Independence movements around globe watching Scotland

With a week until the people of Scotland vote on independence from Great Britain, separatist movements around the world are watching closely.

“From Catalonia to Kurdistan to Quebec, nationalist and separatist movements in Europe and beyond are watching the Scottish independence referendum closely – sometimes more so than Britons themselves, who seem to have only just woken up to the possibility that Scotland might vote next Thursday to bring to an end a 307-year union,” writes the New York Times.

“A curious collection of left and right, rich and poor, marginal and mainstream, these movements are united in the hope that their shared ambition for more self-determination will get a lift from an independent Scotland,” it added.

The Telegraph reports that a record-breaking 4.3 million have registered to vote in Scottish referendum, the highest number in Scottish electoral history, and recent polls show the pro-independence movement gaining steam as the vote nears.

As of yesterday, the No campaign had a slim lead over the Yes campaign, 47.6 percent to 42.4 percent. But when the 10 percent who said they were still undecided were removed from the equation, the survey suggests that the Yes campaign would win, 53-47, according to The Telegraph.

The referendum is gathering attention around the globe.

“Busloads of Catalans, South Tiroleans, Corsicans, Bretons, Frisians and ‘Finland-Swedes’ are headed for Scotland to witness the vote,” according to the Times. “Even Bavaria (which calls itself ‘Europe’s seventh-largest economy’) is sending a delegation.”

“It would create a very important precedent,” said Naif Bezwan of Mardin Artuklu University in the Kurdish part of Turkey. Across the Iraqi border (or “the Kurdish-Kurdish border,” as Mr. Bezwan puts it), where a confluence of war, oil disputes and political turmoil has renewed the debate about secession, Kurds pine for the opportunity of a Scottish-style breakup, the publication added.

In recent years, there have been few amicable splits.

In the summer of 1992, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia officially began when the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation. A short time later, politicians representing Czech and Slovakian sides approved dividing Czechoslovakia and by late November they had agreed to the details which resulted in the peaceful creation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Two years later, residents of Quebec came extremely close to passing a referendum on whether the province should proclaim national sovereignty and become an independent state, with 49.42 percent voting “Yes” and 50.58 percent voting “No.”

Scotland was a sovereign state from the mid-9th century until 1707, when the Scottish Parliament passed the Union with England Act.

Opponents of Scottish independence claim it could trigger “the Balkanization of Europe.”

Others, however, say national self-determination should come before keeping failed nation states in place.

Mark Demesmaeker, a Flemish member of the European Parliament, said there’s a reason independence movements have gained popularity in recent years, particularly in Europe.

Demesmaeker believes Britain has failed to give the Scots and Welsh proper representation in Parliament and Spain has failed to deliver democracy to Catalans and Basques eager to have their own independence vote. Other nations, like France and Italy, have been mired in political and economic stagnation. Meanwhile, Belgium is struggling to form a government, even though it held elections in May, he told the Times.

“If Scotland votes ‘yes,’ it will be an eye-opener for many people on the street,” Demesmaeker said. “Most people think it’s our fate to be part of Belgium. But Flanders could be a prosperous nation. It’s a democratic evolution that is going on in different states of the European Union. Eventually we want Flanders to take its place in the EU.”

(HT: An Sionnach Fionn)

7 thoughts on “Independence movements around globe watching Scotland

  1. CBC- I’m watching this unfold with great interest. Partly from the perspective of an historian, partly as a Canadian who has to deal with the recurrence of this issue periodically, and partly because I’m flying to Glasgow two days after the referendum. And the potential precedent…

    • Cole – I, too, am very interested in this event. I remember the Quebec referendum very clearly. It was a difficult decision; I believed the people of Quebec had the right to go their own way if they wanted, but also knew it wouldn’t have been in the best interests of Canada as a whole (certainly not Atlantic Canada). I was able to listen to Quebec separatist proponent René Lévesque speak in the mid-1980s – chain smoking like steam locomotive the entire time – and he was fascinating.

      I just don’t know if it’s possible to successfully govern countries as large as Canada, the US and Russia with any measure of responsiveness. The advantage you have in Canada is that your population is one-tenth ours in the States.

      Scotland, being much smaller, could probably make a decent go of it. I would love to be in Glasgow during or right after the event. Enjoy the trip and the experience.

  2. I have no strong view about it. I think the components of the UK are better as a whole than separate but I also think recent British governments have made a pig’s ear of everything. Interestingly last week, one of our Spanish neighbours mentioned it in passing, clearly, Catalunya and Pais Basco will go hell for leather if Scotland does separate. The whole issue though, always boils down to money. Can a small nation stTe generate enough to survive? National pride is fine, but it takes more than that. I always thought my part of the UK should go it’s own way… (Yorkshire) Before Thatcher we had steel and coal and industry. Not sure what we have now. Pais Basco and Catalunya similarly have industry. Most of the Scots I know think independence would be a retrograde step. Fascinating post.

  3. Thanks, Roughseas. Of course, there are plenty of countries such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Sao Tome & Principe, plus a passel of Oceanic nations that have made it work despite their diminutive size. And yes, there are regions of Spain that are very closely watching what’s going on in Spain, and folks in Madrid who are very nervous,

    I’m certain, about this referendum. It would never be allowed to happen in the US, but given the disparities in attitudes between regions and the size of the country, Americans as a whole would probably be better served if the US were split into, say half a dozen nations. But, again, that would never be allowed to happen. Too much money and prestigue at stake.

    • Yes, America is too big, it’s a bit like old empires always spread too far, I’m mostly familiar with the Roman one. Interestingly USA is similar to Spain in that your states have a lot of autonomy, eg death penalty in some states, not in others. Evil one that.

      Scottish Union was three years after Anglo Dutch forces took Gib. That’s not relevant to anything, but in terms of history it’s interesting. Gib has been British longer than Scotland 😀 hmmm, blog post there I think!

  4. Puts things in context a bit. 300-plus years is a long time, in human terms. We do allow the states a lot of autonomy in some regards, but we also have ways of getting them to tow the line, such as threatening to withhold federal appropriations. Nothing makes a recalcitrant local politician come around faster than threatening to cut off his path to the federal teat.

  5. I appreciate the desire to celebrate the uniqueness of a specific country’s culture apart from another, but I’m thinking a lot of people are probably not fully considering the economic consequences of separating.

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