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An American’s Experience of the Scottish Referendum

September 25, 2014
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By guest blogger Drew Warner –

“When I first found out that I had gotten accepted to study in Scotland this fall, I was so excited for all of the traveling around Europe I would be doing, all of the night clubs I would be going to, and all of the monuments I would be seeing. That was all I could think about for the few months leading up to my trip.

I arrived in my flat on the first day to meet my three other Scottish roommates, hoping to immediately share that same enthusiasm about these things with them. But, not even 5 minutes after our introductions, the topic of the Scottish independence referendum had already been brought up, which then carried into an hour-long discussion of everyone’s personal voting decision. I remember I had heard bits and pieces about the referendum while I was still in the States, but it never occurred to me until I was over here, how big of a deal it was to every Scottish citizen.

Yes and no campaigners in scottish referendum

I arrived in Scotland on September 6th, and from that day forward, every dinner conversation, morning tea talk and lounging around downtime was dominated by talk of the referendum. In the two weeks that I was there before the vote, I had heard of all different arguments for and against voting for independence. What it seemed was that the people who were planning to vote yes, were the ones that were the most vocal about it, which in turn is what influenced me to take a side. The ‘Yes’ campaigners hosted rallies and platform discussions all over the city and all over my university’s campus. It was amazing how many people got involved in the decision. Unlike in the States, the voting was open to any citizen from the age of 16 and up. Opening it to an even younger group made it something that not just old politicians and political science majors were to be interested in, but it sparked interest of everyone here, regardless of their previous voting experience or knowledge. I saw 16-year-old high school kids driving down the street in their beat up first cars alongside older, more well-off adults, both with huge ‘YES’ stickers on their car bumpers. I ended up buying a tee shirt with a huge Scottish flag on it, and joining the ‘yes’ rally.

The night of the vote, my university held a big viewing party with pizza and beer and all sorts of TV screens and couches. The party started at 10pm when the voting booths closed and kept going until 5am when the decision was made, which ended in a ‘No’ vote. Although it was a rather disappointing ending for the liberal student body I was surrounded by, who all voted yes, they all kept emphasizing how much this needed to happen to “get the ball rolling.” Being here to experience something this historical was unbelievable. It gave me appreciation for the nationalism that every country has, something that we usually overlook due to our own patriotic sentiment toward America. If there is ever an opportunity to relive something similar to this experience, I would not miss it for the world.”

Drew Warner is a junior at DePauw University currently studying at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland

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