Scotland, Quebec and Sovereignty

September 19th, 2014 by CIVIX

This week in school, we spoke a lot about sovereignty. It wasn’t based on the upcoming referendum in Scotland, it’s just the place from which you start when discussing politics.

Every single politics class for the last three years of my degree has discussed sovereignty in some way during the first few weeks. This week it was International Public Law, where we discussed Kosovo’s independence. During Theories of Security, we debated if sovereignty and security were the only defining goals of a State. In European Comparative Politics, we saw when the boundaries of States were definitively drawn through our outline of history since the enlightenment.

That being said, I was very nervous about yesterday’s independence referendum in Scotland. Large political events generally make me anxious. However, this sense of nervousness was more about the fact that the precedence of a nationalistic political split could have been a catalyst for more secessionist movements, including Catalonia, in Spain, and of course, Quebec, in Canada. The successful and recognized split of a nation, especially in a western democracy, could provide a domino effect for powerful nationalistic politics to come into play, and perhaps launch more campaigns focused on referendums and the separation of these nations from their States.

So, I breathed a sigh of relief when the BBC alerted me this morning to the fact that Scotland voted ‘No’ and would remain a part of the United Kingdom. Though I believe that nationhood is important, the changes needed in order to function as a sovereign State may be a farther reach than two years’ away for Scotland. Their people voted with a strong margin against separation, with 55 per cent voting ‘No,’ which seems like an incredibly safe number when compared to Quebec’s slim 50.58 per cent, which narrowly kept the province part of Canada.

This vote has been a turning point for Scotland. Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks after the results repeated his commitment to moving towards more independence and devolution for Scotland’s politics and people. But, no matter the result, the referendum brought back the important discussion of sovereignty to the forefront of politics. It is not often discussed as a concept outside the confines of a political science lecture, but for the sake of cultural and historical nations, maybe it should be.

In many cases, nations can bridge their history, cultures, and differences through continued advocacy, awareness, and devolution. That way, perhaps the issues plaguing nations within States can come to discussion, negotiation, and solution, without having to redraw maps based on precarious margins.

Megan Beretta is a former CIVIX intern who currently studies Political Science and Communication at The University of Ottawa. She is currently studying abroad at the Euro-American Campus of Sciences Po in Reims, France. You can follow Megan on Twitter at @megberetta.

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