By the early light of Friday morning the result of the Scottish Referendum had become clear. By a decisive majority—55 percent to 45 percent—the citizens of Scotland rejected the prospect of independence from the United Kingdom. Why did they do so, and what will come next?
Article 1 of the Act of Union begins with the provision, “That the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May, 1707, and for ever after, be united into One Kingdom by the name of Great Britain; And that the Ensigns Armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall appoint…”
Perhaps the “ever after” sticks in many a Scottish throat today; yet, together, the two nations have been able to produce more and achieve greater success than ever they could apart.
And a majority (2 million NO votes to 1.6 million YES) of Scots have held on to this great heritage, choosing to stay together with the rest of the United Kingdom. Because of their vote, the United Kingdom was not ripped apart, and Scotland may just have saved itself from potential disaster outside the Union—or at least from a future that even YES supporters would concede could have been uncertain and precarious.
Within the United Kingdom, the broad majority breathed a collective sigh of relief, and comments from leaders around the world were pleased by the Scots’ decision. Even Queen Elizabeth acknowledged her approval. Among her words: “Now, as we move forward, we should remember that despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all.”
But why did the NOs succeed? And what comes next for Great Britain?
No one doubts that the talented Scots could succeed as a country on their own. Rather, the NOs won because a majority saw the pragmatic advantage of sharing both risks and opportunities within the larger union. Whatever the potential benefits of “going it alone,” these were seen as outweighed by the risk of a jump into the unknown.
Perhaps it could be said that proverbial Scottish common sense triumphed over Scottish idealism.
After all, Scotland has long prospered within the Union. Indeed, Scotland has done better than other Union nations because it receives, per capita, a higher level of Westminster support. North Sea oil has also greatly added to Scotland’s riches. Since the 1707 Act of Union, when the Scots and English chose to combine their abundant talents, they have together produced the greatest benign empire the world has known. It led to the most remarkable flowering of genius in politics, philosophy, economics, science, technology and innovation of almost every kind, for the betterment of all.
But does the NO majority mean “no change” for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom? By no means! The astonishing levels of energy and political engagement unleashed on both sides during the campaign have only served to confirm the Scots’ strong appetite for constitutional change. Yet, if change comes to Scotland, it must come, in the name of fairness, to other countries within the Union as well, as there is widespread feeling that the current Westminster political system is not working effectively in favor of all. Divisions and frustrations apparent within the Union need healing, and Westminster now has a unique opportunity to create a dramatically different kind of Union fit for the aspirations of all its parts. Constitutional reform will now be a major topic of discussion. And the General Election just around the corner in 2015 only highlights the urgency of making far-reaching fundamental changes.
Ultimately, we should never forget that it is God who builds up and tears down nations and alliances according to His sovereign will (Job 12:23; Exodus 19:5). Clearly it was God’s will for Great Britain to survive intact at this time. But it was a tantalizing, close-run event—a dramatic wake-up call for urgent action. Many serious challenges remain for those who hope to create more cohesion and unity among the regions of the United Kingdom. From Bible prophecy, we know that, before Jesus Christ returns, the United Kingdom will endure further decline from its former glories. To learn more, order our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.