Judging by Bill McKeen’s shirt, it is easy to see where the Whitefield resident’s opinion falls on the question of Scottish independence.

McKeen, 73, wearing a yellow shirt with red lettering that declares “Yes! To Scottish Independence,” said the romanticism of becoming a free country after previous centuries of conflict between Scotland and England appeals to him.

“I think those that have that idea say, ‘Yeah, independence, for no other reason,'” he said. “I think that’s where I fall. I feel like this is their chance.”

However, McKeen, founder of Minuteman Signs in Augusta and whose ancestors came to the U.S. centuries ago, admits his opinion might be different if he lived in Scotland.

“Then I could throw away all these romantic ideas and history and everything and just be concerned about my paycheck,” he said.

Scotland is holding the referendum vote Thursday to decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country.

Proponents of ending the 307-year-old political union say becoming independent will give Scotland more political control and that its North Sea oil reserves will provide an economic boost.

But critics, including the U.K. government, argue that leaving the union would hurt the country and its economy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and two other top officials signed a joint statement printed in Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper Tuesday promising to transfer more power to Scotland if the country votes no on Thursday, but many critics complained that it didn’t give specifics.

In Maine, where there’s a higher percentage of people with Scottish ancestry than any other state according to the 2012 census, those from Scotland or with Scottish heritage have different opinions on whether the country should become independent.

Some say Scotland would be better suited to handle its own decisions and future, while others say the future as an independent nation is too uncertain to split from the U.K.

James Rodden, a Scottish citizen who moved to Gardiner in March, said he would vote no to independence if he still lived there. He thinks there are too many yet-to-be-resolved questions, including whether Scotland could continue using the British pound, whether it would join the United Nations and what would become of the military, particularly with Britain’s nuclear warheads and four nuclear submarines stationed in Scotland.

Rodden, 59, said he thinks these types of issues should have been discussed and finalized before a referendum was held.

“I think it would be too complicated if we were detached from the rest of Britain just to say, ‘We’re free. We’re on our own,'” he said. “I think there’s too much of a price to pay for that.”

Jim Arnold, of China, who moved to the U.S. from Scotland as a teenager in the 1960s, thinks becoming independent would be worth the complications that would come along with it.

Arnold, a former Kennebec Journal copy editor, said he remembers feeling like a second-class citizen when visiting relatives in England.

“I would vote yes for independence because I believe Scotland would be better off guiding its own future, deciding where its own revenues be spent,” he said in an email. “Obviously the split is going to be like a bloody divorce, but having one of those myself, I know the pain and distress are well worth it.”

Ron Thurston, president of the St. Andrew’s Society of Maine, a group that promotes Scottish heritage, said he thinks most Mainers with Scottish ancestors would support the independence referendum, but he isn’t one of them.

Thurston, of Falmouth, said he thinks Scotland would be better off in the U.K. because of the economic uncertainties of becoming independent.

McKeen, a former president of the Scottish heritage organization, said he printed the “Yes!” shirt thinking it might be a popular item at the Maine Highland Games in August, but he said people didn’t seem that interested in the upcoming independence referendum. Even at meetings for the St. Andrew’s Society of Maine, which hosts the annual event, McKeen said only a few people discussed the issue.

As to how he would actually vote if given the opportunity, McKeen said he wasn’t sure.

“That’s a tough question. I don’t even think I could really answer that,” McKeen said. “I think the answer is, you’d have to be there.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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