RICHMOND, Va. -- England and Scotland have been sharing the same island, and arguing about it, for about 1,500 years.
Many are the leaders and parties that have fought for independence for the Scots – most famously for most of us here William Wallace of “Braveheart” fame.
But it’s been largely a comfortably uncomfortable union. The last vote – 17 years ago – was for unity, but the push led to the first Scottish parliament in more than 300 years.
Four years ago, the Scottish National Party won a majority in that parliament and this chance for another vote. But Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom -- along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland -- following a historic referendum vote.
A majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation.
Here in Richmond, locals leaned towards independence.
“They are a land of strong natural resources and for years, I feel they’ve been giving more than they’ve been getting” from England, said Margaret Duckworth, a board member of the Scottish Society of Richmond. She hoisted a small glass of single-malt Scotch whiskey Thursday evening. “So my inclination is, raise a wee dram to Scottish independence,” she said before downing it.
Jospeh Schaub, a past president of the Scottish Society, said he was thinking the vote would be slam dunk for unity. But now, “it looks like it’s neck and neck, and there’s really no telling. I don’t know if people will go more conservative and stick with what some people would say the devil they know, or whether they will go with independence.”
He said personally, he likes the idea of an independent Scotland, but worries about the economic feasibility. Here in the states, folks are worried about how a change might affect tourism, the price of Scotch whiskey, the stability of England and the European Union. Scotland would have to develop its own currency and its rather-new parliament would actually have to do some serious work in a hurry.
But Scotland’s oil reserves, it’s tourism and agriculture (including that Scotch!) have many believing Scotland could be a wealthy, healthy small country that could settle on its own system of rule apart from the crown.
Paul Marsh, a London-born Richmonder, has been watching the referendum for succession carefully. He says the huge turnout for the vote shows it’s an issue that has struck a deep, divisive chord in a land known for its independent spirit.
But, “if they do vote for independence,” he quipped, “you couldn’t have the British Open (golf tournament) there and we’d just invade and take it back anyway.”
More seriously, he said, he believes a United Kingdom will be healthier for Scots in the long run.
Perhaps coincidentally, on the day of the referendum came the news that members of the storied St. Andrews Royal & Ancient golf club (occasionally the site of the British Open) voted overwhelmingly to allow women to become members.
Big doings in merry Scotland.