On the eve of the Scottish independence vote the mood in Edinburgh is a mix of optimism (on both sides), concern and, after an intense campaign that has dominated the press, an impatience to know once and for all what the future holds.
After almost two years since Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh Agreement, allowing the Scottish Parliament to hold an in/out vote on the union with the UK, everything will come down to a single day. An unprecedented 97% of eligible voters have registered in what is set to be a defining day for both Scotland and Great Britain — regardless of the outcome.
We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about how close the vote is likely to be — but that does little to describe the reality on the ground. Speaking to people here, you get the sense that the referendum has not only divided a nation but has split streets and even families. For every Union Jack you see in a window, you can bet there’s Saltire draped out of another a few doors down.
Lisa, a taxi driver whose husband works on a North Sea oil rig, is a firm “No” vote but says she’s worried that the bad blood between the two sides could linger after the vote. She said both sides have used “intimidation and threats” to rally people to their cause and has few kind words to say about Salmond (“patronizing and smug”) or Better Together’s Alistair Darling (“you can’t trust a man with those eyebrows”).
If the mood in some quarters is cautious, however, in others it appears bordering on the euphoric. I stumbled upon a gathering of pro-independence supporters in the center of town enjoying an impromptu jig.
After a rendition (or three) of Flower of Scotland, many of the campaigners expressed their hopes that tomorrow’s vote would open up new opportunities for the nation. A few raised now-familiar (and very much speculative) theories about secret oil reserves worth billions that the Westminster government has kept hidden to sway the vote. Most thought a “Yes” vote would lead to more investment in local infrastructure and more, better-paying jobs for Scots.
As one of the students (pictured at the top of this story) put it simply, “Independence can’t be as bad as things are now.”
More than anything else, the overwhelming impression from talking to people in Edinburgh is that the vote can’t happen soon enough. A relentless campaign has delayed the certainty that only a decision will give them.
In just more than 24 hours, they will get just that.
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