On September 18, 2014 a historic event will take place in Scotland. On that day, nearly four million Scots will take part in a referendum to decide the future of the country. The simple, yet significant, question asked will be: should Scotland be an independent country? If the Scots say yes, then the Acts of Union of 1706 and 1707 which joined the kingdoms of Scotland and England (the Crowns of England and Scotland had already been joined since the accession of James the VI of Scotland and first of England in 1603) will be undone. Either way, history will be made on September 18.
I have three reasons for writing this article. First, it seems that we in Pakistan are so embroiled in our own affairs that we have stopped caring about what is happening in the world around us. The Scottish referendum, which has dominated world headlines lately, has only received peripheral mention in Pakistan. In the globalised world, it is not good for a country to be so oblivious of the world around us.
Secondly, I want to use this platform to urge Scots of Pakistani descent to vote ‘No’. Pakistan’s ties to Scotland are very strong. The current Governor of Punjab, Chaudhary Mohammad Sarwar, lived in Scotland most of his life, and represented the Glasgow Gowan constituency for decades in Westminster. Pakistani Scots, in Glasgow and elsewhere, have contributed significantly to the development of Scotland for decades and have a stake in the future of Scotland. The Union of Scotland and England and Wales has been one of the most successful unions in the world. In fact, the ‘Great’ in Great Britain began only after the union took place and it was then that Britain became the world power which ‘ruled the seas’ for centuries. Working together the nations were able to not only transform their own countries for the better, but also became the harbingers of modernity in most of the world. Of course, the empire had its bad points, but the positives of the British Empire were enhanced by the involvement of the Scots, who especially endeared themselves to the northwest of India — presently the Khyber- Pakhtunkhawa province — and called it home. Who in the Frontier Region can forget the inimitable Sir George Cunningham — the Scot Pakhtun — who was so loved by the fierce tribesmen that the Quaid-e-Azam requested him to come out of retirement to become the first governor of the NWFP in independent Pakistan.
Thirdly, the Scottish referendum will have implications for the rest of the world. A number of countries in the world — Pakistan included — have secessionist movements, and the peaceful referendum on the future of Scotland will have an effect on those movements. If a union can be brought to an end after centuries of successful partnership, then why can other regions vying for independence not have the same option? The question here is really of self-determination, and if it can be peacefully applied in Scotland then why not in Catalonia and the Basque region of Spain, or Corsica in France, or, Balochistan in Pakistan? As the ‘Yes’ campaign has argued, independence will not mean a complete break from England, and at least Scotland will hope for a currency union, participation in the European Union and Nato, among other things. In a globalised world, the creation of a new small nation which then wants to reintegrate itself into a larger economic and military union (the EU and Nato respectively) does seem counter-intuitive (since it only sounds like notional independence which will actually harm the new country in the long run), but its advocacy by a significant number of people does make it something for us all to consider. The independence of Scotland will certainly have implications for the world and might destabilise several countries, especially since most secessionist movements do not take a peaceful route.
The Scots will exercise their right of self-determination on September 18, let us hope they make the right choice and show the world that unions can also work as better, if not much better, than small independent countries. Vote ‘No’ Scotland!
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2014.