Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I got a package in the mail today.  A couple of months ago I was looking at the website of the Scottish National Party and ordered its publications about the planned referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

I was born in Scotland, but I left in 1962 at the age of 10.  I  have nostalgic feelings about Scotland as my homeland, but I don't have an adult understanding of how Scotland works.

As a Canadian, I have witnessed the playing out of separatist aspirations of many of the people of Quebec.  As a Canadian I have been on the side of keeping Canada together.  At the same time it is self-evident that Quebec is a "distinct society" within Canada, just as Scotland is a "distinct society" within the UK, as are Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

As a constitutional lawyer, I have been interested in the legal dimensions of separatism.  In Canada these have included a Reference to the Supreme Court of Canada and the development of the Clarity Act to govern future attempts to hold a referendum on the subject.  The ongoing discussion in Scotland, including preparations for a referendum on separation, is taking place with a keen awareness of the Canadian precedents.

So, as a Scot by birth I am sentimentally in favour of Scottish autonomy.  As a Canadian I understand the importance of keeping countries together and at least the arguments against separation.  As a lawyer I find it fascinating that the experience of my adopted country might influence the experience of the country where I was born.

I don't know how I feel about Scottish separatism.  I don't really know how I feel about the nation-state in this twenty-first century.  The circumstances of Scotland and Quebec are very different.  Scotland was a sovereign state that joined England by treaty in 1707.   Quebec has never been recognized as an independent state.

I am going to start reading now.

1 comment:

Stan Pratt said...

There was an excellent article on this subject a week or two ago in macleans. One of the SNP officers is a canuck polish and something else multinational.