Scotland County residents watching overseas vote for independence
Posted September 18, 2014 7:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2014 5:12 a.m. EDT
Laurinburg, N.C. — As the world waits for the outcome of Thursday's historic vote on Scotland's independence, southeastern North Carolina's Scotland County – some 3,700 miles away – can't help but keep a close eye on the decision.
The county, which sits on the South Carolina border, was once the home to one of the largest settlements of Highland Scots in the country.
Today, there's still a Scottish influence.
"We take Scotland very serious here in Scotland County," said Walter Jackson.
A junior at Scotland High School in Laurinburg, Jackson was one of many students who traveled to Oban, Scotland, for a student-exchange program.
While there, they got a lesson in international politics as Scots campaigned for and against severing their 307-year union with the United Kingdom.
"Those who happened to own a business tended to be against it," Jackson said. "A lot of the younger generation tended to be for independence.
Teens Jackson's age – 16 and 17 – were among the more than 4.2 registered voters who were expected to line up at polling stations across the country to weigh in on the decision – one expected to be so close that results likely won't be known until Friday.
"Being a teenager – that's a lot of responsibility to think that my vote would be so prominent in a decision that's so important," said Jackson's classmate, senior Kristin Lanier.
A Yes vote would trigger 18 months of negotiations between Scottish leaders and London-based politicians on how the two countries would separate their institutions before Scotland's planned Independence Day on March 24, 2016.
Supporters play up the Scottish patriotism and the country's oil reserves as reasons it can stand on its own. Those against independence say the economy would be at risk.
Like Jackson and Lanier, Bill Caudill, director of the Scottish Heritage Center at St. Andrews University, is also closely watching the Scottish vote.
"All my friends over there under 40 are strong Yes people," he said. "They are people with a vision. They will be the future nation builders."