With the referendum on Scottish independence upon us imminently (taking place this coming Thursday on the 18th of September 2014), the results, either way, will have profound implications for the UK, for Scotland, and indeed, for the world.
Numerous analysts have written excellent in-depth assessments considering the economic, political, social and legal impacts of Scotland’s independence from the UK should it actually take place.
However there is another dimension to consider, the impact this has for Europe and the world. A Scottish seat in the UN may provide dreams and visions for other nationalists in other regions who have always sought independence.
An independent Scotland, oil rich and fiercely socialist, (not very dissimilar to Norway), may join the EU and not necessarily the Euro. I suspect that despite the rhetoric from the “No” team, an independent Scotland will retain the Pound Sterling in a currency union similar to that of Singapore and Brunei (which share a common currency).
Across Europe, I suspect we will see rejuvenated pro-independence/secessionist groups clamouring for their independence as well. We are already witnessing the Catalans protesting for independence from the rest of Spain as they have done for over three centuries. Basque also seeks independence from Spain – and the peaceful manner in which Scotland is pursuing the case – may form a template for the Basque nationalists to seek a similar approach.
In nearby Belgium, Flemish nationalists are also watching the Scottish independence referendum with interest. They have been seeking an independent Flanders/Flemish republic. In elections held earlier this year, the Flemish nationalist party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) emerged as the party with the most votes. However, it must be noted that the majority of those living in Flanders have little appetite for full independence, yet, but are keen on greater autonomy.
Going a little further eastwards, we see that independence sentiments have also been very strong in Venice. In a poll conducted earlier this year, 2.36 million Venetians (63.2% of all eligible voters) participated in an online referendum. Almost 90% of those polled indicated that the region of Veneto (where Venice is) should be independent. Veneto’s President Luca Zaia said the region is tired of the lack of respect from Rome and seeks independence as a path towards greater freedoms and opportunity for Veneto.
The implications of what transpires from the Scottish independence vote may also potentially galvanise pro-independence movements from Quebec to Kurdistan to Kashmir. It may even inspire long dormant independence movements such as the Dravida Nadu movement (which seeks an autonomous or independent Southern India which is culturally, linguistically and historically distinct from the rest of India).
However, the manner in which the Scottish debate has been had is something other independent movements can learn from. Despite heated debates and sometimes a bit of mud-slinging by both sides, for the most part, the deliberations and remonstrations have been largely civil. Perhaps, the most important thing to come out from this referendum is that it is possible for independence and freedom to come from means other than at the end of a rifle.