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Ireland, Scotland and the UK

Jeanne Boyarsky
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I learned today that most of Ireland is part of the Republic of Ireland and the remainder is part of the UK. Up until today, I thought Ireland was like Scotland - fully part of the UK.

Why is that? Do you envision it changing with the Scotland vote?


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Paul Clapham
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No, the Scottish independence vote is strictly about Scotland. I assume by this point you've done your homework and found out that Ireland used to be a colony of Britain until the 20th century after a brief guerrilla war after World War I. That's when Northern Ireland came into existence as a separate country from the Republic of Ireland. Now that the religious crazies have been sort of sidelined in Northern Ireland, a likely future is that it will have a closer and more official relationship with the Republic while still remaining part of the United Kingdom.

(In my opinion, that is.)
chris webster
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  14

One of the results of the Scottish vote, whichever way it goes, seems likely to be a further shift of some powers away from the London (UK) government towards the regional governments in Scotland (if they reject independence), Wales and Northern Ireland. London has been trying to tempt the Scots to stay by offering them additional devolved powers, and they can't really expect the rest of us not to demand similar powers. I think even some English regions are waking up to the fact that our current system is horribly unbalanced, so we might see more interest in English regional governments as well.

By the way, Jeanne, as somebody who grew up during the height of the IRA bombing campaign in the 1970s, when too many Americans were all too keen to support terrorism financially, I find it quite alarming that even a smart, well-educated and open-minded person like yourself still believed Ireland was ruled by the UK. I wonder how many of your fellow Americans are similarly confused even today?


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Ulf Dittmer
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  64
The situation in Northern Ireland is different, though. Both the British and Irish governments agree that it should eventually revert to Ireland. An independent state is not (nor was it ever) in the cards. The question is how to make that happen peacefully, despite prevailing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.


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Martin Vajsar
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  60

chris webster wrote:I wonder how many of your fellow Americans are similarly confused even today?

Many, at least if one has to judge by the amount of jokes about ignorant Americans that circulate in my country.

Seriously, though: how much does a smart, well-educated and open minded European know about the geography, history and politics of the North America?
Henry Wong
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  40

Martin Vajsar wrote:
chris webster wrote:I wonder how many of your fellow Americans are similarly confused even today?

Many, at least if one has to judge by the amount of jokes about ignorant Americans that circulate in my country.

Seriously, though: how much does a smart, well-educated and open minded European know about the geography, history and politics of the North America?


Also, there are differences due to context. For example, while there is terrorism in the US, we never experience the constant bombings of the IRA -- so to an American, IMO, many of us, still don't understand the concept of the "political" and the "terrorist" arm of party. We still don't distinguish between them. Political parties with terrorist arms, are terrorist organizations -- and it is inconceivable to negotiate with them.

IMO, this is why our government didn't advertise that it negotiated with the Taliban to get a US soldier back recently. And the president took some flak for it.

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K. Tsang
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    8

Don't know anything about Scottish vote and such. But my understanding of the UK is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Whereas Republic of Ireland is another country.

So the UK part has a "Northern" in front of Ireland.


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Bear Bibeault
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It may be generational thing -- I still vividly remember the IRA in the 70's. It was big news here in the States. Not so much since.

I lived in the Boston area back then, which has a large Irish population. Tensions between Irish-Americans and others was palpable due to differences in opinion on IRA actions.


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chris webster
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  14

Martin Vajsar wrote:
chris webster wrote:I wonder how many of your fellow Americans are similarly confused even today?

Many, at least if one has to judge by the amount of jokes about ignorant Americans that circulate in my country. Seriously, though: how much does a smart, well-educated and open minded European know about the geography, history and politics of the North America?

Fair comment, up to a point (although the BBC tends to be completely obsessed with the US presidential election campaign every four years). But I think Ireland is a special case. "Irish Americans" still seem to be a significant grouping in US society and politics. People are very proud of their Irish ancestry - US presidents are always keen to identify some Irish ancestor or other (with the possible exception of Barack O'Bama...) in order to encourage Irish Americans to identify with their political aims - and many Irish Americans still take an interest in events, and take vacations, in Ireland.

