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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Scotland Granted 'Vote For Independence'

ELEANOR HALL: Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond says it's the most important decision for his country in several hundred years.

Overnight he and British prime minister David Cameron signed a formal agreement allowing Scots to vote in a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.
The referendum will take place in 2014 and, unlike the complex question Australians were asked about a republic in 1999, this one will involve simply saying yes or no to independence, as Europe correspondent Mary Gearin reports.

(Excerpt from Braveheart)

BRAVEHEART: They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!

(End of excerpt)

MARY GEARIN: So said Hollywood's Braveheart, but what will modern Scots say?

Now it's official - they'll make their voices heard in the autumn of 2014, shortly after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, perhaps riding on a wave of nationalistic fervour.

The referendum agreement has been hailed as the biggest political development for Scotland in the 300 years since its parliament was bound to England's.

First minister, Alex Salmond:

ALEX SALMOND: And it paves the way of course for the most important decision that our country of Scotland has made in several hundred years. 

We are in the business of developing a new relationship between the peoples of these islands - I think a more beneficial and independent and equal relationship. That's what we're trying to build. 

MARY GEARIN: John Mckay is an independence activist and he acknowledges polls suggest most Scots are still nervous about breaking away from the strength of the UK.

JOHN MCKAY: That was always the argument, yeah it's a good idea laddy but you'll never get it. We're too small, we're too wee, we're too poor, you know. And it's getting over that lack of confidence.

MARY GEARIN: Scottish nationalists won their fight to grant 16 and 17 year olds the right to cast their vote, although ironically, a recent media poll suggested only a quarter of them would support independence. 

But UK prime minister David Cameron won his argument for a single question, yes/no vote for independence.

DAVID CAMERON: One single simple question - that for me was always the key. Now we've dealt with the process, now we should get on with the real arguments. And I passionately believe that Scotland will be better off in the United Kingdom, but also crucially, the United Kingdom will be better off with Scotland. We are better together. 

MARY GEARIN: The single question referendum is not, for instance, like the more complex ballot about a particular model of independence that many blamed for scuppering a yes vote for an Australian republic 13 years ago.

Professor Paul Cairney is chair in politics and public policy at the University of Aberdeen. He says the simplicity of the question may work against David Cameron's desired result.

PAUL CAIRNEY: There's a chance that people who wanted to vote for more devolution will vote yes to independence simply because they don't have the opportunity to vote yes for something else. 

MARY GEARIN: From the outside this looks like the culmination of 300 years essentially of quite romantic notions of independence. What is it like from the inside?

PAUL CAIRNEY: It certainly feels less romantic when you're subjected to the debates every day. 

I think the biggest factor seems to be economic. So if people feel that they are significantly better or worse off under independence, that will be the biggest factor. 

If, as I suspect, people aren't quite sure what the economic effect will be then I think it will come down more to emotions and gut instincts. 

But even then I don't think there'll be a majority that will, you know, that will say yes. But it might be, you know, there might be you know mid forties. 

MARY GEARIN: Somewhat less romantic than the Hollywood version.

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