We didn’t plan this at all.
It just so happened we ended up in Scotland the week of the historic independence vote. More than 5 million Scots will hit the polls Thursday to answer one simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And right now, it could go either way.
The latest polls have suggested the result is too close to call. One survey published Wednesday afternoon put support for “Yes” at 49 percent against 51 percent for “No” when undecided voters were excluded. Another poll released earlier on Wednesday showed support for independence was at 48 percent, with 52 percent support for Scotland staying in the U.K., once undecided voters were excluded.
And social media is a-buzz with reasons to #VoteYes or #VoteNo.
But the real action is right here in Scotland.
We just walked from Leith to Edinburgh this afternoon and passed dozens of people wearing stickers and pins declaring their support for either side. There were people waving signs and handing out flyers with information about the referendum on street corners, urging people to take a side at the polls tomorrow.
We even saw a farm in East Lothian, on our way back from a whiskey tasting at the Glenkinchie Distillery, with the words, “NO,” plowed into the fields.
I mean, this is serious.
On our way back from dinner at Monteiths on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, we came across a group of people gathered around a van parked at the top of Cockburn Street. From the van shot a huge spotlight with a scrim that read, “Yes,” on it, boldly displayed on the side of the building. (See first image)
And that was after a #VoteYes rally spontaneously gathered there and walked to the Scottish Parliament, several thousand strong. (Some were chanting, “Where’s your cameras, BBC?”)
This referendum is not just the biggest news here, it’s the only news. No one is talking or thinking about anything else — aside from maybe where to grab a pint after the polls close.
This is huge. If the results are in favor of independence, Scotland will transition to its own country by early next year. That means Scots will need to vote in a new government, decide on a new currency and figure out what to do next.
And that’s not something the Scots aren’t already accustomed to.
It seems, in every chapter of Scottish history, they’ve always made do with whatever they have. They’ve always figured it out — and succeeded. And I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Scots.
But the vote right now is so close: there are people who truly believe they deserve independence from Great Britain and should be allowed to make their own choices about what’s best for their country — and there are others who feel separating from the U.K. would be detrimental to the country.
At the heart of it, though, these Scots love their country, unconditionally and unabashedly, and this referendum has split a very spirited and proud people. To me, both sides are looking at what they feel is best for the country and its people. I believe that. But what’s best is what’s on debate, and each side has compelling arguments.
We’ve been spending a lot of time with Andrew, head of social media at an independent digital consultancy in Edinburgh, whose loft at which we are staying. (He’s the guy in the photo above, on the left.) And he’s pro-independence — for all the reasons that make sense to me. They finally get a say in what happens to their country. They can get rid of the nuclear weapons stored on their land. They can keep the tax and revenue made from its oil reserves. I can’t help but feel sympathetic toward the #VoteYes folks.
Whatever happens, though, we’ll be here for it. Voting starts tomorrow morning and runs until 10 p.m. Then it will take several hours of counting each vote to determine the outcome, which is expected to be announced around 8 a.m. Friday. And then we’ll know.
No matter what the outcome, there will be revelry in Edinburgh — on the streets and in the pubs. And either way, I’ll be toasting the beauty of democracy.
Follow Cat on her #FoxHoneymoon to England, Scotland and Ireland on Twitter @thedailydish and Instagram @catherinetoth. Track her travels at #CatTravels.