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Scottish independence: Historic eventuality or rash reaction?

September 10th, 2014
09:22 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

To stay or to go.

With just over a week until a crucial referendum and polls on a knife’s edge, the pressure is on Scots to decide whether to end their 300-year-long union with the United Kingdom in favor of independence.

To debate the issue, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke with Brian Cox, an actor and Scotsman who supports independence, and Rory Stewart, a British parliamentarian whose family is Scottish who supports a continued union.

For Cox the push for independence is the result of long pent-up frustrations; for Stewart, it’s a rash and regrettable reaction to a passing set of circumstances.

“I feel that we've reached a point now – it's a historic inevitability. It's no longer working,” Cox said. “We've created things on other people's behalf. And finally, I think it’s got to a point where we said, ‘well, we've done all this. It's time to do it on our own behalf.’”

Stewart allowed that “people feel very frustrated,” but independence is not the solution.

“These are things which will pass. They're five, ten-year things,” he said. “It's very strange somehow that we've got this massive constitutional tear-up as a solution to what I see ultimately as short-term anxieties.”

The “no” campaign – i.e. Scotland is “better together” with the rest of the UK – is in full swing days after a poll for the first time showed a narrow edge for the pro-independence campaigners.

In rare bipartisanship, Prime Minister David Cameron has travelled to Scotland to make the case for “no” with his deputy Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, and Ed Miliband, the opposition leader of the Labour Party.

In what many saw as a desperate measure, the government announced at the beginning of the week details about a plan for radical “devolution” of power to Scotland, so-called “devo-max,” should Scotland remain in the union.

But expressing support for that devolution of power, Cox said, will not be an option on next week’s ballot, so many Scots have been forced into a more radical position.

The “no” campaign has been run in a “very patronizing way,” and has convinced him that an independent Scotland “is probably better off.”

Many Scots feel that power, centralized at the houses of parliament at Westminster, is far too removed from them, and its deaf to their concerns.

“I think Westminster's time is over,” Cox said. “Really, really over. And I think a lot of the problems that we've got is actually due to Westminster.”

Stewart, a conservative who in general supports moving more power to local governments, chimed in that even Edinburgh will prove to be “too far away.”

“We've got too much of a centralized system in general. The answer is to give power back to people, not, I think, to tear the country in two.”

The idea that Scotland and England are even countries that could be separated, he said, is misplaced.

“Particularly on the border, it feels very arbitrary. The English-Scottish border is something created by a French ambassador in 1552, who drew a line on a map, not very far from where the Emperor Hadrian came along and drew a straight colonial line on the map and divided us.”

“Our sheep move back and forth across that border…People are used to moving back and forth across that border, seeing us as a single family, a single unit.”

“I think we almost won’t actually understand how big a deal this is until it happens. And when it happens, there will be a terrible sense of loss and bewilderment.”

Cox countered that he believes separation would actually bring “a much great social union.”

“If independence is achieved, I think then we come to an idea of a federation of Great Britain, the United Federation of Great Britain.”

Scotland has the potential to be one of the richest countries in the world, Cox said; it has thus far just been unable to harness that.

“It's going to be a difficult transition,” Stewart said. “The big issue can't in the end be about money. It's about who we are.”

“Exactly,” Cox agreed.

Who Scots think they are, and should be, remains to be seen.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Scotland • United Kingdom
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. zonker

    The entirety of Scotland lies within about 600 miles of Westminster. By contrast, 600 miles from Washington DC only gets you as far as Indiana, even Chicago is further away than that. Beyond that radius lies most of the US.

    September 10, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply
  2. ashok

    The world must acknowledge the boldness of the experiment, admire the generosity of spirit, which allows Indians, with far greater diversity than the features that separate the Scots from the English, to be one nation.

    September 10, 2014 at 10:47 am | Reply
  3. chandran

    this event make me to remember our history one day all of a sudden all pakistanis realized that they are not indians
    and now scotts are realizing that they are brit. once this feelings comes to the people it wont go easily and let us
    wait and see

    September 11, 2014 at 5:23 am | Reply
  4. Spock_rhp

    As the forces of world wide instant communication via the Internet bring humans closer together, one faction of the Scots wishes to pull apart. Talk about being on the wrong side of reality!

    What the quotes do illustrate is the excesses of a large and centralized government. All of Britain would be better off, imho, if one third of the laws, rules, and government employees were sacked. That would allow more space for people to be themselves and look out for themselves.

    September 11, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  5. Terence Hale

    It would be in the interest go the UK to let Scotland go its own way. An unreliable partner is not the basis of a Union and in the event of a rejection the nationalist are still be there and cause trouble for democracy. Economically Scotland is lead on the legs of England and its irresponsibility is demonstrated by the nationalist with so many open questions such as EU membership, currency, defense, health service and and.

    September 16, 2014 at 5:45 am | Reply

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