Scotland faces a monumental decision in September — whether or not to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country.
The Sept. 18 independence referendum will give Scots over the age of 16 the chance to answer the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
There’s a lot of history that’s led up to this moment. Scotland has been part of the UK since the 1700s, and nationalists have been fighting for this referendum for decades.
The fight is familiar to Scots, but Americans might not be as aware of the background of this important issue.
Here’s a primer from the BBC:
The campaign for Scottish home rule began in earnest almost as soon as the unification with England took place, in 1707.
At the time, the view was that Scotland was desperate for cash, but opponents of the move were outraged by claims that the Scots who put their names to the Act of Union were bribed.
Fast forward many years to 1934, and the establishment of the Scottish National Party, created through the amalgamation of the Scottish Party and the National Party of Scotland.
The nationalist party won its first election in 2007 and secured a mandate for the independence referendum in 2011, according to BBC.
Scotland currently controls its own policies on health, education, and prisons, but the country doesn’t have its own armed forces or foreign policy.
Scotland also does not have its own constitution or control over energy issues, The Guardian noted. The country got its own parliament in 1997, which drove nationalism in Scotland and helped lead to the independence referendum that’s on the ballot in September.
A big focus of the debate is Scotland’s share of North Sea oil, which Scotland could profit from more if it were an independent country (the British government disputes this).
Another important issue in Scottish independence is nuclear disarmament. Scotland’s deputy first minister wants it worked into the constitution should the country separate from the UK. The official said nuclear weapons “have no place in Scotland.”
The referendum is non-binding, but Scotland’s website states that “the moral and political force of a vote for independence would be enormous, and impossible for a future government to ignore.”
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