Scottish separatists face tough independence battle

January 28, 2012

By Mohammed Abbas, Reuters

Holding court in Edinburgh castle surrounded by sabers and armor from centuries-old battles with the English, Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond sets out his plans to fight for freedom by the ballot box rather than the sword.

Peppering his arguments with references to Scotland’s 18th century national poet Robert Burns, on whose birthday this week he launched his referendum bid, Salmond portrayed the end of Scotland’s 300-year union with a dominant England as inevitable, and the idea of a United Kingdom as anachronistic.

Having stolen a march on a complacent British political establishment last year by winning an overall majority in Scotland’s devolved parliament, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Salmond wants a referendum in 2014 that would allow a historic breakaway for the nation of 5.2 million.

The British government opposes the move and wants to force a swift vote before the canny Salmond can build momentum for change.

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