Scotland’s first minister like

Scotland’s first minister likens upcoming vote to 1994 SA elections

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond caused some outrage last week by comparing the upcoming Scotland referendum to the 1994 South Africa elections

Scotland’s first minister like

South Africa and Scotland couldn’t be any more different from each other, no matter if you compare the weather, local traditions or respective political heritage. Yet despite the many rich contrasts between the two territories, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond took to the press last week, comparing the upcoming independence vote in Scotland with South Africa’s first democratic elections held in 1994.

Salmond said that the prospect of Scots queuing up to vote in the referendum was akin to black South Africans waiting in line for days outside voting stations in 1994 at the end of apartheid laws. First minister Salmond described his experiences in Dundee while witnessing a long queue of voters registering for the referendum as “almost reminiscent of the scenes in South Africa that some of us of a certain age remember from 20 years ago […] when people queued up to vote in the first free elections.”

Several public figures in the UK took offense to the comparison, with former Labour minister and staunch anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain saying that any comparison between the Scotland vote and South Africa’s 1994 elections was “preposterous”.

“South Africa was a brutal police state, with state terror, state-sponsored assassinations, torture, absolute denial of human dignity if you had the wrong colour skin. To compare it to Scots seeking independence is just insulting to the freedom struggle.”

Labour MP Jim Murphy added that comparing any vote in Scotland with South Africa’s first democratic election was “crass”.

“Scotland is not Soweto and a decision on whether or not we stay British has no parallels at all with the beauty of the liberation of South Africa from the evil type of racism that was apartheid,” Mr Murphy said, who had spent several of his formative years living in South Africa.

BBC broadcaster Sue MacGregor, who also had grown up in South Africa, commented that voting had not been possible for the majority of South Africans before 1994 while Scots have enjoyed full democracy under the UK, saying the two polls were “not comparable” with each other.

In addition to full participation in UK politics since 1801, Scotland has been enjoying a certain level of self-governance under devolution since its parliament in Holyrood (Edinburgh) was established  in 1999 following a previous referendum. These include matter of education and health services.

In contrast, South Africa had been governed by the National Party from 1948 to 1994, which introduced a growing number of racial segregation and oppression laws over the years under the umbrella term “apartheid”. The so-called architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd had infamously coined this system “a policy of good neighbourliness” while increasingly isolating SA from the international community. The success of the National Party’s campaigns built on the dominance of white rule dating back all the way to European Colonisation in the mid 17th century.