Edinburgh Is Quiet but Determined as Referendum Approaches

With the Scotland independence referendum one day away, Edinburgh does not look like a city that may soon become the capital of a new state. On the eve of the vote, the campaigns for and against independence have slowed down and there are more journalists who have arrived to cover the referendum than activists in the Scottish capital’s streets.

EDINBURGH, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - With the Scotland independence referendum one day away, Edinburgh does not look like a city that may soon become the capital of a new state. On the eve of the vote, the campaigns for and against independence have slowed down and there are more journalists who have arrived to cover the referendum than activists in the Scottish capital’s streets.

If the majority of Scots during the September 18 referendum vote for independence the region will cease to be part of the United Kingdom as of March 24, 2016. Opinion polls are no indication of the possible outcome, showing different results every time. The outcome will be decided by the votes of those who have not yet made up their minds. The driving force behind the referendum are the nationalists who are trying to win over the public through populist slogans and the promise that an independent Scotland will flourish thanks to its hydrocarbon resources and redirection of all the taxes to the local budget.


After a walk in Edinburgh one can’t say that passions over independence have reached fever pitch in Scotland. The city goes about its daily life although indeed it seems to have slowed down recently: there are no agitators calling for one or the other choice, no rallies and pickets and no thousands of Yes campaigners. In the city center, one can see only a few national Scottish flags in the windows in support of independence.

“You are surprised? You probably just arrived. It’s relatively quiet now, but it was much more fun before. You see, the people who live and work here cannot take part in rallies all the time, they have long finished their discussions and made their decisions. They are waiting for Thursday’s vote. Once you have made up your mind, there is no need for actions, arguments or processions. And as I said, we all work, all have families,” Yen, a Scottish owner of a mini hotel in the west of Edinburgh, told RIA Novosti.

He said that campaigning had picked up during the summer, but when it became known that the voter turnout in the referendum could be as high as 90 percent, activists were replaced by politicians and the campaign shifted to the media. The “get out the votes” campaign moved to the hinterland.

Yen does not think the referendum will bring independence to his native region and intends to vote for remaining within the UK. But no disaster would happen even if Scotland became independent.

“My business (mini-hotel) is such that I will not lose whatever the outcome. Edinburgh has been and will remain one of the most popular cities for tourists in whatever country it ends up. If we become independent, the hotel business will boom because a new country will attract interest. But it will make no difference to me because I am a private businessman and own only this building (the mini-hotel) with a limited number of rooms. I am not thinking of buying other property. My business earns me enough money to lead a simple life,” he said.

However, some of Yen’s partners and suppliers think Scotland should be independent. The hotel owner said the farmers’ association that supplies him with food for breakfast has officially backed the campaign for separation.

“I often meet people who think independence will bring happiness. They may have their reasons to think so, and see some promise there. It’s hard for me to say. I consider myself to be a Scot and my wife comes from Liverpool (England), and there are both Scots and English in my ancestry, my relatives work in London and in the north of Scotland. Let everyone come and say what he thinks at the referendum, and we’ll then count the votes,” he said.

At the center of Edinburgh one gets the feeling that the vote has already taken place. An occasional passer-by sports a Yes campaign badge. One of these volunteer activists said that he genuinely wanted Scotland to be independent and was doing everything to persuade people to vote for independence.

“Tell the Russians that we are now united, we have no differences and we will all vote for freedom and independence. Our country (Scotland) can survive on its own. We are not talking about a split, we simply seek a civilized partnership with London. Independence is one form of partnership. Nobody forbids us to sign agreements on the closest of relations. But we would like to distribute our budget independently. Ask anyone and they will tell you how much we want it,” one man said, who asked to call him “an ordinary Scot.”


The quiet determination of the Scots is in striking contrast with the activity of the swarms of journalists who have descended on Edinburgh to cover the referendum. There seem to be more media people than activists in the city: they take pictures of the city, interview locals and photograph street bagpipe players.

“We’ve been here since last weekend and we seem to have covered everything. We have sufficient footage for a short film. But the editors are asking for more and more and we don’t know how to assuage their hunger for news. The topic is ‘overheated,’” the producer of a Canadian TV company told RIA Novosti on condition of anonymity.

The authorities have opened a press center for the journalists covering the referendum with work stations for print correspondents and a special balcony for TV journalists with a view of an Edinburgh castle. The exact number of local and foreign journalists working in Scotland is not yet known, but the press center said “we may be talking about several thousand.”

“We expect traffic jams caused by TV trucks,” a press center representative said.


The police are not making any special preparations for the referendum. Districts are not sealed off, traffic is not restricted and public transport runs on schedule, all the streets are open, and there are no extra patrols or police cordons. The local police said it was not planning any “special measures” during the referendum, and the personnel will be put on a readiness status no different from that of any mass events.

Pro-independence campaigners earlier told The Independent that if the Scots voted for unity, the Yes activists would stage a protest action to “prevent victory being stolen from us.”

However, Brian Docherty, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said in an interview with the same newspaper that they were not expecting any clashes or disturbances and think the protest would be peaceful and non-violent.

“Judging from what is happening now, there is no reason to believe that any large scale events (clashes, unrest) will take place. But then you should never say ‘never.’ The situation may change and we are keeping our finger on the pulse. We will react adequately to any circumstances,” Docherty said.


In spite of the heated debates among politicians, the representatives of the campaign headquarters said they would accept any outcome of the vote and have no doubt that the votes will be counted correctly.

“Whatever the outcome of the vote, the result needs to be respected. After a campaign that lasted more than two years, the time has come to make a choice and move Scotland forward along the path of development,” the spokesman for the Better Together campaign for unity said.

“Politicians should show wisdom in their public statements. The referendum is a feast of Scottish democracy and it will be important to focus on the discussion,” a representative of the Yes campaign stressed.

The polling stations will open at 7 a.m. local time (10 a.m. Moscow time) on Thursday and will close at 10 p.m. (1 a.m. on Friday Moscow time). All the 32 Scottish administrative regions will take part in the vote. As many as 4.29 million voters aged over 16, or 97% of the electorate, have registered to vote.

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