Scotland voted No. With only four regions in Scotland voting in favour of independence, gaining 45% of the vote, Scotland chose to stay in the Union with a more convincing margin than had been expected.
The role of the migrant vote did not feature greatly prior to the vote, nor has it been the focus of the post referendum analysis, with the breakdown of voting trends being centred on age and wealth differences.
The initial analysis shows that older voters overwhelmingly voted to remain in the Union. The biggest yes group was the 25-31 group, with the swing to no becoming progressively severe with rising age. Statistically poorer regions had larger turnouts in favour of Yes, which include the Labour strongholds that voted for independence. They include Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Dundee, where the largest portion of Yes votes was achieved. Dundee has garnered the nickname Yes City due to the high support for independence in the city.
Is it clear how the Polish community voted nor what the level of turnout was. Of the few polls that exist on the voting patterns of the migrant communities, they show a similar split in opinion, in line with the larger population.
The unprecedented turnout has been widely lauded, though retaining this enthusiasm for the political process will not be easy. A large part of this new zeal has come in the form of the Yes campaign and their army of activists. The enfranchisement of young voters and previously alienated groups has been a characteristic of the campaign, as many for the first time felt that they had a say in their future and the future of their community and country.
‘Tak’ Poles for an independent Scotland, embodied the enthusiasm of the yes campaign in the Polish community. Many factions appeared, all with the goal of independence though many for different reasons. The vigour and enthusiasm with which the Yes movement campaigned no doubt encouraged many less vocal citizens to make their way to the polling booth on Thursday 18th September.
The status of migrants living in Scotland was a topic of significant concern. The uncertainty over EU membership, more theoretical, rather than practical, will no doubt have played on many people’s minds. The few polls we have available show that this was a significant factor. In the later stages of the referendum the European question was less prominent, though it had been a consistent point of attack for the No campaign. The No vote has avoided the uncertainty over Scotland’s eventual status with the EU, though not for long.
Certainly some parts of Europe were relieved that Scotland voted no. Spain, Belgium and France, who all have regions with separatist movements of varying popularity followed the vote with a keen eye. The idea that Scotland, by voting no, voted for unity over division, is however a false one. Scotland is a keen member of the EU, and surprisingly to some a willing member of NATO. This is not necessarily true of other regions in the UK.
Euroscepticism has found a home in every member state of the EU, with varying levels of support. In Britain, euroscepticism is embodied by the rise of UKIP. This rise has been largely unopposed as the ruling party largely sympathise with many of UKIP’s policies. The main opposition, The Labour Party, has offered very little resistance, choosing to assume an apologetic stance on immigration related issues, for fear of losing support in many of its working class heartland seats.
Responding to pressure from the right wing of his party, David Cameron has promised an in-out referendum should the Conservative Party be returned to power with a majority at the next general election. This has brought Britains membership of the EU into question.
The Conservative party is split on the issue of EU membership. In the recent cabinet reshuffle Philip Hammond was appointed the new foreign secretary. A known Eurosceptic, he represents the rising power of the anti-EU wing of the Conservative party. The party has also recently been rocked by the defection of two MP’s to UKIP, showing that even the promise of a referendum is not enough to convince some members in his own party of his right wing credentials.
The proposed referendum would take place in 2017, a year after the Scottish parliamentary elections. Opinion polls show that Scotland is rather more fond of the EU than England is (which makes up over 80% of the voting population in the UK), so would Scotland be pulled unwillingly out of Europe?
The anti-immigration stance of the right is enjoying increased support. It is however unlikely that the right can muster the same level of grass roots support and energy that galvanised the Yes campaign. The case for exclusion, protectionism and isolation just doesn’t pack the same punch as a campaign for social justice, inclusion and enfranchisement.
So has Scotland inadvertently voted to put its EU membership at risk? This is certainly not the intention of No voters, though with only 8.9% of the population, Scotland is not a large enough voting block to decide on its own.
Politics in Scotland has become very interesting over the past year, the levels of engagement have risen to new heights. The challenge now is to continue to engage all levels of society and encourage involvement in the political process. After all this same level of engagement may be required to retain Britain’s status as a member of the EU.
Author of text: Conor MacGuire