Lessons from Scotland’s vote
The world’s attention was on Scotland’s national referendum recently, where a decision was being made on whether it should be an independent state. While it was expected to be a close game, 55.3 percent voted “no” and 44.7 percent voted “yes.” Independence opponents won with a relatively big margin.
The British government and the EU are relieved that Scotland remains in the United Kingdom. An EU executive said that if Scotland’s independence was approved, it could have brought on a tremendous tsunami similar to the collapse of the former Soviet Union. But the winner of the referendum is Scotland and the loser is England. While Scotland’s dream of independence was not attained, it has earned the authority to collect taxes and plan budgets. It is also reassured that the 44.7 percent who voted for independence shows there is potential resistance. While England prevented the dissolution of the United Kingdom, its laid-back initial response, last-minute offers of special privileges and expansion of autonomy to the entire Great Britain emerged as serious controversies.
The Scottish independence memorandum has inspired separatism in other countries. Catalonia in Spain declared that it would hold a referendum on whether it should become a state, and if so, whether it should be independent on Nov. 8. The Spanish government claimed that the vote would only be an opinion poll, and that it would be meaningless unless taken from all 17 autonomous communities. Spain’s Basque Country, France’s Corsica and the French- and Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium are talking about separation.
A more important vote will be a national referendum to be held in the United Kingdom in 2017 on whether it will secede from the EU. Great Britain still uses the pound instead of the euro, and many citizens of the island nation do not want to be part of the EU.
In the era of globalization, it has become a trend to pursue political and economic unions and free trade agreements. On the other hand, voices for separation and independence are spreading, as we have seen in the case of Scotland. It is today’s reality that the centripetal and centrifugal forces are working at the same time. In Korea, desire for reunification is elevating. The idea that anything is possible once we attain reunification is spreading, and the extreme discrepancy between South and North Korea is not being highlighted.
Reunification is a long-cherished desire. But we also need preparation and to recover a sense of kinship with North Korea. “Be prepared” is the lesson the Scottish independence referendum has taught us.
*The author is a chair professor at Duksung Women’s University. JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 32
By RHIE WON-BOK