In many countries, secession is a matter of life and death, bitterly fought over, with war and and civil conflict costing thousands of lives and inflicting a toll of misery and dislocation.
The British have undertaken the contest over the separation of Scotland by argument and voting. The arguments have often been vitriolic; occasionally visiting politicians from the south have received a hostile reception. The vote has ended up being far closer than expected months ago, but Scotland’s independence will be decided one way or the other today as the result of a vigorous democratic process in which Scottish voters have turned out in numbers unseen for generations.
If the “no” camp triumphs (and it looks like it will), it will primarily be because British Labour has, perhaps belatedly, thrown itself fully into the fray against the Scottish Nationalist Party and not cared that it was aligned with the British Tories (the Conservatives barely exist as a separate entity in Scotland) in the process. Along the way, former prime minister Gordon Brown, once maligned as a political disaster, has become the unlikely hero of many unionists in the media who once vilified him.
It’s all a stark contrast to how such issues are handled across the world, even in parts of Europe that have been dislocated and terrorised by separatist campaigns — and even in the UK itself of earlier times. Deeply divisive issues of the utmost importance can be determined by a people through debate and democracy. It’s an outcome of the Scots, the British, and those countries that share that democratic tradition, including ourselves, can be proud.