Yes to self determination! I am not a UK citizen. I actually have no firm opinion either way about what should happen tomorrow. I want what Scotland wants. With that out of the way…
The Scottish vote for independence is potentially literal revolution by ballot. This is a grand historical moment, and apart from the St. Andrews Crosses or the Union Jacks that adorn a scattering of window seals, you could walk down the street and not realize the enormity of what could be. This is not to say that the Scots of St Andrews are not passionate about the vote or that there is an absence of tension between the Royalists and the Nationalists, but especially in our sleepy town where the academy overshadows the public square, such contentious conversations seem to be impossibly civil.
For the last week or so I have been regularly struck but the surreal reality of Scottish succession by vote. Just a brief look at the violent history of British-Scottish relations makes tomorrow seem like a Jacobite pipe dream. In many ways this “civil” revolution is the perfection of 18th and 19th century nationalism, nation-states for all without the bloodshed of civil war. 150 years ago if you had told a Scot they would one day have a chance to vote for their independence they would I have laughed in your face. For a second, you want to give society a collective pat on the back for making it this far: the largest empire in the modern era relinquishing territory on the will of the people. Democracy reigns! And then you turn the page, or more likely scroll down your chosen news media outlet and the horrifically un-civil images of the beheading of British humanitarian worker David Haines destroy any chance you had at a positive outlook on world affairs.
The history of people, power, and politics is a spectrum of civility, not a straight line of moral progress. Some days in the all the chaos and strife, humans decide to act counter to all that we would expect for better or for worse. I am here studying in part because I am deeply interested in why, because being an idealist I hope to encourage in some small way more of the former than the later. So regardless of what happens tomorrow, and really from our very small sample it could go either way, I feel lucky to be witness to an absurd act of civility and hope that one day the people of Iraq and Syria may able to do the same.