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Referendum for sustained growth

By Roddy Gow (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-13 14:22

Referendum for sustained growth


Scotland is changed utterly-that much is clear.

The historic referendum on Sept 18 was an extraordinary exercise in democracy. Turnout was massive and the idea of immediate independence was rejected.

More powers were promised to the Scottish Parliament by the three main party leaders at Westminster in the closing stages of the campaigning, and First Minister Alex Salmond described Scotland as now the most politically engaged country in the Western world.

The question of how all this will affect Scotland's relations with China is perhaps less dramatic and clear-cut.

Those who voted "Yes" will insist that an opportunity has been wasted, that independence would have been a boon for Scots doing business overseas, whether in Asia or elsewhere.

On the other hand the "No" camp may claim that Scotland now has the best of both worlds-a distinctive Scottish brand to present to the world, while at the same time retaining the option to draw on the UK's international standing and its well-established trade and investment networks.

So will the independence referendum result help or hinder the prospects for Scottish business with China?

It would be nice to think that the answer to that question is as black and white as Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the giant pandas now holding court at Edinburgh Zoo.

But of course that is not the case. Union brings benefits, certainly. Whether the loss of those would have been offset by gains from independence will never be known.

What we can say for sure is this: the referendum result has given us clarity. We now know where Scotland is.

The issue of independence has probably been settled for a generation. Now that the vote is over Scotland will embrace the arrangement it has and turn to addressing aspects of the Scottish economy-and its ties to China-that needed to be tackled, regardless of the result.

Another important thing: Scotland's global standing, always high, can only have risen as a result of the referendum.

It is almost unheard of for a debate about potential secession to be conducted peacefully and without threats. Scotland has shown the world that it has a well-established democratic process and that it is a society that abides by that process.

We have a result that both sides have accepted without serious dispute. It is time to move forward together.

So what can Scotland in 2014 offer China? And how can it further improve the mutually beneficial ties?

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