Two weeks ago, I moved to Scotland in order to start my Postgraduate Degree at the University of St Andrews. As such, I may begin my degree in a ‘united’ kingdom, but graduate in an independent Scotland. St Andrews is often referred to as ‘the Bubble’, as it appears to be ‘cut off’ from the real world with the University accounting for half of the local population. Regardless of this isolated reputation, however, one gets the ‘feel’ of the upcoming elections when taking a closer look into St Andrews right now.
At a first glance, the buzz of the (mostly international) students arriving into town does indeed seem to overshadow discussions about the referendum. Yet, when taking a closer look, one thing is evident: the people here in St Andrews are proud of their Scottish Nation and do indeed look positively into the future, hoping to witness the independence of Scotland. There may not be any big posters or campaigns throughout the small coastal city, but – if you pay attention – you can see Yes-pins, stickers and posters wherever you look. It seems that a huge number of Scots are deeply involved in the independence debate and many of them look positively at the perspective of an independent Scotland. A glance at the bookshops around town underlines this fact. The local bookshops display rows and rows of books about the traditions and history of the Scottish Nation, as well as Scotch whisky and Golf, of course. Even the local branch of Waterstones seems to have its own view on the subject, exhibiting a huge range of works about the referendum under the display caption: A Nation Again?
The independence discussion has found its way to the University as well. After the first chaotic days, where the entire student body seemed to arrive all at once, the referendum slowly came into focus. One can pick up whiffs of conversations on the subject almost everywhere and, of course, the Scottish students are exceptionally concerned about the outcome. ‘Westminster’ has indeed a very negative connotation here, and most people I spoke to are in favour of Scottish independence.
The subject was even deliberated during Freshers Week in a political debate with the motion: “This House Would Vote Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum”, a serious event conspicuous among the other Freshers Week festivities: parties, picnics, beach barbecues and receptions. Scottish independence would indeed have its financial implications, not only on students, whose fees may rise, but also – and especially – on researchers and PhDs, whose research funds could be at risk. The University even has a student society that exclusively deals with the matter; the “St Andrews Students for Independence” have been hosting discussions and screenings in the build-up to the referendum.
All in all, even if this is a small town and university, we do not live in a vacuum. Yet, what strikes me most is that the sympathy is not evenly divided between people in favour of ‘Westminster’ and those in favour of ‘Scotland’. On the contrary, there seems to be a positive excitement about Scottish independence already in the air as we find ourselves standing on a precipice of history, waiting to see which future Thursday brings.
Photo credit: Charlotte Wirth
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