Will Scottish independence cause a domino effect?

Source http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/10321-will-scottish-independence-cause-a-domino-effect

Crucial to Berlusconi’s shocking resurgence at the recent polls is a party with one eye firmly on Scotland and the independence debate: the right-wing Lega Nord (The Northern League). Despite seeing its vote halve since the last election, the party secured Lombardy and came second only to Berlusconi’s Popolo della Liberta (People of the Liberty) in the centre-right coalition. Furthermore, Lombardy is no economic backwater; its gross domestic product accounts for a staggering 20 per cent of Italy’s total.

Since its inception in 1991, the Lega Nord has been vocal about its desire for the richer north to secede from the poorer south, which it sees as a burden to northern prosperity. Scotland, with its devolved government and intention to hold a referendum on independence, has long been idolized by the party as a pioneer in the quest for independence. In his rhetoric, party leader Maroni portrays the SNP as an ally attempting to ‘change Europe’. Similarly, on hearing news of the referendum, party members were quoted toasting the SNP’s and Salmond’s success, with their newspaper La Padania calling it a victory in the ‘spirit of the Scottish national hero William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace’. In another bout of solidarity the Lega sent some of its youth wing to the September rally in Edinburgh as part of ‘the struggle for freedom’.

For the SNP, this supposed alliance should be worrying; the Lega is islamophobic and eurosceptic. Massimo Bitonci, the mayor of Citadella and a member of the Lega, banned the sale of kebabs because he did not ‘like the smell’.

Furthermore, the party includes Alex Salmond in their xenophobic propaganda, hailing his success in 2007 as a victory against the ‘Islamification’ and ‘Turkification’ of Europe.

Though the SNP is not to blame for the appeal it has to right-wing nationalists such as Italy’s Lega Nord, it should be aware that the implications of its actions are not confined to these shores. The prospect of Scottish independence causing a domino effect, not just in Italy but also more realistically in Catalonia and Flanders, remains possible, if remote.

Speaking to The Journal, Dr Daniel Kenealy, a lecturer in European Union studies at The University of Edinburgh, argued that it would be naive to think that Scottish independence would not affect other European separatist movements, stating that “if Scotland were to become independent, then it would be a rallying point, it would be very symbolic.” He was careful to stress, however, that Scottish independence would probably not prove a ‘game changer’ for those movements, suggesting that ‘issues specific to the context’ would be more relevant. David Martí, currently undertaking a PhD in territorial politics in Scotland and Catalonia reiterated that position. In a statement for The Journal, Martí said that “the prospect of Scottish independence may boost the spirits of independence supporters in Catalonia, Flanders and elsewhere. However, important differences remain between all these cases and general statements should be avoided.”

For many separatist movements, such as those in Italy, Catalonia and Flanders, the motivation to secede is partly financial: these regions, like Scotland, believe they would be better off alone. It is difficult to imagine, for instance, that an independent region formed by the Lega Nord would be generous in its dealings with its southern neighbour when the main raison d’etre of the party is to prevent northern GDP trickling southwards. Similarly, Catalonia, dubbed the ‘Germany of Spain’ due to its high GDP and industrialization, reluctantly sees 8 per cent of its GDP line coffers in Madrid while austerity measures travel in the opposite direction; an independent Catalonia would surely see to it that this arrangement was changed.

While the various independence movements share the motivation to secede for financial reasons, there is one crucial difference: Scotland is not as crucial to the rest of the UK as these other regions are to their respective states.

Thus, while suggesting that Scottish independence would directly cause other so-called ‘stateless nations’ to secede is, according to Kenealy, 'overselling it', but the SNP should be aware of the symbolic effect that independence would have on these movements. An independent Scotland would provide pro-secessionist groups with a clear process to achieve independence and answers to questions about the place of newly independent states in the EU. Whatever the outcome, Europe’s eyes will be fixed on Scotland for a while to come.

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