Historic Vote:Scotland votes on breakup of the UK

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SCOTLAND-PIXMore than four million Scots will go to the ballot Thursday in a historic referendum to decide whether they want to remain as part of the United Kingdom as they have been for the past 307 years or whether they want Scotland to be an independent country.

With a huge turnout expected and opinion polls indicating that the vote will be a neck-and-neck affair with no clear winner just hours to the referendum, both sides were desperate on the last hours of the officially allowed campaign period to woo the undecided voters who literary hold the future of the former world superpower in their hands.

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Pro-independence supporters held a rally at the centre of the Scottish capital, Glasgow, urging voters to cast their ballots for a prosperous Scotland.

According to them, the prosperity of their nation was being held back by the United Kingdom. Nearby, pro-unity supporters held a separate rally, insisting there was no justification to break away.

An opinion poll released Wednesday afternoon by London based Opium Research showed a marginal lead by the pro union camp spearheaded by British Prime minister David Cameron at 52 per cent, with the pro-independence camp led by Scottish first minister Alex Salmon following closely at 48 per cent. Eight per cent of the voters were still undecided by Wednesday.

While Kenya’ former colonial master can no longer claim to be the superpower it was at the turn of the 20th Century when it ruled 25 per cent of the world’s population and controlled a quarter of the land mass, it is still one of the most influential countries in the world.

It is also among the richest and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

A Yes vote will definitely threaten its position on global affairs because it will lose 32 per cent of its total land mass and five million of its citizens, not mentioning the huge financial implications on its economy.

RARE SHOW OF UNITY

So desperate is Britain on having Scotland remain part of the union that is the only remainder of the once powerful British empire that — in a rare show of unity — party leaders from the country’s three main political parties signed a joint pledge on Tuesday on the front page of Scotland’s largest newspaper, The Daily Record, promising to transfer more powers to Scotland if voters reject independence.

“We agree that UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence and prosperity, and welfare of every citizen,” said the joint pledge by Mr Cameron, his Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Nick Klegg and Mr Ed Miliband.

The issue of spending by the national government on healthcare in Scotland, which has been among the contentious issues posed by pro-independence campaigners, was also addressed.

“We can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament,” said the leaders in the historic pledge.

On Monday, Mr Cameron held a series of rallies in Scotland with the major one being in Aberdeen, where he admitted that Scotland’s independence would “end the United Kingdom as we know it”.

“This is a decision that could break up our family of nations, and rip Scotland from the rest of the UK,” he said.

In response, Mr Salmon accused the pro-unity side of fear-mongering. He said Scotland had for a long time been short-changed by the union and the only way to stop this was by voting for independence.

“This is a prosperous nation that will do well on its own and its people want to live in a just society,” he said.

RICHER THAN THE UK

Economically, Scotland is richer per capita than the UK, a fact the independence campaigners have been championing throughout the campaign. About 90 per cent of the UK’s oil comes from Scotland. The Scottish government says it has up to 24 billion barrels of oil reserves in the North Sea, which could generate up to $2.4 trillion in revenue if it becomes independent.

Whether Scotland will vote Yes or No is still unclear because the race is in a dead heat. However, it is feared that Scotland’s push for independence is likely to ignite secessionist movements worldwide, including in countries like Spain.

Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr Mariano Rajoy, had said that an independent Scotland would have to apply from scratch for EU membership, a process that could take eight years.

-nation.co.ke

Pro-union (right) and pro-independence (left) campaigners jostle for space during a rally by Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 12, 2014, ahead of the referendum on Scotland's independence. PHOTO | ANDY BUCHANAN |

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