But back in the 70s and 80s, that "interest" also included funding groups linked to the IRA and other terrorist organisations (there were terrorists on the other side of the conflict too, but they didn't get much support in the USA or anywhere else for that matter). So when Americans were sending money to Ireland for political (or paramilitary) purposes, I think it's reasonable to expect that they should have known a bit of basic geography and history about the place (as should Brits, of course). Now those days are - thankfully - past, I think it's strange if Americans generally still don't know that the Irish Republic has been around for nearly a century and indeed that several US presidents have enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome from their proudly independent Irish hosts.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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chris webster wrote:So when Americans were sending money to Ireland for political (or paramilitary) purposes, I think it's reasonable to expect that they should have known a bit of basic geography and history about the place (as should Brits, of course). Now those days are - thankfully - past, I think it's strange if Americans generally still don't know that the Irish Republic has been around for nearly a century and indeed that several US presidents have enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome from their proudly independent Irish hosts.

I wasn't born yet in the 70s. I suspect our history classes were overgeneralized. I did learn that "Ireland is part of the UK", but that left something out. And we learned about the Irish Potato Famine, but that is earlier... More importantly, Northern Ireland isn't in the US news that much. Probably because there aren't a zillion problems.

But at least I know more now...
Tim Cooke
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  59

I'm an Englishman currently residing in Northern Ireland. I've been visiting the country for around 12 years and I've lived here for the last 7 years or so.

I'm not that knowledgeable on the particular ins and outs of the history of "The Troubles", partly because at 35 I simply wasn't around during it all. The only memory I have of any media coverage when I was young was when the news outlets weren't allowed to broadcast Gerry Adams' voice. I never understood why. I still don't.

For the most part folks here have rightly had enough of it and wish it would just stop. But there are plenty of communities throughout the province that still feel very strongly about it. The most worrying observation I've made is that when you read the news about some sectarian based riot you get reports of young boys being arrested as young as 11 years old. There's no way they are fighting for a cause they have an informed opinion on so it's apparent that the bigotry is being passed down generation to generation. It's a real concern and a real shame. However, the scale of the disruptions is not like it was and for the most part the nonsense is contained to certain areas.

As much as immense political progress has been made and I have no doubt that they're on the right track with that, it's hard to ignore the fact that some of the most influential MP's here used to (allegedly) belong to sectarian groups.

I suggested that the Rattlesnake Pit would be a suitable place to discuss such a topic because the conflict is heavily fueled by emotion and opinion rather than facts and reason.


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Maneesh Godbole
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    8

As an Indian, I cannot help but wonder, how many places have the British poisoned during colonial times. India-Pakistan, Ireland, Israel-Palestine.


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Campbell Ritchie
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Ulf Dittmer wrote: . . . Northern Ireland . . . Both the British and Irish governments agree that it should eventually revert to Ireland. . . .
I don't think that applies on this side of the Irish Sea. I think (not certain) that the constitution of the Irish Republic aims for a single Cpountry for the whole of Ireland, but that is not British policy as far as I know.

And yes, I do remember the “troubles”. There is a lot of what Maneesh calls poisoning behind it. Not so much the potato famine as the way the English landowners ill‑treated the peasants during it and helped them but little. I remember some chaps at the Indian YHA in those days saying they had been to Belfast and it was the only place where it was an advantage to have a dark face
Ulf Dittmer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:
. . . Northern Ireland . . . Both the British and Irish governments agree that it should eventually revert to Ireland. . . .
I don't think that applies on this side of the Irish Sea.

You're right - what I was referring to was the Downing Street Declaration that stated that the UK had no selfish strategic interest in Northern Ireland. It contains the important proviso that its future should be determined democratically by the people of Northern Ireland. That is indeed not at all the same as saying it should revert back to Ireland.

Not so much the potato famine as the way the English landowners ill‑treated the peasants during it and helped them but little.

And going back further, the consequences of Cromwell's Irish Campaign are still very much visible throughout the Irish lands in the shape of demolished castles and abbeys. 15 or so generations of Irish have grown up since seeing those ruins every day - that can't be helpful for fostering forgiveness.
Campbell Ritchie
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Forgiveness? ................ if only
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Last week's Economist had a few articles on Scotland. I noticed Northern Ireland on the map. I wonder if I just didn't notice it all this time.
Ulf Dittmer
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  64
Just noticed a write-up from last year about Northern Ireland that provides a brief introduction: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/11/economist-explains-4
Pat Farrell
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Maneesh Godbole wrote:As an Indian, I cannot help but wonder, how many places have the British poisoned during colonial times. India-Pakistan, Ireland, Israel-Palestine.


