After the most highly participated-in referendum in Scotland’s history, the Scottish people narrowly decided to stay in their 307-year-old union with Britain. Out of 3,619,915 valid votes, 2,001,926 ballots — 55.30% — said “No.”

Immediately after the referendum, many countries expressed their approval of the results. President Obama welcomed the news and said he was looking forward to “continuing our strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” José Manual Barroso, President of the European Commission, expressed his relief by stating that the Scottish people voted for a “united, open and stronger Europe.”

An interesting issue arose in Spain, though, where Catalans have lobbied for independence for a long time but have been blocked by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy claimed that the Scots have avoided serious consequences and “have chosen the most favorable option for everyone; for themselves, for all of Britain and for the rest of Europe.” On the other hand, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Artur Mas, perhaps in response to Mr. Rajoy, maintained that “What happened in Scotland is not a setback for us, because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote.” Similarly, the President of the Basque Government assured that his people would “follow Scotland’s footsteps” in securing a similar agreement for a referendum in Spain. Maybe Spain is next in line for secessionist talks now that David Cameron can take a deep breath again.

As for the Scottish people, the unexpected decision by Alex Salmond to resign as Scotland’s first minister and leader of Scottish National Party (SNP) was shocking news. He has been central to the entire project of independence and made the “Yes Scotland” campaign credible to begin with. He bid farewell to his supporters and the rest of Scotland by saying, “My time as leader is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.” Although the referendum result, combined with Salmond’s resignation, was a big hit to the fight for Scottish independence, the general optimistic feeling among the Scottish people is that “Scotland woke up and voiced an opinion.”

Now, eyes are turned to the British government and political leaders, who promised new decision-making powers to Scotland but remained vague on the details, mainly to offset the growing support for independence reflected in the polls before the elections. David Cameron said to all those who did vote for independence, “we hear you,” and “political leaders on all sides of the debate now bear a heavy responsibility to come together and work constructively to advance the interests of people in Scotland. One surprising reaction came from Queen Elizabeth II, who usually refrains from speaking on political matters, when she said, “We should remember that, despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all.” It looks like this love of Scotland kept a three- centuries-old union together, at least for another one or two decades before Scotland’s youth generation, which drove this year’s independence movement, takes another shot at it.

 

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