Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scots Here, as There, Are Split on Question of Independence from the UK

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scots Here, as There, Are Split on Question of Independence from the UK

Article excerpt

The world is watching today as Scottish voters decide whether to break away from the United Kingdom and end a union that's older than America. Polls show an electorate evenly divided on the question.

In that sense in their divisions St. Louisans of Scottish descent are representative of the rocky, windy place they're from.

"I am for union. I would stay with the United Kingdom," says Jeffrey Holtz, a St. Louis investment banker and president of the Scottish St. Andrew Society of Greater St. Louis. "It's a romantic thought to be independent Robert the Bruce and Braveheart and all that but the U.K. is a major force. Size matters."

Michael McIntyre, also a St. Louis native of Scottish descent and a member of the St. Andrew Society, believes independence matters more.

"I think it would be an enormous boon for Scotland. I guess it's the American in me coming out: I do believe that people have the right to govern themselves."

Still others, such as Scottish immigrant Alastair Nisbet, are more relaxed about the issue. He's hosting a ballot-watch party tonight at his Central West End restaurant The Scottish Arms, with plans for music and whiskey to flow freely.

"Regardless of what happens, Scotland's going to be okay," he said. "We're going to have a good old party."

In Scotland, citizens are engaged in the debate in a way scarcely imaginable here. More than 4 million people, 97 percent of the electorate, are registered to vote.

To Americans, used to often-complicated ballot questions, the one facing those voters is almost comically simple. It reads, in its entirety: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" If voters say "yes," it will dissolve a union between Scotland and Britain that began in 1707. The Scots also would leave behind Wales and Northern Ireland.

The referendum arose from a complicated stew of Scottish nationalism, concern about the economy and especially among younger Scots anti-nuclear sentiment. All of Britain's nuclear weapons are housed at the Royal Navy base on Scotland's west coast.

Among unanswered questions is what will happen to those weapons, which are part of NATO's defense grid. Also: What currency the newly independent country would use.

"I'm a finance guy. ... They're going to have real difficulties dealing with their future currencies," said Holtz, the St. Louis investment banker. "You have an aging population, you have greater costs for health care and housing. You're going to have all those expenses, and a question mark in terms of your currency."

British leaders initially shrugged off the threat of separation as unlikely. But this week, with polls showing Scots almost evenly split, Prime Minister David Cameron was all but begging them not to leave. He warned it would be "a painful divorce," in a speech in which he was "close to tears," according to the Telegraph of London. …

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