Cameron does not want to be the leader who presides over the demise of the 300-year-old political union between England and its northern neighbor. But, practically, there is little he can do to stop politicians in semiautonomous Scotland asking voters whether they want to break free. With Scotland, like much of Europe, facing recession and economic uncertainty, the answer is hard to predict….
It is likely to call for a referendum in October 2014, as Salmond’s nationalists had desired. Cameron and other pro-union politicians had pressed for the vote to be held earlier, because opinion polls show that only between a quarter and a third of Scots favor splitting the nation….
Scotland gained significant autonomy after voting in 1997 to set up a Scottish Parliament with substantial powers. But Salmond’s party, which has a majority in the Edinburgh legislature, wants to go further and make the nation of 5 million people an independent country within the European Union. Salmond has successfully marketed a kind of aspirational nationalism — a sort of Scottish Scandinavia — that accentuates building a cozy social safety net and welcomes Scots of all races and creeds….
There are many more thorny questions raised by the prospect of separation, including the future of Scotland’s nuclear submarine base and British Army regiments, and its European Union membership. As in many divorces, there is also likely to be a battle over assets and liabilities….
For now, the “Yes” campaign — a loose coalition that includes Greens and Salmond’s SNP — has the momentum. Its slick campaign effectively uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter to mobilize support. The pro-union “Better Together” campaign, which includes both Cameron’s Conservative Party and its arch-rival Labour, has had a lackluster start. Political commentator and former Labour spin doctor Simon Pia said the pro-union side needed to raise its game…. He said pro-union forces “need to offer a vision of positive and emotional alternative to independence and not just focus on the negatives of the impact of separation.”