Asian immigrants' vote may swing Scotland referendum

As the Scottish referendum becomes too close to call in the lead up to Thursday's vote, the Asian immigrant choice could prove crucial.

PTI| Updated: Sep 16, 2014, 23:19 PM IST

London: As the Scottish referendum becomes too close to call in the lead up to Thursday's vote, the Asian immigrant choice could prove crucial.

Indians are among the prominent immigrant groups in Scotland and together with Pakistanis and Bangladeshis make up 3 percent of Scotland's population which describes itself as Asian.

While their views on a Scotland independent of the United Kingdom remain divided in line with the overall population, the overwhelming majority seem to back the 'no' campaign.

"I've lived in Scotland for 18 years. I was born in India and I was in London for 35 years before coming to Glasgow. I definitely feel British rather Scottish. We are all one country; it doesn't matter where you live," said Naranjan Singh Benning, a 63-year-old businessman and a member of the nearly 38,000-strong Indian-origin community based in Scotland.

Among some of the older generation like him, the horrors of Indian Partition may prove the deciding factor against voting for independence.

"There was a Hindu state and a Muslim state and the Sikhs were left with no rights. They gained nothing and lost a lot. So this might have negative connotations for them in terms of their vote on whether they want to separate or stay as one United Kingdom," said Navpreet Kaur, a member of Glasgow's central Gurdwara.

Besides immigrants from the Indian sub-continent who have now acquired British citizenship, Indians based and working in Scotland are also eligible to vote in Thursday's referendum as Commonwealth citizens.

"The vote is too close to call. So the ethnic minority vote has become crucial," claims Mohammed Sarwar, a Pakistani-origin former Glasgow MP.

He had surrendered his British nationality last year to become the Governor of Pakistan's Punjab province but has now returned to Scotland to persuade his former constituents to vote against an independent Scotland.

"The union has served us well. Scotland benefited, England benefited. I think it's not just that the people of Scotland will suffer (from a break-up), but the people of England, too," he added.

Voters of Pakistani origin form the largest ethnic minority group in Scotland of a total of 140,000 who class themselves as Asian Scots.

Sarwar's high-profile intervention has, however, been met with disapproval from 'Yes' campaigners as he is now classified as foreign.