Yeah, they sure did a bang up job of it didn't they. Its not just Israel-Palestine, but Iraq and Syria, Egypt to Morroco, the Kurds and the Turkmen.
Pat Farrell
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My understanding, mostly from reading The Economist, is that this Independence for the Scots is because they are tired of paying taxes and getting no representation. Plus the huge profits from the North Sea oil goes to London. So Scotland is treated like many colonies were in historical times.

But, and this is a big but, the pro-independence folks are claiming that continuing North Sea oil funds will pay for everything one could wish. It will be painful to leave Brittan. Wiser heads see that the number of barrels of oil delivered is declining, as it typical of older oil fields. There may be lots more oil off shore, but it will take deeper wells, more technology and will cost more. Much of the oil will not be economical unless oil prices go up.

So a cynic can say that the success of the Scotland Independence program depends on ever escalating wars in the middle-east. Which seems to be happening.
Ulf Dittmer
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Pat Farrell wrote:My understanding, mostly from reading The Economist, is that this Independence for the Scots is because they are tired of paying taxes and getting no representation.

That doesn't sound quite right. Scotland is proportionally represented in Westminster. In fact, they can vote on some issues concerning exclusively England where English MPs can't vote on the same issues with respect to Scotland because those have been devolved to the Parliament in Edinburgh (the so called West Lothian question).

Plus the huge profits from the North Sea oil goes to London.

That may be, but Great Britain spends more on Scotland per head of population than on England or Wales. That difference would in the future have to come from Scottish taxes and natural resources. So it's not like the oil revenues go straight to England with nothing in return.
Pat Farrell
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Ulf Dittmer wrote:Scotland is proportionally represented in Westminster. In fact, they can vote on some issues concerning exclusively England where English MPs can't vote on the same issues with respect to Scotland because those have been devolved to the Parliament in Edinburgh (the so called West Lothian question).


I'm sure that is technically correct, as they have been "devolving" power for years now. But the karma is that its not devolved enough, so they don't have enough power to do what they want, say pave the streets with gold.


Ulf Dittmer wrote:That may be, but Great Britain spends more on Scotland per head of population than on England or Wales. That difference would in the future have to come from Scottish taxes and natural resources. So it's not like the oil revenues go straight to England with nothing in return.


The essential argument is that "too much" goes to England with too little in return. Which is always the complaint of colonies, whether or not its true in fact.
Matthew Brown
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Pat Farrell wrote:The essential argument is that "too much" goes to England with too little in return. Which is always the complaint of colonies, whether or not its true in fact.


It isn't a colony, it's part of the United Kingdom. That's like saying California is a colony of the US. London may dominate Scotland economically, but that is equally true of all of England outside the South East (see "The North/South divide). And as Ulf says, in terms of representation the Scots get as much as the UK, and more than the English (there is no devolution to English regions).

I'm not saying I'd blame them for wanting to be independent, but you aren't giving an accurate description of the situation now or at any time in my lifetime.
James Boswell
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Hey guys

Just thought I would add my voice to this discussion.

I was born in Northern Ireland in the late 70s and lived in Belfast until 2000.

The Republic of Ireland gained independence from the British government in 1921 when the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. This created, what was known at the time, as the Irish Free State which Northern Ireland was given the option to opt out of, an option it exercised.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) attempted to drive the British army out of Northern Ireland and free it from its union with Britain. The term "the troubles" is used to describe this war which was in its height in the 70s and 80s. The situation these days is a lot more settled, following the Good Friday agreement (signed in 1998) although a faction of the IRA still attempts to "police" its own areas in the form of punishment beatings. These are still frequent but simply given less publicity by the media.

For reference, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but not Great Britain (England, Scotland & Wales).

@Tim C The ban on broadcasting Gerry Adams voice was imposed by the then British PM Margaret Thatcher who claimed silencing his voice starved the terrorists of publicity they graved. The ban was lifted in 1994.
Pat Farrell
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Matthew Brown wrote:It isn't a colony, it's part of the United Kingdom. That's like saying California is a colony of the US. London may dominate Scotland economically, but that is equally true of all of England outside the South East (see "The North/South divide).

