Scottish citizens have voted to stay in the UK, with the ‘No’ camp securing 55 percent of votes against 45 percent for ‘Yes’. Support for independence energized huge swaths of the population. So why did the majority vote ‘No’?
1. ‘Better off together’
The pro-union ‘Better Together’ campaign highlighted Scotland’s shared historical ties with its English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbors. The referendum has thrown up soul-searching questions of what it means to be British. The allure of these shared historical bonds no doubt swayed some voters to reject independence.
Many Scots were afraid of how an independent Scotland might change their day-to-day lives. While the ‘Yes’ camp’s case for independence attracted millions of voters, the task of building a workable, independent nation proved too daunting for many.
The ‘No’ campaign’s slogan ‘Why take the risk?’ no doubt played a part in fostering this view. ‘Yes’ campaigners say ‘project fear’ was a concerted effort by the British establishment to stave off a split.
‘Yes’ supporters argued that other countries with the same population or landmass as Scotland have thrived following independence, citing countries that use the ‘Scandinavian model’.
With just over 5 million people spread over a large land mass, however, it appears some voters felt Scotland would not constitute a viable independent state.
3. Status quo
Despite ‘Yes’ camp claims that independence would create more jobs, protect the National Health Service, alleviate poverty and protect public services, many felt that during a time of financial instability, keeping the status quo was the safest bet.
This includes the question of currency. First Minister Alex Salmond argued for a currency union with the UK and the continued use of the pound. The main Westminster parties overruled this option, leaving Scotland a choice between a new Scottish currency, or adopting the troubled euro.
Uncertainty over Scottish tender will have endeared many to the status quo.
4. Prestige & pride
Once independent, the ‘Yes’ camp had wished to seek Scottish membership of the European Union. However, the EU is a divisive issue in the UK. Some argued, including UKIP leader Nigel Farage, that an independent Scotland could break ties with Westminster, only to find its freedom curtailed by Brussels.
Supporters of the EU may also have had their membership dreams dashed, as key European leaders, including the Spanish prime minister, suggested they would block Scotland’s entry.
Beyond Europe, Scotland also benefits from a seat at the G7 and on the UN Security Council by virtue of being a part of the UK. Splitting from the union could result in Scotland lacking a global voice.
A fear of isolation may have swung some voters to a ‘No’.
5. More powers from Westminster
One option not featured on the ballot paper was ‘devo-max’, which would offer a slew of new devolved powers to the Scottish parliament. As a last-minute offer to rescue the union, the leaders of the UK’s three biggest parties signed a pledge to give Scotland fully devolved powers over taxes, spending and welfare.
Whether Westminster will stick to this pledge is unclear, but the offer appears to have swung those who initially thought such powers could only be secured under independence.
6. Support for Westminster parties
Of course, a section of ‘No’ voters do support the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – the UK’s three main political parties. No doubt there are many among the ‘No’ ranks who genuinely believe Scotland can get the best political representation under a Westminster government. Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party court mistrust among sections of Scottish society.
7. It’s the economy, stupid!
The UK government pushed the message that Scots would be financially worse off after independence. ‘No’ campaigners said Scotland could secure its future by sharing in the common resources of the UK. Again, a fear of going it alone without a share of the wealth will have swayed some ‘No’ voters.
The ‘Yes’ campaign has said from the very beginning that the social democracy they envisage for Scotland could be underwritten by the vast oil reserves in the North Sea’s Scottish territories.
Many ‘No’ voters were unconvinced by this analysis, sensing the oil would not last forever, and that alternative sources of revenue, including higher taxation, could haunt them later down the line.
8. Defense & nuclear weapons
The Scottish government had pledged to remove the UK’s trident nuclear weapons from its shores if it secured independence. It had wished to spend most of its defense budget on health, education and other public services.
However, defense experts warned throughout the campaign that heightened tensions with Russia and the threat of global terrorism made the UK’s defense spending and nuclear weapons more relevant and necessary than ever. Disarmament also undermined Alex Salmond’s case for joining NATO.