Print
Hits: 2489
Scotland's referendum isn't giving much of a boost to nationalist sentiments around Europe.

 Seperation may have divided Scotland, but there is one thing that isn’t in doubt: those feelings aren’t spilling over into the surrounding areas. The idea that Scottish separation would reignite nationalism around Europe is compelling, but experts and polls say that isn’t the case.

 

“It will give hope and optimism to other small nationalists, like the Catalonians in Spain, like the Flemmings in Belgium,” said Martin Hewson, an assistant professor of international studies at the University of Regina. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to win any independence for their nations.”

 

Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom are the main countries where residents are considering separation at the moment. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south have been at odds for years now, with the centre-right separatist party N-VA (New Flemmish Alliance) winning 33 of the county’s 150 seats in the last election.

 

Meanwhile in Spain, support for independence in Catalonia, which includes the city of Barcelona, has risen to 45 per cent. Nationalists in Spain say Scottish Independence is creating a resurgence in nationalism, but Hewson said he doubts that’s really the case.

 

“It will give some energy to the strongly committed nationalists, people who already are (pro-independence), but I don’t think it will make much of a difference to ordinary people,” he said.

 

The U.K. doesn’t appear to be much of an exception. A recent poll commissioned by BBC Wales showed little taste for Welsh independence, with only five per cent of respondents saying they support separation from the U.K.

 

“What (is Wales) going to use for currency?” asked Dr. Lewis Draper, who came to Canada in 1966 from Wallasey, a largely Welsh community just inside the English border. “The last thing you want to do is share currency with a bigger country.”

 

Draper is a former president of Regina’s Welsh Society, and a former Saskatchewan MLA. He also lived in Scotland for 12 years, including eight as a university student, before he came to Canada. He says he could see Wales holding a referendum, but doubts it would be successful.

 

In reality, he attributes the strong showing in the Scottish referendum to poor English leadership, rather than passionate nationalist sentiment.

 

“(English politicians) thought no one was going to want to go away,” Hewson said. “(They thought) it’s just a handful of nuts in Edinburgh. Politicians always do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”

 

Things are a bit different in Northern Ireland, which had a referendum of its own in the 1970s. The country also maintains close cultural, linguistic and geographic ties with Scotland, and has the right to hold a referendum every seven years as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

 

However, Hewson noted that historically, proximity to a newly independent country doesn’t always mean the dominoes will start to fall.

 

“Twenty years ago Slovakia split away from the Czechs,” he said. “Well, 20 years ago it didn’t cause the Scots to split away, or the Welsh, or anyone else. It will definitely give (nationalists) some hope and maybe more energy… and it will probably give more energy to the Quebec sovereigntists as well, but that doesn’t mean that the ordinary people are going to pay much attention.”

 

That doesn’t mean, however, that any nationalist movement is dead in the water. According to Hewson some groups, like the Catalans in Spain, have a strong argument for secession, as well as strong support. He just doesn’t think the success or failure of referendums in Scotland, or any other country, will be the driving factor.

 

“The average person will vote according to their own feelings and their own interests and more local concerns, what they feel about their own local circumstances. They’re not going to pay a lot of attention to what the Scots feel about it, so I don’t think we’re going to get a cascade or a series of splits.”