September in Scotland: politics in the city of Edinburgh
By Catie Chipman
It’s only been a few weeks and yet Edinburgh has transformed itself from a foreign city to a navigable, comfortable, and dare I say ‘home-y’ place. Since the moment that I arrived, it did not take long to realize this was not San Diego. Only moments after getting off the plane, the rain was falling, the wind was blowing and there was not a beach in sight, but rather hills of green and brown. Having heard that the Scots were a friendly group of people I was anxious to see if this was the case, well it did not take long to prove true, starting with my taxi driver.
As soon as the taxi driver realized I was a visiting student, I got the run down on everything going on in the city. The driver took it upon himself to bring me on the route through the Meadows, around Arthur’s Seat, to a dormant volcano, the best street for pub crawls, and finally to see Parliament. While all the sites we drove by had a story, Parliament was of particular intrigue to me, and of great interest to the cab driver. At this point the referendum vote was still a few weeks away yet windows all around the city had something to say.
With each day that passed it appeared that Edinburgh was showing more and more opinions in terms of the referendum; however it seemed to only take the form of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ signs in the windows of flats and store fronts. There was no real chatter on the streets, nor were there big groups voicing, chanting, gathering or promoting their views in the Squares. As the vote approached, ‘Yes’ signs appeared in more and more windows while the papers grew in ‘No’ articles.
As family and friends from home had asked, “Isn’t it such an exciting time to be in Scotland?” The answer of course is yes, it is a wonderful time to be here.However, not so much due to the potentially monumental moment in history. Life in the city carried on normally, nothing radical or rebellious carried on in the streets, and people simply carried on their normal lives. Even on referendum day, Parliament was just another building on Princes Street. No radical groups, no crazy shows of opinions and as a matter of fact the only showing was simple buttons worn on shirts to claim ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The night of the vote, the results from each city were aired on the television throughout the pubs, yet interest was more focused on the TVs playing sports. When the “No” vote came through the following morning the city hremained the same. There were no riots in the streets ot protesting in front of Parliament. It has been such a bizarrely calm event to watch and see first hand.
While the political climate was much calmer than I expected it is nonetheless an exciting time to be in Scotland. The city is a remarkably friendly place, and with the University of Edinburgh at the heart of the city, students have claimed the city as their own. Whether it is meeting for study groups at the pubs or doing work at one of the hundreds of coffee shops, everywhere you look the University is present. Not only is the city here to explore, but also St. Andrews, Glasgow and countryside are just train rides away. It is as if the city itself begs you to explore, kayak the Highlands, bike the city and courses of St. Andrews and to see the secrets of the Dungeons and Chambers of historic Edinburgh. With places like this and the history of the area, it is no wonder that JK Rowling was inspired to write here, after all walking along the streets of Old Town Edinburgh is like walking through Hogwarts.