Current Affairs Politics

More Parallels Between Québec, Scotland And Beyond

Some more lessons for Scotland and the SNP from the history of the independence movement in Québec? A Reuters report in the Chicago Tribune:

“Bernard Landry, who as deputy Quebec premier in 1995 helped prepare for independence, sees a strong parallel between Scotland and Quebec. “It’s not the same case, but the fundamentals are the same. Scotland is a nation. Quebec is a nation,” he told Reuters.

“A nation when it’s possible has the duty to be free, and that applies to Quebec and to Scotland,” said Landry, who went on to become premier and now teaches at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

The biggest difference between the two cases is that Quebec’s separatists were – and are – driven by language. French is the native language of four of five Quebec residents, whereas Gaelic is spoken by only about 1 percent of Scots.

Another difference is historic: Quebec, colonized by France in the 16th and 17th centuries, was conquered by Britain in 1760. Quebec and Canada are both creations of empire. Scotland, on the other hand, shared its monarch with England for most of the 1600s, and formed its union with the south in 1707 peacefully, even if many Scots opposed it.

Landry said he has long been interested in the Scottish question and had met Salmond many times over the years.

He spent much of the year prior to the 1995 referendum asking diplomats for recognition of Quebec in the event of a ‘yes’ vote. Most South American and French-speaking African countries told him they would recognize Quebec, he said, “so we were not anxious at all.”

The Quebec premier of the day, separatist Jacques Parizeau, made elaborate economic and political preparations, and reportedly told diplomats that Quebeckers would be like lobsters in a pot of boiling water if he got a majority.

He denied making the remark but later conceded that a unilateral declaration of independence was ready if he had won the referendum.”

The National Post carries a more hostile though perhaps in some ways more insightful piece by the veteran Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne on the political contest between the British and Scottish governments over the terms of the Scottish referendum on independence:

“…[British Prime Minster] Cameron has been bold enough to demand that the referendum be held much sooner, within the next 18 months, rather than subject the country to the three years of uncertainty of what he called, in an obvious bit of borrowing, Salmond’s “neverendum.”

Provided his conditions were met, he promised, he would accept the result as binding — which is to imply that if his demands were not met, he would feel free to ignore the result, as he is fully entitled to do. There has been no suggestion that Scotland could ignore the law and simply hold a referendum on its own, still less that it could declare independence unilaterally. Whatever comes to the United Kingdom, it will be by a decision of the British parliament, and carried out under the law.

…Cameron is playing this game more aggressively than most. I can’t imagine he would actually sit down to negotiate the breakup of the United Kingdom, three centuries after the Act of Union: no Prime Minister would. His promise to do so must therefore be regarded as a bluff. There’s a certain game-theoretic sense in this. Not only does he avoid accusations of high-handedness, but by making “clear” the consequence of a yes vote, he warns off strategic voters who might be tempted to vote no just to extract better terms of union.”

One wonders if Andrew Coyne is reading the situation correctly in terms of British government thinking and that of the British Nationalist and Unionist camp in general? Will the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in London really reject a “Yes” vote for independence from Scotland? I strongly suspect that they will but not explicitly so. Instead a deliberately protracted period of “negotiations” and fights over legal and constitutional rights will be used to undermine any separatist mandate for the SNP administration in Edinburgh. After all the British have a proven track-record in this area the last time the so-called United Kingdom faced a breakup. The refusal of the British state to accept the democratic wishes of the majority of people living on the island of Ireland to national self-determination, expressed by repeated mandates for their political representatives in Sinn Féin from 1916-1922, led to negotiations that eventually split the Irish Republican movement while securing independence for the greater part of Ireland and the Irish people.

Will we expect to see the same sort of political, legal and diplomatic tactics and ploys employed by the British in early 21st century Scotland that they employed in early 20th century Ireland?

But of course.

3 comments on “More Parallels Between Québec, Scotland And Beyond

  1. Laurent Desbois

    “Jacques Parizeau’s bestseller “AN INDEPENDENT QUEBEC”

    It has been nearly 15 years since Jacques Parizeau helped lead the Yes side to near victory in a referendum on Quebec Sovereignty. And he’s back, undeterred, with a new blueprint for an independent Quebec.
    No stones are left unturned: Why become independent? What is the role of the state and how should it be administered in a global economy? What new challenges face Quebec sovereigntists; their English Canadian counterparts; and their neighbours in the United States?


  2. Laurent Desbois

    Quebec referendum, 1995 or how Canada broke every rule in the book.,_1995

    The 1995 Quebec referendum was the second referendum to ask voters in the Canadian province of Quebec whether Quebec should secede from Canada and become an independent state.

    The motion to decide whether Quebec should secede from Canada was defeated by a very narrow margin of 49.42% “Yes” to 50.58% “No”. That is a majority of a few thousand votes out of 5 million!

    For more details see the book “Stolen Referendum” in French!

    Le Référendum volé

    Par Robin Philpot (2005) ISBN : 978-2-89549-189-7


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: