Scots and other British citizens living in Japan expressed a range of emotions Friday as voters in Scotland rejected the offer of an independent state.
Some spoke of relief and others disappointment as expatriates — who had a stake in the outcome but were unable to vote — watched the outcome from afar.
But most agreed that continuity for the institutions of the United Kingdom would leave relations with Japan unchanged.
“The referendum result really won’t make much of a difference as far as Japan’s relations with Scotland are concerned,” said Bill Stevenson, an expatriate Scot who is based in Kobe, “especially businesses that deal in Scottish products like whisky, or Japanese firms involved in the oil business who have interests in Scotland.
“On the other hand, the referendum may have helped Japanese understand Scotland better,” said the Glasgow native. Before the referendum, some Japanese business leaders warned that a “yes” vote would damage business relations and possibly trigger a flight of Japanese investment from Scotland.
The Scottish Development International’s Japan office says about 70 Japanese firms have a presence in Scotland. They are involved in everything from renewable energy and life science technology to foodstuffs.Stevenson described himself as a supporter of independence. He said one of the issues that galvanized the pro-independence movement was anger over nuclear weapons. Scotland is where Britain’s four nuclear submarines patrol from and is where their missiles are stored, and there consequently is a strong anti-nuclear movement.
Nearly a dozen Scottish cities and towns, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, have declared themselves nuclear-free local authorities. They have regular exchanges with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and some conduct memorial ceremonies for atomic bomb victims each August.
Fellow Scot and expatriate Joan Anderson, 53, who lives in Tokyo, said she had mixed feelings about the no vote.
“I was a ‘no’ from the beginning, but I’m strangely disappointed at the result, as so many good people worked so passionately for a ‘yes,’ ” said the Edinburgh native, who works as an editor.
She added that the task now is to keep the support of those who voted for independence.
“The huge challenge now is to make it possible for those people to continue to be involved in a positive way in contributing to Scotland’s future. Otherwise, there is a big danger they will become permanently disillusioned with politics.”
Saitama resident Stewart Fulton, from Stirling in central Scotland, called the result “slightly disappointing,” as he had been hoping for a “yes” vote. But he said he was glad to see changes in people’s attitude.
“Traditionally, about a third of Scottish people wanted independence. So this time is quite different because very nearly half people were for independence,” said Fulton, a 38-year-old university language professor.
As to what is next, Anderson said she expects some changes. “I think the British government will have to give more power to the Scottish Parliament,” she said.
Stevenson agreed, but added he thinks that within 10 years, voters will return to the ballot box. “When people realize just how bad things are, we’ll have another referendum,” he predicted.
What the Scottish referendum might mean for greater efforts at local autonomy in Japan is unclear. Briton Ian Ruxton, a professor at the Kyushu Institute of Technology, said Scottish politics is a mystery to many Japanese.
“It’s unthinkable to Japanese that Kyushu, for example, would seek independence from the rest of Japan,” he said.
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