HE `nays` have it. On Friday, it emerged that Scotland`s just over 300-year-old political union with England will survive, with more than 55pc of Scottish voters casting their ballots against independence. It was a spirited campaign. The `yes` camp, led by the ruling Scottish National Party, promised voters a more just welfare state free from Westminster`s influence, while the British establishment pulled out all the stops to convince Scots to vote `no` saying that Scotland and the UK were `better together`. We must appreciate the democratic manner in which the matter was decided.
The issue was resolved through the vote; unfortunately, in countless other instances around the world we have seen attempts at separation either succeed or be put down by force after much bloodshed and acrimony. Pakistan`s own loss of its erstwhile eastern wing remains a bitter, painful memory. However, while the Scots will stay with the UK, other independence-seeking regions the world over have been emboldened by the exercise. For example, Spain`s autonomous Catalonia region may opt for a similar referendum, but unlike the UK, the central government in Madrid has vowed to oppose such a move.
Scotland`s case is an interesting one. In most instances separatist feelings are fuelled when a region suffers from poverty and discrimination and the denial of rights, or receives step-motherly treatment from the centre. Though Edinburgh`s relationship with London was not quite perfect, Scotland did not suf fer from the usual causes that encourage separatism. There are lessons in the referendum for the rest of the world, including Pakistan. Firstly, even the most divisive of questions can be dealt with in a non-violent fashion provided democratic methods are used. Secondly, even prosperous and relatively peaceful regions will desire separation if they feel their voices are not being heard. To prevent separatist feelings from growing, states must ensure maximum devolution of power right down to the local level, as well as the protection of cultural, political, economic and, most important, the human rights of every citizen. Courtesy DAWN.