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Scottish Canary
Spanish, Italian Separatist Movements Look to Scottish Example

European leaders may be realizing that Scotland’s independence referendum is the canary in the coal mine. The Financial Times reports that regional separatist movements in Spain and Italy are taking heart from the Scottish example:

With Scotland’s result too close to call, it is dawning on investors that the UK is not the only western European country grappling with one or more increasingly confident separatist movements. […]

[But] Investor anxiety cuts little ice with separatists and autonomists in the Basque Country and Catalonia in Spain, or South Tyrol and Veneto in Italy. In all four regions the idea has taken hold that local prosperity is siphoned off for the benefit of corrupt, bullying and financially incompetent elites in Madrid and Rome. […]

For the third year in a row, a vast demonstration in support of independence was held on Thursday in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, to commemorate the diada – the Catalan national day.

As Walter Russell Mead noted on Friday, Europeans “increasingly find the post-War social-democratic order bland, remote, and overbearing.” One way to shake things up is to embrace local independence movements. These offer the thrill of a campaign against the odds and the frisson of (often semi-forbidden) nationalism, while staying safely within the larger European framework. For regions such as Venice, which are more prosperous than their neighbors, there is also the attraction of sticking it to other regions that voters perceived as sponging off them.

This discontent also manifests itself in anti-Euro and anti-EU activism: In Germany on Sunday, the AFD, Germany’s new anti-Euro party, made large gains in local elections. So far, anti-EU forces of any sort have not made significant inroads into German politics. If that starts to shifts, even enough to throw the bigger parties off-track (as UKIP has to a certain extent in England), things could get much more interesting.

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  • Andrew Allison

    European leaders recognized the threat represented by the Scottish independence movement long ago — hence the warnings (which, like the currency issue, Salmond has outright lied about) that an independent Scotland would no longer be part of the EU and would need to apply just like any other country. Such an application would be given, shall we say, very careful scrutiny for exactly the reasons described in the post. It should also be noted that the motivations of the various European independence movements vary considerably. In the case of Scotland (which receives about $3,500 per head each year from the rest of the UK), it is largely Salmond’s hunger for power; in Venice and the Veneto it’s all about the money; in Catalonia and Flanders it seems to be a combination of nationalism and money; for the Basques it’s all about nationalism; and in South Tyrol it’s about reunification with Austria. has a good overview.

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