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2014年9月21日 (日)

スコットランド 独立否決でも難題は残った

The Yomiuri Shimbun
United Kingdom holds together, but challenging issues remain
スコットランド 独立否決でも難題は残った

Britain has been spared the worst-case scenario of the United Kingdom being ripped apart, which would have thrown the country into turmoil, but it is still confronted by such thorny issues as how to give greater autonomy to Scotland.

In Thursday’s referendum, 55 percent of residents voted against the independence of Scotland, in the north of the British Isles, which means the country will remain in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom’s national power would have been diminished if Scotland — which occupies 32 percent of Britain’s entire area and is home to 8 percent of the nation’s population — had seceded. Scotland’s independence would have caused a plunging drop in the value of the British pound, dealing a blow to the European economy, and resulted in a rupture of the nation’s security policy as it forced the home port for submarines armed with nuclear missiles to be relocated.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said about the referendum’s results. “They have kept our country of four nations together. Like millions of other people, I am delighted.” He added that “it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward.”

The referendum pitted the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) against the major ruling and opposition parties — the Conservative and Labour parties — both of which opposed Scotland’s split from the United Kingdom.

The SNP, which controls the Scottish government, has argued that independence would bring improved social welfare, which would be funded by tax revenues from the North Sea oil fields.

Financial foundations unclear

But the SNP’s forecast for securing financial sources was not well founded. It also failed to present an alternative option for its future currency after continued use of the sterling upon independence was rejected by the British government. Furthermore, its assertion that Scotland would be able to stay in the European Union even after independence was baseless.

British business circles had been intensifying their opposition to the breakaway, with several major companies announcing that they would move their head offices from Scotland if it left the United Kingdom.

The majority vote against independence can be attributed mainly to concerns over the grave consequences independence would have on the Scottish economy and its relations with foreign countries. It was a realistic decision.

It is nonetheless significant that the number of pro-independence residents has grown dramatically since Cameron gave the go-ahead for the referendum two years ago.

The Cameron administration has pledged to give considerably greater autonomy to Scotland, possibly in the fields of social welfare and the taxation system, in addition to areas in which Scotland already enjoys autonomy, such as education.

The administration now has a challenge in how it will respond to demands for greater autonomy from Wales and Northern Ireland, which have been stimulated by what happened in Scotland.

Europe has seen the rise of independence movements in various regions that have their own histories and cultures, including Spain’s Catalonia.

These separatist regions may have been unduly encouraged by the notion that even a small country can be sustainable as an independent nation under the umbrella of the European Union, which has grown to put less importance on current national borders.

The Scottish referendum has attracted global attention, an interest possibly growing out of shared concerns that demands for autonomy linked with nationalism could compromise the international order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2014)Speech


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