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Sovereigntists need to stop crying over someone else’s choice

by Robin Stanford September 30, 2014
Sovereigntists need to stop crying over someone else’s choice

It’s a Scotland for Scotland, and not for you.

Bernard Landry, the former Parti Québécois (PQ) premier, said the message from the Scottish referendum ‘is not all that negative’ for Quebec separatists because ‘practically half’ of Scottish voters chose independence.”

This statement, published in the National Post on Sept. 19, shows a bizarre trend in how we view the separatist debate in Quebec. Both sides of the issue have been living vicariously through the Scottish independence debate. As a result, the foreign movement has been invaded by politicians from Quebec’s past, even though they have no right to be there.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who led the anti-separation forces in Quebec’s 1995 referendum, acted as advisor to United Kingdom officials on their campaign. On the other side of the debate, according to the CBC, low-profile meetings were held last year between Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois.

“Jean Chretien spoke to the UK government about separation in the days leading up to the Scottish Referendum. (Tourisme Mauricie/Flickr)”

Although from the point of view of the UK and Scottish leaders it makes sense to bring in the experience of someone who has lived through a similar situation, it still seems odd. When the Quebec referendums happened in 1980 and 1995, neither side asked officials from another country for advice. Perhaps there was no one who could advise on such a vote, but there were many countries from the former USSR who could have advised on how to self-govern.

The reason, perhaps, that no outside opinions were asked is the longstanding view that Canada and Quebec are unique. Both have a unique history, culture and relationship with one another that no other nation could speak to. It is odd, then, that although it was felt that no one could advise them, they now stand ready to give advice. The logic may be that Scotland in its current form is like Quebec.

There are many similarities between the populations in terms of their economic prosperity. According to their respective governments, Quebec currently has a population of 8 million, while Scotland is home to 5.5 million. Similarly, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Quebec in 2010 was $300 billion, while Scotland sported a GDP of $216 billion US.

But this is where the similarities end. It is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact that Quebec is a province within Canada, while Scotland is its own country within the UK. As such, Scotland has legal, educational and public systems independent from the UK. Although these are in place in Quebec too, they are still within the larger Canadian systems. This makes Scotland an already half-formed independent nation.

Furthermore, conflating the two populations negates hundreds of years of history unique to each. Any Quebec historian would understand the deep ramifications of the quiet revolution, or the fundamental language inequality which led to the first sovereignty campaign, neither of which happened across the pond.

Indeed, Scotland has its own reasons for wanting separation from the UK. Comparing the two situations takes away from that.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that as Québecois, we pride ourselves on the shared heritage and culture that make us truly special, yet through meddling and comparing ourselves to Scotland we send the opposite message to the world.

We are special…. Just like them.

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