Global Policy Forum



Emerging States & Claims to Autonomy and Independence



Picture Credit: Heraldry of the World



Articles and Documents

Scotland "New State" Outside EU, UN if Splits: Britain (February 11, 2013)

The British government has released a legal opinion arguing that, if Scotland were to secede from the United Kingdom, it would have to reapply for membership into various international organizations, including the EU. The release of this legal opinion appears to be part of an effort by David Cameron’s to persuade Scottish voters to vote against Scottish independence in an upcoming referendum. The political implications of secession are manifold, and the warnings from the Cameron administration are disputed by supporters of independence, but it would likely weaken the UK politically. The pro-independence Scottish National Party has argued that the transition to independence would be negotiated, rather than legally preordained, and the UK would be acting against its own interests if it endeavored to prevent Scottish membership in international institutions. (Reuters)

Could Scottish, Catalan Independence Votes Reshape Europe? (February 1, 2013)

Separatist groups in Catalonia and Scotland are both threatening to break away from their respective countries in 2014, causing a great deal of uncertainty and trepidation in Spain and the UK. The growth of these movements since the onset of the region’s economic crisis has raised concerns for the future of other multi-national states, such as Belgium. Though the established political authorities in Europe are predictably concerned over the apparent renaissance of separatist and nationalist sentiments, the peaceful nature of these movements has been impressive. The Scottish independence movement has coordinated a forthcoming referendum with the UK, and while the Spanish government has been less accommodating, the Catalan independence movement has shown little inclination toward violence. This has raised hopes that intra-state disputes in Europe may unfold more peacefully than in the past. (Reuters)

How Does Scotland's Referendum Fit Into David Cameron's EU Plans? (January 27, 2013)

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent announcement that he would support a future referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued participation in the EU has stoked a great deal of conversation and debate. While this announcement was most obviously relevant to the European Union, it also had implications for the upcoming referendum that will determine the nature of Scotland’s relationship with the UK. Cameron’s proposal of a referendum on separating from the EU contrasts with his warnings that Scotland’s separation from the UK would jeopardize its ties with Europe. Essentially, by promising an EU referendum, Cameron may have inadvertently legitimized the arguments of the Scottish nationalists he opposes. (Guardian)

Scotland's Independence Referendum: All to Play For, Whatever the Polls Say (October 16, 2012)

On October 15, Scotland's Alex Salmond and British Prime Minister David Cameron signed a historic 30-clause agreement that would break up the 300-year-old union by allowing a referendum for independence before the end of 2014. While polls indicates that popular support remains weak, Michael White argues that “in turbulent times like these, too much can happen in the next two years to swing the result either way.” The Scottish case might in fact be symptomatic of a global trend: the economic crisis and unpopular austerity policies amplify the popularity of separatist parties and threaten long-time established states, as electoral successes have recently shown in Catalonia, Flanders and Quebec. (Guardian)

Islanders Threaten Rocky Road for Alex Salmond’s Independence Plans (March 19, 2012)

Much of Scotland’s marine energy resources are in the northern isles of Shetland and Orkney. Scotland’s Prime Minister Alex Salmond envisions an independent Scotland to emerge as a green energy powerhouse. But Liberal Democratic Members of the Scottish Parliament see differently. They see little allegiance from the northern isles to Scotland. Many islanders do not consider themselves as Scots, and are often hostile to Edinburgh rule. If Scotland gains independence, the northern isles may refuse to leave the UK, or even declare independence themselves. (Guardian)

Breaking Up Britain? (January 19, 2012)

The composition of the UN Security Council reflects the world as it was in 1945, especially for the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party has set autumn 2014 as the date for voters to decide whether Scotland should secede from the UK. If Scotland gains its independence, the UK will lose almost half of its land mass and 90 percent of its oil and gas reserves. The UK may also lose its deep-water ports, the only safe place in the UK where nuclear deterrents could be harbored. Will Scottish independence pave the way for emerging powers like India or Brazil to challenge the UK’s status on the Security Council? (Al Jazeera)

Scotland’s ‘Independence Generation’ that could Decide Fate of the Union (October 9, 2011)

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is mobilizing young nationalists in an effort to pass revolutionary legislation for a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 or 2015. After 12 years of devolution in Scotland, salient national identity is shifting, and polling data shows 18- to 34-year-olds are often the most pro-independence. Scottish National Party (SNP) demands for Scotland’s greater autonomy and increased economic powers are also directly influencing debates about increasing powers for Wales and Northern Ireland. The shape of the UK is changing. (Guardian)

The Long March to Scotland's Independence Referendum (September 4, 2009)

"British" identity in Scotland has been sold largely on the experience of Britain as an empire and through Britain's role in WWII. Yet harking back to the glory days of the British bulldog no longer stirs strong feelings of "Britishness." As a result, the Unionists are suffering from a crisis of confidence and refuse a referendum on Scottish independence. However, the situation at the moment actually favors the Unionists. If the Conservatives win the general election in 2010 they would do so with a "scant to non-existent" mandate in Scotland, severely weakening the Unionist case.  (open Democracy)

Rule, Britannia, but Maybe Not Over Scotland (July 18, 2008)

Will England and Scotland follow in the footsteps of the former Czechoslovakia with a gradual peaceful separation? This may be a possibility, as Scottish-English relations are at "their uneasiest point in decades." In 1999, the British parliament transferred significant powers to the Scottish Parliament, for example in areas of health and education, in a process called devolution. Although the measure aimed to stem Scottish nationalism, this New York Times article says devolution has increased Scottish claims for independence and led to awkward overlaps between the Scottish and British parliaments.

Scotland May Go Its Own Way (May 2, 2007)

The growing popularity of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has implications for the future of Scotland's inclusion in the UK, reports this Los Angeles Times article. The author argues that if the SNP - which advocates the dissolution of the union between Scotland and England - wins a majority in the May 2007 parliamentary elections, Scotland's government might begin to pursue options for independence by 2010.

For Independence - The Case for Scotland (2007)

This Scottish Independence Convention pamphlet argues that Scotland is a nation with the right to self-determination and that an independent Scotland would make better use of its energy resources while acting as a strong advocate for environmental sustainability on the world stage. The group says that Scotland has difficulty realizing its economic potential because the UK "subordinates" Scottish economic interests and exploits Scottish oil. Instead of "killing nationalism stone dead," the UK's establishment of a Scottish parliament has increased Scottish calls for independence.

National Identities in Post-Devolution Scotland (June 2002)

This article looks at national identity's influence on political attitudes in Scotland. The results of the surveys found that since 1979, more people in Scotland identify themselves as Scottish. However, the effect of national identity on political disposition is not straightforward. There is a complex relationship between Scottishness, support for the Scottish Nationalist Party, and support for Scottish independence. Further, people who identify as British often agree with those who identity as Scottish on issues relating to the actual influence of the Scottish Parliament. (Institute of Governance)

Scottish Devolution: A Historical and Political Analysis (1998-1999)

This article offers a historical and political context to Scottish claims for devolution (increased autonomy) and independence. Since the 1707 Act of Union, Scottish nationalism and opposition to union with England varied in intensity. In 1934, Scotland established its own Scottish Nationalist Party, which called for independence. Scotland held two referendums for devolution in 1979 and 1997. The author argues that the 1997 referendum succeeded because the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats were united in supporting devolution, and because a stronger European Union meant that an independent Scotland would not be economically isolated. (Loyola University Student Historical Journal)



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