I'm not saying I'd blame them for wanting to be independent, but you aren't giving an accurate description of the situation now or at any time in my lifetime.


Some in both Texas and California argue that are essentially colonies to the US, even if they are technically part of it. Both states are big and rich and claim that they send more money to Washington than they receive back in services and value. There is a serious effort to have California split into seven states, to get seven times as much representation in the Senate so they can vote to get what they feel. The current governor of Texas, Rich Perry, has openly talked about succeeding from the US and going independent. On a smaller scale, the folks in "northern Virginia" (the area around Washington DC) talk of how the rest of Virginia treats them as a colony. NoVa's taxes make up a huge percentage of the state's income, but all the political power is down in the southern part of the state.

From my readings on the topic, I think Scotland is crazy to think that they will be better off independent, but there are a lot of Scotsmen arguing for Independence. I expect the election will go for unity, just as those in Quebec to become independent of Canada.
chris webster
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Well, as a Welshman who lived in Scotland for many years, I might as well throw in my £0.02 ...

It's true that Scotland is slightly over-represented in the UK parliament compared to its population, but that makes no difference, because it is England that decides the UK government by sheer weight of numbers - 48 million English to less than 6 million Scots. Scotland and Wales usually vote for the liberal/left, while England seems to have a consistently conservative bias overall. If England swings towards the left, then it's true that Scottish and Welsh votes may reinforce that trend, but if England swings just a little to the right, then we all get a conservative government, which is what happened from 1979 to 1997. Most UK governments of the last 40 years have had a parliamentary majority with less than 45% of the vote, and the "first past the post" system means that in a 3-way split, a party could in theory win every seat in parliament with just 34% of the vote. So you don't need to win a majority of the votes in the UK to get a majority in parliament, so long as you can win in England.

In the 1980s and 1990s, rightwing English governments pursued policies that were extremely unpopular in Scotland and Wales (and in many English regions), but our views made no difference because the UK government was elected largely by people in southern England and nobody in power gave a toss what we thought. I was living in Scotland at the time, and this sense of being governed by a "foreign" power massively increased the demand for some form of devolution in Scotland and Wales.

When the Labour government came to power in 1997, Tony Blair was not keen on devolution but his party was already committed to it and needed to preserve its electoral base, so Scotland got a parliament and Wales got a rather less powerful "assembly". The English regions did not ask for devolution so they didn't get it, although that doesn't stop them whining endlessly if they see Scotland or Wales implementing policies that they might like but are not prepared to actually vote for in England.

But "New Labour" was painfully aware that it ruled mainly with the grudging consent of a small minority of English swing voters and the approval of the largely rightwing English press, so in many areas its policies were far more conservative than its traditional supporters had hoped for after 18 years of Tory rule. These continuing tensions between the political cultures of Scotland/Wales and conservative England helped to fuel ongoing demands for more powers for the regional governments, and the success of the Scottish government in particular has proven the value of people having greater control over their own affairs.

When England elected yet another conservative-dominated UK government in 2010, pursing rightwing policies that conflict with the generally more social-democratic traditions in Scotland (and Wales), this reinforced the conviction among many that the only way Scotland could build the kind of society that most Scottish people seem to want and to vote for would be through independence. Meanwhile, the UK government is busy trying to appease the anti-European right (mainly in England where conservatives are under threat from UKIP), further alienating many of us in other parts of the UK who tend to be less inclined towards knee-jerk anti-Europeanism.

Personally, I would like to see full devolution in the UK along the lines of Germany, where there are strong regional parliaments with a broadly representative federal government. But there is no hope of achieving that in the UK because England doesn't want it. I think the English still suffer from the imperial delusion that "England = Britain" so they still don't really understand why they might need English regional parliaments when the one in Westminster is effectively an English parliament anyway. That's why the "West Lothian" question is really an English problem: the reason this apparent conflict arises is precisely because of the failure of English voters to demand the same level of regional autonomy that Scotland and Wales have fought for. If they had English regional parliaments to decide English issues, this conflict would not arise. Indeed, my own suspicion is that if we had full devolution in England as well, so England could pursue rightwing policies if it wished without affecting the rest of us, then there probably would be far less demand for Scottish independence. Fundamentally, it is the actions of English-dominated UK governments over the last 40 years that have created this problem.

