19 March 2014, 15:18

Echo of Crimea: Scotland, Venice and Catalonia want independence too, who's next?

Echo of Crimea: Scotland, Venice and Catalonia want independence too, who's next?

On September 18 Scotland will conduct a referendum on whether it should be independent from Great Britain. London is absolutely opposed to this and threatens Edinburgh with all sorts of restrictions. Prime Minister David Cameron has something to fear indeed. If Scotland votes for independence, apart from everything else it means that five million of Her Majesty's subjects as well as the British nuclear submarine base near Glasgow will be located on foreign territory.

Europe is on the verge of a number of referendums on self-determination of territories, which are currently a part of the main country members of the EU, such as Great Britain, Spain and Italy. The EU and the US do not introduce any sanctions or make threats to Rome, London or Madrid, as they did in the case of Russia, which supported the will of the great majority of Crimea's citizens and signed the treaty to include the peninsula in the Russian Federation.

The separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom is quite real, although not very probable. Thus, there is hardly any dispute regarding the referendum, thinks Alexey Gromyko, acting director of the Institute of Europe.

"There is no law there that prohibits any of the regions from conducting a referendum. And if the majority of the population votes in favor of exiting the country, London will not be able to oppose that in any legal way. But everybody knows that Scottish nationalists will lose at that referendum, as only about 35% of the population support them. There is a separatist sentiment in Scotland, but it will remain within Great Britain."

Nevertheless, Scotland's government is in a decisive mood. It has published the White Book, which describes in detail its plan to exit Great Britain. Last year the Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond announced that future sovereignty would allow the present autonomy to fulfill its huge potential. The oil found in the Northern Sea, which according to the advocates of independence belongs to Scotland, serves as a guarantee. In addition, there is a huge stream of tourists. Based on these resources the authorities would be able to raise the social payments and benefits. The independent country would create its own tax system and its own army. In the event that these grand plans were fulfilled, a most dangerous precedent would be set in the EU, which in the future could lead to the failure of the most ambitious project of the second half of the XX century.

Even taking into account fairly modest separatist sentiment, the outcome of the referendum is still undetermined. Social science is occasionally wrong. The Scots still have time to recall their fight for sovereignty, which has a very long history. Back in the XIV century after numerous attempts by England to conquer Scotland, the Battle of Bannockburn took place, after which London acknowledged its neighbor's independence. After that Scotland got its own governing institutions and the parliament headed by king Jacob VI. However, four centuries later the Acts of Union created a common parliament and the central government, while the Scottish institutions were canceled. That was the beginning of Scotland's history as a part of the United Kingdom, as well as the story of its Cold War for independence.

Soon Europe will observe the culmination of that complicated story. Below is the commentary of the Spanish professor and political analyst Manel Parra: "Each EU member state has a right to independently determine whether it is prepared to give independence to some part of that state. That is spelled out in the Treaties of the European Union. Scotland is exactly such a case. Taking into account that London did not oppose the referendum itself, there is a probability of independence. Another issue is that Scotland would lose its membership in the EU, which it has as a part of Great Britain. And it's a big question whether it would be accepted back. Most likely, it won't."

Political analyst Igor Kovalev notices an important detail, which explains the overall peace of mind.

"The referendum in Scotland is a result of the agreement made by its separatist wing with the government of Great Britain. It gave its consent and offered the referendum legitimacy. If Scotland separated and became an independent state, it would encounter serious problems. Other members of the EU, which also face separatism, including Spain, would not be happy. And here some actions are possible that would be aimed at preventing such a tendency from spreading to the other countries of the continent."

In other words, not all cards are laid yet. London is naturally worried by the centrifugal tendencies, which pose a threat to the country’s security. But the purely English cold and rational conviction that Scotland would stay within the United Kingdom prevents it from panicking. Soon the world will see how accurate the intuition of London’s political establishment is.

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