One simple question deserves one simple answer. Should Scotland be an independent country? With a miniature sharpened pencil -- the kind you're given at a miniature golf course -- I could put a big "X" to indicate "Yes" or "No."
I was at the polling station at 8:30 a.m., an hour and a half after you could begin voting at 7 a.m. My husband and I took our two children, age 4 and 9, with us to witness this momentous event before taking them to private school. Two activists on both sides of the campaign carried leaflets and wore "Yes" and "No" badges stood quietly on either side of the entrance. Police presence is at the station. Deciding the fate of independence for a new country. Holding triple citizenship for Britain, America and Taiwan, I got to vote on this bizarre, momentous occasion.
Born in Taiwan, the country has been maintaining its independence from China though there is talk that Taiwan may one day vote to join up with China by way of choosing the political leader and their closeness with China. Growing up in America, the U.S. fought for independence from Britain with the American Revolution in the late 1700s. Currently living in Scotland and having acquired my British citizenship in the last year, I hadn't really considered myself Scottish or British. Just more convenient to have the same passports as the rest of my family so I can be in the same queue when we traverse country's borders. My husband is English though he gets to vote on Scottish independence.
One mom I know went to the store a few days ago and stocked up in case there was mayhem. She did come from a country that experienced civil war in South Asia. Another mom who brought her two young girls to vote in the European Parliament elections opted not to bring her kids to this election in case the atmosphere got ugly.
Political leaders campaigning in walkabouts being shouted down in public places. Eggs had been thrown by "Yes" supporters at other "No" activists.
In the morning I woke up with a feeling of dread. Outside of my little insular bubble of other parents at the same private school we went to, almost everyone I spoke to were planning on voting "Yes." The polling stations are in public schools so all those schools were shut today. Oh and they're shut tomorrow for "in-service day." A colleague of my husband, a "Yes" supporter, asked for a vacation for the day after the Referendum vote.
My cynical knee-jerk reaction to these extended days of no school and no work is that it would be a reason to get trashed. It doesn't take much of a reason for the British to down a pint. I could imagine voters going to the pub with their mates and getting drunk. Going to the polling stations drunk. Going back to the pub to get more drunk while watching the Referendum coverage rather than their usual sports games.
What's strikingly different about this voting coverage is that all the news organizations have agreed to minimize the campaign coverage on the day of the vote. In the U.S., I would be glued to the TV to see what was going on in different regions of the U.S. No exit polls allowed in this particular British election. We won't know the results until the middle of the night as counts finalize.
Postal votes are amazingly popular even for people that will be here on election day. The idea was to save voters from going to the polling stations in case they couldn't get to the voting stations on time because of work or personal reasons. They're different from absentee ballots from the U.S., which became crucially important for the Bush versus Gore election in 2000. Postal votes are due by the time polling stations close at 10 p.m. However, fog in the Outer Hebrides has closed the airport on some remote Scottish islands so their votes are being brought to the mainland by fishing boat.
Glasgow, where I voted, is the biggest city in Scotland. The government is expecting a 97 percent turnout, which is absolutely democratic and fantastic. True, the Scottish government changed the laws to include anyone age 16 and over. Scottish kids who can't legally buy alcohol in a store or drive a car have the power to decide the birth of a nation.
Today, it was surprisingly calm, civil and quiet. Finally a day without shouting, heckling, badgering, shoving and egg-throwing. I've been out in public parks, grocery stores and out to a chippie dinner on a popular thoroughfare. Just a quiet Thursday, like any other week.
Tonight, we go to sleep. Tomorrow, do we wake up in a different country?