Scottish gather in Alkmaar though voting not allowed
Over four million Scotsmen will head to the polls today, holding the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands. After waiting 300 years for the chance to decide its own independence, voters will cast either a "No" vote to remain united with the British, or vote "Yes" to gain independence, casting aside the shackles binding them to their former oppressors. Across the world, all eyes are turned to the highlands as Scotland takes what might be a gigantic leap into the future. Here in the Netherlands, Scottish expats have kept eagerly abreast of news from across the North Sea, hoping that they can gain independence just as the Netherlands did from Spain over 400 years ago. However due to tough voting eligibility requirements, not all Scots will get to have their say. The eligibility requirements, which were set out by the Scottish and U.K governments in October 2012, set that eligible voters in the referendum must be resident in Scotland, and be either British, Irish, or EU citizens. This will exclude the thousands of Scotsmen who have lived outside Scotland for more than four months.
For many Scots living abroad, they find their ineligibility to vote perplexing, particularly because a "Yes" vote will automatically cause them to become Scottish citizens. Meanwhile, citizens of other European Union countries who are residents of Scotland are free to vote in the referendum. Carra Thompson, an expatriate Scottish national living in Amsterdam, expressed her frustration at being stripped of her voting rights despite the fact that she has lived in the Netherlands for a short period of time. “I’ve been living in Amsterdam for less than a year but I’m not allowed to vote,” she complained.Carra, whose entire family still resides in Glasgow, decided to make the move over to Amsterdam for a different pace of life, but intends to return to Scotland. “My Facebook is covered in comments from my friends back home, talking about the referendum and the Scottish media, but I’m not allowed to vote." Lunchtime on voting day sees a large group of Scottish expats already beginning to gather at the Hielander Scottish Restaurant in Alkmaar. The restaurant which prides itself as being the first Scottish Restaurant in the Netherlands, sports a large "Yes" sign in its window, and countless Scottish memorabilia within. Proprietor Wullie MacMorland, a notably proud Scotsman, emigrated to the Netherlands in 1978. Despite his love for Holland and the people of Alkmaar, Wullie still identifies himself as 100% Scottish, and defiantly refuses to adopt a Dutch passport. Eager to discuss the topic of Scottish independence, Wullie explains that even though he has been an avid supporter of Scottish independence since he was 16, he does not think his own vote should be counted, but he expresses deep anger at the regulations preventing recent expats from voting. “I can understand why someone like myself has been denied the right to vote, but these regulations don’t just affect expats,” he explains. “Regulations that were put in place by the Tory government over 20 year ago to stop Scottish servicemen from being able to vote, now mean that anyone, even someone who is working temporarily for the government abroad doesn’t get the vote, but an Englishman who lives in Scotland for two weeks can vote!” Wullie has invited Scots from across the country to come visit at his restaurant tonight to watch the results come in, and hopefully celebrate independence. “I think half of Scottish Holland is heading up here, I don’t have any tables left,” he joked. From 10:30 tonight we will turn into a mini-Scottish bar. A no-go area for an Englishman.” When asked whether a "Yes" vote tonight would send him back to Scotland, Wullie sighs and says that he’s been away from Scotland for too long. “My wife is Greek, my kids are all born here in Holland, my life is now here, but I’ll be ever so disappointed if we don’t get our independence. I want to hold a Scottish passport in my hands before I die”. Voting in Scotland opened at seven o'clock this morning, and polling stations stay open until 10 p.m. Although the results are not expected to be announced until Friday morning, Scots across the Netherlands will band together tonight hoping for a decisive "YES" at the finish line.