Nationalism and separatist movements are back in the public spotlight, thanks to the recent Scottish referendum, and it has been a long time since they were last scrutinised so thoroughly.
In attempts to break away from the most obvious story dominating headlines during the build-up towards the vote, almost every single news outlet – Monocle 24 included – decided to analyse how the referendum might be being perceived in different parts of the world other than the UK.
Without a doubt this was an interesting angle but after hearing about Catalonia in Spain, Veneto in Italy or Kurdistan for the fifth time in one day, I couldn’t help but wonder about how important the Scotland vote really was for other nations. Could the outcome of the referendum in Scotland actually change the scenarios abroad?
My home of Madeira – an island under Portuguese rule in the middle of the Atlantic – was a good place to start. As expected, some media outlets there were trying to analyse the views of those in the Portuguese archipelago: the so-called “autonomous regions” that operate almost as separate states bound only by Portugal’s constitution.
But the result has been merely vague headlines and not so leading leads. Even though the figurehead of our local government, Alberto João Jardim, has been campaigning for independence for more than three decades, the truth is that so far the Scottish vote or even the potential Catalan one seem to be having hardly any influence on his doctrine.
One of the definitions of nationalism in the Oxford English Dictionary is the “advocacy of political independence for a particular country.” So I must ask, if this is country-specific, why have we recently tried to use one individual example of progress – Scotland – and attempted to make it global?
The goal of most separatist movements is to achieve self-determination and secure the identity of a specific region or culture. It’s about showing how a particular location is different from anywhere else around the globe. So what works for one campaign might not necessarily work for another.
I won’t say that the Scottish referendum went completely unnoticed. In Spain, for example, when Scotland was headed to the polling stations, Catalonia was still trying to fight for the right to a legitimate vote. Scotland’s achievements must have been very inspiring to see. But I highly doubt that we will find anyone in the future saying, “The Scottish referendum allowed my region to gain independence.” Because the point of gaining independence is to be able to figure things out on your own.
Carlota Rebelo is a researcher for Monocle 24.