A War of Words

Allia Calkins

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, sheep to the slaughter” – George Washington

The United States had Patrick Henry, India had Ghandi, and Scotland has…Shrek? “Shrek wants what the will of the Scottish people want,” stated Mike Myers, a native Canadian, in the green ogre’s Scottish accent, adding, “I love Scotland. I hope they remain a part of Britain.” At the same time, Russell Brand, an Englishman, tweeted “I’ve never voted, but if I was Scottish I’d vote yes.” On 18 September 2014, the people of Scotland will vote for their independence from Great Britain following what has truly been a modern-day independence movement. Rather than taking up arms against their mother country, the people of Scotland have taken to the media to voice their opinions on the future of their country, and everyone has an opinion.

Both the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron urge the people of Scotland to vote against Independence; if Scotland does become an independent country, the United Kingdom will be reduced to Britain, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The Queen and Cameron have obvious political stakes tied to the independence vote, however, because of the influence of social media, what once might have been a debate in parliament buildings behind closed doors has become an open debate for anyone, Scottish or not, to participate in. JK Rowling, the author behind the Harry Potter series, donated over one million pounds to the “No” campaign, and has been contributing to the debate through her Twitter account. Meanwhile, Scottish actors Sean Connery and Gerard Butler have both been campaigning hard for an independent Scotland.

The prevalence of the online debate on the referendum makes this independence movement different from previous breaks with Britain, even peaceful ones such as in Canada and Australia, which both declared their independence via parliamentary acts. As shown by the protests against the BBC, which many Scotts perceived as biased in the debate, the citizens of Scotland are interested in hearing all arguments for and against an independent country. There has been intense backlash over an ad deemed by many as “patronizing” and “sexist” towards women voters, and anger over the increase of fear mongering by both sides. The Scottish people want a debate, but they do not want to trivialize the issue or the people involved.

Two days before the vote, polling shows a narrowing gap between the “Better Together” and “Yes Scotland” campaigns. This, along with increased tensions, shows that the peaceful debate that has characterized the vote thus far might not stay peaceful for long. Already there have been reports of increased violence in incidents related to the vote, and no one can predict how either side will behave once the outcome is announced.

Since the age of imperialism, the British Empire has shrunk considerably. It has seen independence movements from all over the globe, as well as in its own backyard. Some revolutions have been bloody, and others peaceful. Some have resulted in better lives for the people of the colonized countries, and others a decreased standard of living. While the Scottish independence debate has been exactly that – a debate – its format cannot be ensured to remain the same. All the same, until the vote occurs, citizens and non-citizens alike will continue to voice their opinions and engage in dialogue. This is nothing new from independence movements of the past. The only difference is that it must be done in 140 characters or less.

[Photo credit: http://themarketmogul.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/scottish-and-uk-flags-0141.jpg]