Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is Scotland another Quebec?

Reading the British press, it is universally assumed that Scotland will break away from the UK sometime soon.

It's certainly true that the Scots have little to lose. Britain was once a nation state, now that it's given up all its sovereignty to Brussels, the only union that counts is the European Union. As citizens of a member state of the EU, Scots will have all the same rights to live and work in England as they currently do. The two economies will remain linked as before, and there will be no borders. In fact there isn't a lot that will change. Even the Queens head will be on the coins.

There hardly seems to be any point in having a referendum, it seems to be a foregone conclusion, but is it? If I was Alex Salmond, I wouldn't be too complacent. Just think about Quebec...

Like Scotland, Quebec feels like another country. There are no Canadian flags, only the ubiqitous fleur-de-lis. The Quebecois turn their noses up at their fellow Canadians despite their province being heavily subsidised (some might say bribed) by the federal government. Even the motto of Quebec "je me souviens" has taken on a nationalist tint. It is taken by many to mean - "I remember what the English did to the French".

But most significantly Quebec has been ruled by the Parti Québécois, a party devoted to Quebec's independence. When the first referendum on independence didn't go their way, the Parti Québécois kept calling referendums until they were referred to as "never-endums". The referendums it should be noted only failed by a narrow margin and there were racist overtones to the campaigns as English speaking voters were attacked for voting against secession.

There are many Scots living in England and many English people living in Scotland. How will English residents vote in the event of a referendum in 2010? If the voters don't go for independence, will Alex Salmond keep holding referendums till they do? There is an old saying, a week is a long time in politics. Four years is an eternity.