Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scottish Referendum

With Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and Foreign Mister Fiona Hyslop
With First Minister Alex Salmond
Scotland is, currently, in the news. The September 18 referendum on the independence of Scotland from the UK has negated the move. Scotland will stay with the UK. It is a momentous development of far reaching implications for the UK and Europe at large. The referendum may be seen as a tribute to democracy. People exercised their vote in a peaceful manner, in spite of the political and emotional heat generated by the ‘Yes’ campaign spear headed by First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and his party Scottish National Party (SNP) and the ‘No’ campaign led by PM David Cameron and the major political parties of the UK. It is said that the issue has been decided by the ‘Heads’ over the ‘Hearts. But it seems the ‘Purse’ i.e. economics has played a major role in tilting the scale in favour of ‘No’ vote. Nearly the two hundred thousand strong immigrant community, mainly of Indian and Pakistani origin, in Scotland, it appears, decided to go for a safe bet to remain with the UK rather than sailing in the unchartered waters. First Minister Alex Salmond has resigned and has accepted the verdict of the people.  He called for unity and urged the unionist parties to deliver on more powers."I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland," the leader of the Scottish National Party said. He tweeted to say "Let's not dwell on the distance we've fallen short — let us dwell on the distance we have travelled".

I followed these developments with keen interest with regard to my own association with Scotland as the Consul General of India in Edinburgh from 2007-08. It was an interesting time. I reached Edinburgh at the time of general elections in 2007 under the arrangements of devolution of powers. The SNP led by Alex Salmond won and came to power. Consul Generals in Scotland are a little better placed as Scotland enjoyed a degree of independence from London. It has its own Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has a separate seat in the EU and Commonwealth structures and also separate national (Scottish) teams in sports. The Indian Diaspora, one hundred thousand strong, mostly settled in and around Glasgow, is doing well. No political party can afford to ignore them. In my diplomatic capacity, I enjoyed excellent relations with First Minister Alex Salmond and his colleagues in the Cabinet and Parliament particularly the Foreign Ministers Linda Fabiani and Fiona Hyslop and the Chairman of the Scottish Parliament at that time. The Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and his gracious wife were very friendly and considerate.

India has historical ties with Scotland. It is said that the English ruled the empire but the Scots ran it. In the early years of the colonial period, many Scotts worked in India on tea plantations and railway network. The founder of the Indian National Congress A.O. Hume was a Scot. The first Geographical Survey of India was done by a Scot Colin Campbell. India has much to do with Scotland, no matter whether it stays with the UK or  otherwise. It is the internal matter of the UK and the people have decided the matter in a democratic vote. I wish the UK and Scotland all the best in the years to come.



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