I think the UK benefits as a whole from Scotland being part of it, and Scotland benefits from the UK as well, but I can understand why many in Scotland might vote for independence. I see no reason why Scotland should be any less capable of surviving on its own than the Scandinavian countries, for example, although the transition will probably be quite challenging. But I hope they don't vote for independence, as it will leave the rest of us even more marginalised by what seems to be an increasingly conservative English majority - I can see myself seeking asylum in Scotland if the alternative is spending the rest of my life being ruled by Little Englanders!
Campbell Ritchie
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Us in Northern England would like a regional parliament. But we were offered a regional talking shop and jobs for the boys of all three parties (though round here it would be predominantly Labour) so we put the Xs in the same squares and told them to get stuffed.
chris webster
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:Us in Northern England would like a regional parliament. But we were offered a regional talking shop and jobs for the boys of all three parties (though round here it would be predominantly Labour) so we put the Xs in the same squares and told them to get stuffed.

Well, many of us were unimpressed by the original incarnation of the Welsh Assembly, which I think Mr Blair dismissed as a glorified parish council. But after about 700 years of fighting for home rule in Wales, you take what you can get and build on that. Since then, the assembly has acquired more powers, and the 2011 referendum on additional powers for the assembly showed 63% of the votes cast were in favour. Wales isn't in a position to go for independence, unlike Scotland, so devolution by evolution is probably the best we can hope for!

If you want a regional parliament, I guess you'll need to work for it like we did - Westminster's never going to give power away voluntarily!
Pat Farrell
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chris webster wrote:Westminster's never going to give power away voluntarily!


Has any government or bureaucracy every given away power voluntarily in the history of the planet?
Maneesh Godbole
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    8

All this discussion got me thinking. If Scotland secedes, will the United Kingdom be renamed to Divided Kingdom?
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  10

Maneesh Godbole wrote:If Scotland secedes, will the United Kingdom be renamed to Divided Kingdom?

Maneesh for the win!


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Tim Cooke
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  59

Maneesh Godbole wrote:will the United Kingdom be renamed to Divided Kingdom?

Perhaps not officially, but I expect I'll hear it as a nickname at some point. Some would say we already have a Divided Ireland so the precedent has been set.
chris webster
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  14

Campbell Ritchie wrote:Us in Northern England would like a regional parliament...

Good news: sounds like you are not alone!
Bad news: I don't really think Nick's going to be able to do much about it after the next election...
Jeanne Boyarsky
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The voter turnout numbers are impressive. Good to see that such an important issue gets out the vote.
Pat Farrell
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Yes, 85% or better turn out. Too early to have any totals yet. I've checked the BBC and other UK news sites.

I've followed it a bit, and still don't quite understand why the YES side is popular.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Pat Farrell wrote:Too early to have any totals yet. I've checked the BBC and other UK news sites.

Right. Finally tallies aren't in until 1am Eastern (US) time. There is a nice graphic of reporting times. If it isn't very close, I presume they will have enough data before we go to sleep in the US.
Pat Farrell
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From the BBC at 11:20 PM Eastern US time
"As it stands, the "No" total is 241,559 compared to 232,516 for "Yes"."
Jeanne Boyarsky
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23/32 in and on track for 54% No predication. Looks like I find out the results in the morning.

I liked the referendum for non-Brits video.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I was surprised to see the paper ballots and hand counting. In the US, it take a long time to officially call an election due to time zones. (got to let Hawaii vote before announcing the winners.) I wasn't expecting that long to announce in a single country. And yes, I know Scotland isn't a country.
Jeanne Boyarsky
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The Guardian just posted their splash/lead. Good last thing to read before sleep because covers a summary and implications.

front page
Karthik Shiraly
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    6
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, what impresses me most is the democratic attitude and the process.

All people were given an opportunity to participate and have their say peacefully, whereas the usual template in most such cases around the world is either some kind of violent secessionist movement, or one dominated by selfish political representatives who seem more keen on grabbing power than any genuine concern for their people.

Here in India, all such movements are/have been violent, and the word "referendum" is never even uttered by either side. It's all dominated by politicians with selfish agendas who just utter cliches like "for the people, of the people and by the people" but act like "for me and my family, of me and my family, by me and my family"!


 
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subject: Ireland, Scotland and the UK