Scotland Set for Own Parliament

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EDINBURGH: Scotland goes to the polls today in a referendum on Tony Blair's proposals for home rule. And, by all accounts, we will wake up tomorrow with a Scottish parliament in the bag. That much has already been conceded by opponents of devolution in the minority Conservative Party. More interesting is the second referendum question, on whether this parliament will have any real teeth in the shape of the so-called "Tartan Tax". Scots who are set to vote in droves for their own parliament seem less keen to give it powers to levy an extra band of tax for Scotland: slightly less than 50 percent, according to most election-day polls, plan to vote "yes" on this question, raising the prospect of Edinburgh's new parliament as little more than a talking shop. But opinion is balanced on a knife-edge, and turnout will be crucial.

Regardless of the result, the campaign has been a triumph for Prime Minister Blair, who promised Scots a referendum within Labor's first year in power. The kingdom's first assembly in three centuries would also be a victory for descendants of William Wallace whose statue, cast in 12 tons of stone, will be unveiled today at Stirling Bridge, where Wallace defeated the English 700 years ago today. An omen, perhaps?