GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Scotland’s long debate over whether the country should become independent has proved a bonanza for printers of bumper stickers, posters, balloons and even umbrellas.
Nationwide the words “Yes” and “No” can be found emblazoned on everything from street lights to shopping bags. Posters proclaiming “Proud to be Scots. Delighted to be United” and “Yes to a better, fairer Scotland” adorn the windows of homes sharing the same street.
On Monday, it’s showdown time. Scotland’s pro-independence first minister, Alex Salmond, and Alistair Darling, leader of the “No” campaign, will square off in their last televised debate before the Sept. 18 referendum. Both sides claimed victory when the two clashed Aug. 4, and interest from outside Scotland was so high it caused the Internet platform streaming the event to crash. This time the 90-minute debate will be shown on the BBC across Britain, and on C-SPAN in the United States.
At stake is the support of thousands of voters who, despite a campaign lasting two years, have yet to make up their minds. Up and down the country activists have held thousands of town hall meetings, coffee mornings in private homes, and passionate discussions in pubs, clubs, town squares and on public transport.
People who have never been involved in politics before have come together and created a truly grass-roots national debate about a vote that could affect everything from Scotland’s economy, passports, currency and military to its sense of national pride and role in the European Union and other international organizations.