was to initiate a referendum on the question of Scottish independence. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, aims to hold the referendum in 2014–presumably to give the SNP time to campaign and increase support for independence. David Cameron, however, wishes “to prevent the Scottish Nationalists from setting the terms, question and timing to suit themselves” by allowing Westminster to set the terms, question and timing to suit the Unionists. The British government’s opposition to independence can only work in the favour of the SNP. While approximately only 35 per cent of Scots currently support independence, the Scots are naturally a belligerent and contrary people, and so whenever a privately-educated, rich English ponce tries to tell them what’s best for them, Scots of all political persuasions unite in the great national pass-time of telling the English to “git tae fuck”.
With Scots so divided on the issue, there is only one way for the nationalists to secure victory. This secret weapon has been used before to great effect, and it can be used again. The SNP’s popularity surged in the years between the British general elections of 1992 and 1997. Why? In 1995, Braveheart was released. The nation was united by an anti-Semitic Australian alcoholic’s warped version of Scottish history. Almost twenty years after Braveheart first graced our screens, the time is ripe for a 3D re-release. Nothing could unite the Scottish people more than hearing Mel Gibson’s strained cry of “FREEDOM!” while his entrails appear mere inches away from our collective faces.