Why Scotland is more like Canada than Quebec: Opinion piece by Harry McGrath

“So, rather than see the independence issue in Scotland as just another version of Quebec, it looks to me a lot more like the small ‘n’ Canadian nationalism of the 1970s onward: welcoming, inclusive, peaceful.”  -Harry McGrath, 2012

 

An exciting time in Scotland now with the possibilities for independence as the polls are showing a race that is neck-to-neck. The winner of the referendum vote will most likely cross the finish line and win by a nose, with some news outlets seeing a YES vote winning that race.

Thus the Academic Entrepreneur was referred to a piece by a friend who also understands that the Scottish case for independence parrallels Canada itself, and not Quebec. Canada is an even better analogy than the Arc of Prosperity states.

This was published by the Montreal Gazette in 2012 and written by Harry McGrath, who is as Scot from Edinburgh.

See the full article here, orginiallyy published in 2012 here: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Opinion+independent+Scotland+could+look+like+Canada/7634968/story.html

 

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Opinion: Independent Scotland could look like … Canada?

Opinion: Independent Scotland could look like … Canada?

Harry McGrath is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the online editor of the Scottish Review of Books and former coordinator of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University in B.C.

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Comparing a future independent Scotland to other places is all the rage.

Visions of Scotland as a new Ireland or new Iceland have come and gone, their reputations as thriving small countries shredded by banking meltdowns and financial collapses. Comparisons with Nordic states are ongoing, but none is a perfect fit.

The recent Edinburgh Agreement between Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, which laid the groundwork for a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, has unleashed a fresh series of comparisons — this time, between Scotland and other places with independence movements.

Foremost among these is Quebec, which is deemed to be similar to Scotland because it has already experienced two independence referendums. However, the independence movement in Quebec differs from that in Scotland in at least two fundamental ways: creating a new country is not the same as restoring the independence of an old one, and Scotland has no equivalent of the language issue that has been so definitive in Quebec.

From a Scots-Canadian perspective, the closest parallel between Scotland and anywhere else is not Quebec, Ireland, Iceland, or Norway — it’s Canada. Indeed, it is Groundhog Day for people like me who lived in Canada for many years and live in Scotland now.

Scottish government rhetoric in favour of multiculturalism and immigration distinguishes it from other parts of the British body politic, but is very familiar to Canadian ears.

Ditto a recent consultation on gay marriage that unleashed exactly the same apocalyptic arguments against it that were heard in Canada before it was legalized in 1995.

Ditto the headline debate at the last Scottish National Party conference that confirmed party policy on withdrawing nuclear weapons from Scotland but voted in favour of membership of NATO. That debate raged in Canada from the 1960s until the squadron at Comox on Vancouver Island flew the last nuclear weapons back to the United States in 1984, leaving Canada a non-nuclear member of NATO.

This paralleling of the Canadian experience in Scotland has gone largely unnoticed on both sides of the Atlantic. Over here, comparisons between Scotland and Canada tend to be seen as historical rather than contemporary; in Canada anything with the words ‘independence’ or ‘referendum’ attached to it is viewed through the prism of Quebec.

However, there is definitely something going on, even if it is subliminal. It’s almost de rigueur in Scotland for politicians and others to use the saying “Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation” and attribute it to Scottish writer Alasdair Gray. In fact, Gray paraphrased it from a line in Canadian Dennis Lee’s iconic poem Civil Elegies published in the early 1970s. Back then, Pierre Trudeau was reinventing Canada as a European-style social democracy with a unique maple-leaf twist.

So, rather than see the independence issue in Scotland as just another version of Quebec, it looks to me a lot more like the small ‘n’ Canadian nationalism of the 1970s onward: welcoming, inclusive, peaceful.

Ironically, Scotland’s pursuit of this vision could see it pass Canada going in the other direction. Unusually, perhaps uniquely, certain sections of the British press that once held Canada in the highest esteem are now openly accusing it of deserting the principles that made it great.

Harry McGrath is the online editor of the Scottish Review of Books, and a former coordinator of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University in B.C

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