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Canadian Scots will closely watch Thursday's referendum

09/16/2014 10:46 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:53 EDT
Douglas Gibson, the publisher and honorary secretary of Toronto's St. Andrew's Society, said his group will stay neutral on the question of Scottish independence "because there are such strong opinions both ways among Canadians."

Gibson, who was born in Scotland and moved to Toronto in 1967, said Thursday's independence referendum will be closely watched by members of his group.

"[Scots are] trying to decide what society they live in," Gibson said Tuesday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Because Scots are a minority people. When you are born in Scotland, one of the first things you learn is that you are not English and that voice on the radio is English and you're a Scot."

On Thursday Scots will vote on whether or not they will end their 307-year union with the United Kingdom. When the referendum was first announced, a no vote seemed certain. However in recent weeks the yes vote has made significant gains and now the results of Thursday's vote appears too close to call.

Gibson said he believes the seeds of the recent interest in Scottish independence were sown during Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister (1979 to 1990), which he says triggered a "huge uplift in interest in Scottish independence."

"Her values were so hostile to the Scottish values, that basically the Conservative Party was wiped out in Scotland," he said.

Adding a Scottish parliament in 1997 failed to slow the pro-independence movement.

Issues in the campaign include whether or not Scotland will continue to use the pound as their currency, how North Sea oil and gas revenues would be shared and whether or not an independent Scotland could join the European Union.

Some feel Cameron could lose his job if the yes side prevails. This week he vowed to guarantee Scotland high levels of state funding and more control over health care in what's seen as a last-ditch effort to secure a no vote.

Gibson said Scots — along with five million other Canadians of Scottish heritage — understand the stakes are high.

"There's the excitement of re-creating the country against the undoubtedly risky business of going off on your own," he said.

"This is Scotland standing at two doors and we don't know which one they're going to choose."

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