Dubai’s Scots divided over independence

The flag of the United Kingdom (the union jack) and the flag of Scotland.

The flag of the United Kingdom (the union jack) and the flag of Scotland.

As the Scottish referendum approaches, members of Dubai’s Scottish community are divided over the prospect of independence.

They are also critical of the fact that individuals not resident in Scotland at the time of the referendum will not be able to vote.

“It’s fairly ridiculous that we don’t have a vote, despite having been born there,” said Laura Westmacott, a Scottish PR practitioner based in Dubai, adding that she is firmly in the “no” camp.

While public opinion polls conducted since the beginning of the month suggest that the race is too close to call, Westmacott said she did not believe many residents of Scotland had a strong enough conviction to vote for independence.

“If you’re surrounded by friends, if you’re a proud Scot, you’re probably going to say to a pollster: ‘Yes, I’m voting [in favor of independence].’ But when it actually comes to the polling booths, will people have the courage of their convictions to actually go through with that ‘yes,’ or will they opt for the more sensible ‘no’?”

However, Dubai-based Scot Gavin McKessok said in the long term, “a government solely focused on Scottish affairs can produce an economy that works better for Scotland. Scotland has lots of social issues that are not being addressed by the UK government.”

Call for unity

In a post on the Dubai Caledonian Society’s website, the group’s chieftain John Harley called for unity among the emirate’s Scottish community over the referendum, which has made headlines worldwide.

“I’m sure many of you are dismayed at some of the vitriol and divisionalist rhetoric that has developed. We as Scottish expats are technically on the sidelines but also in the future may have some practical decisions to make effecting our lives and business depending on the result. Food for thought, and I sincerely hope that after effects can unite and not divide.”

In a further post by the Caledonian Society on its Facebook page, the group said it is “completely impartial regarding the referendum.”

In an interview with commerce magazine Arabian Business, where he was referred to as “Dubai’s top Scot,” Harley advocated staying in Britain.

“I am on the British side, I think it is better for us to stay together… there are too many black holes, particularly in a business sense, there is no form of security or planning.”

In the ‘no’ camp

Elsewhere in Dubai, the Scottish bid for independence may have corporate supporters. Earlier this month, a currency exchange at the city’s main airport appeared to offer the “Scottish pound” as a tradable currency, at the same rate as the British pound.

Dubai-based Beth McIntyre said that while she is “incredibly proud” to be Scottish, she is “most definitely” in the “no” camp.

“Just because I’m not for independence for Scotland, that doesn’t make me any less patriotic or proud of the achievements that Scotland has,” she said.

“When you leave the UK, you realize what a small nation we are, so surely, as the slogan goes, we’re better together.”

The “Better Together” campaign has been emphasizing economic uncertainties in an independent Scotland, while those in favor of independence predict a rosy future for an oil-rich country.

If Scotland on Thursday votes for independence, it would split from the UK in 18 months.

 
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