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Scotland natives in the Charlotte area debate country’s independence vote

John and Netta Turnbull were born and bred in Scotland but have called America home for many decades.

Married 52 years ago, the Charlotte couple, like much of their native land, has diverging views on Thursday’s vote to determine whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom and becomes an independent state.

“In 1603, through the accident of birth and religion, (King) James of Scotland acquired England, and we, the Scots, have spent the last 400 years trying to give it back,” John Turnbull, 80 and a retired Celanese Corp. fiber engineer, told the Observer. “So hopefully today, we will be successful.”

His wife is of a different mind.

“It’s a small island, and a small island does not need to split,” Netta Turnbull, 77, said of Great Britain. “But I’ve been here 52 years, so I should have no opinion.”

Her sister still lives in Scotland and is of the same mind that little reason exists for Scotland to leave the UK.

A full 97 percent of those eligible have registered to vote — including, for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds — in a referendum that polls suggest is too close to call. More than 4.2 million people are registered to vote in the country of 5.3 million people.

A phone poll of 1,373 people by Ipsos MORI, released Wednesday, put opposition to independence at 51 percent and support at 49 percent.

That means neither side can feel confident, given the margin of error of about plus or minus three percentage points.

Bill Caudill, director of the St. Andrews University Scottish Heritage Center in Laurinburg, agreed Thursday morning that the vote was too close to call.

Caudill, a Scottish scholar, said voters under age 40 are generally leaning toward independence, along with residents of the Scottish Highlands; those 60 and older are more likely to vote “no.”

Caudill said Scotland became much stronger economically in the 20th century, with tremendous growth in tourism dollars and new manufacturing that continued into the 21st. The North Sea and its oil, meanwhile, are in its backyard, he said.

But many voters feel Scotland hasn’t gotten its fair share of related tax revenue returns as a member of the UK, Caudill said. Scotland also only represents 8.3 percent to 8.6 percent of Great Britain’s population, so it’s say in Parliament is diminished, he said.

Caudill is 47. He said his heart “is completely ‘yes’” for independence. “My mind? I’m one willing to accept change.”

Many Americans may know of Scotland’s centuries-old drive toward independence from the 1995 film, “Braveheart,” Caudill said. Actor Mel Gibson portrayed William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

“But the people and resources are now there to make it happen,” Caudill said. Either way, the vote will be close, he said.

Renowned bagpipe maker Roddy MacLellan, a native of Glasgow who now lives with his family near Wesley Chapel in Union County, has been reading Scottish newspapers online to better understand the issues involved.

“The heart says ‘yes,’ but the mind says ‘no,’ ” MacLellan, 58, said. His bagpipe making shop is in Monroe.

Regardless of the outcome, he said, the push toward independence has at least exposed important issues in the country, including just the fact that so many people are disaffected with flying the Union Jack.

In the end, however, MacLellan is grateful this revolution has been peaceful. “It shows that democracy can work where reasonable people can deliberate it, and if they can’t change the other’s mind, then let’s go and have a drink together.”

The Associated Press contributed.

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