Referendum puts Scotland in global spotlight

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By a Newsnet reporter

Alex Salmond’s announcement that the referendum on independence will be held in autumn 2014 has sparked an unprecedented level of international interest from the world’s media on Scotland.

Scotland and the SNP are no strangers to media interest; from the historic victory at the 2007 Scottish elections to last year’s landslide result …

By a Newsnet reporter

Alex Salmond’s announcement that the referendum on independence will be held in autumn 2014 has sparked an unprecedented level of international interest from the world’s media on Scotland.

Scotland and the SNP are no strangers to media interest; from the historic victory at the 2007 Scottish elections to last year’s landslide result when the Scottish people delivered a resounding SNP majority at the Scottish Parliament.  However, the referendum date announcement has scaled new previously unknown levels of worldwide coverage.

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson described the First Minister – who is currently in the Middle East signing a ground-breaking deal on renewables – as “the canniest political operator in these isles”.  This sentiment wasn’t confined to London alone as international enquiries kept the phones ringing red hot at the SNP’s Central Office.

Digital media has seen a spike too, with Facebook pages packed with the stories about the SNP being ahead of the David Cameron’s anti-independence gang’s game, and Twitter timelines filled with trending topics including #Indyref, #ItsStarted, #SNP, #Salmond and #Scotland.  Newsnet Scotland has also seen a marked increase in visitors this week with a near 40% jump in visitor numbers.

The news of the referendum made headlines across Europe.  Le Monde from France reported that the SNP will have enough time to convince Scots of the credibility of the economic case for independence while Pravda from Moscow reported:  “The right to independent existence of the Scots is more deserved than any other separatist region of Europe.”

In Spain, Catalan, Basque and Galician independence activists were thrilled by the news of Scotland’s referendum, and message boards and websites have been full of discussion of the news.  The Spanish newspaper El País, no supporter of Catalan or Basque aspirations to independence, noted:

“The relations between Scotland and England are in need of clarification.  In 1997 a process of autonomy was begun, which we well know in Spain must be dynamic.  The British premier ought to take note that his growing Eurosceptism and the marginalisation into which it is carrying his country may alienate a Scotland which is far more comfortable within the European family”

In the United States, the New York Times reported that Prime Minister David Cameron appeared set on a “shoot-out” with Scotland, an approach which the paper described as a “big gamble”.  The Huffington Post, also from the USA, noted that Cameron’s intervention had provoked a large surge in membership for the SNP.

The Australian Sydney Morning Herald carried a headline saying that Cameron’s intervention in the debate had triggered a backlash in Scotland, while the New Zealand Herald simply stated: “Independence beckons for Scotland.”

Meanwhile the Canadian media report that Quebec nationalists plan to bolster ties with the SNP, and will offer advice on the forthcoming referendum.  The Parti Quebecois has held two referendums on independence for the Francophone province of Quebec, both of which ultimately failed, however the second referendum came within one percentage point of success. 

Bernard Landry, a former PQ premier of Quebec said:  “If I have one bit of advice to offer, it is that they take all the necessary precautions so that the referendum is equal for all sides and honest.  The federal government didn’t do that here … They violated the spirit of our laws.”

Humza Yousaf, SNP MSP for Glasgow, said:

“It has been a phenomenal start to 2012; David Cameron and his Lib Dem and Labour anti-independence pack look lost, while Alex Salmond and the SNP continue to keep moving Scotland forward and the level of interest from the media in England, Ireland, across Europe and beyond has been remarkable.

“I personally have done interviews and spoke with journalists working for media organisation from Australia, Catalonia, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

“It is really encouraging for the drive towards independence to have this level of interest focused on Scotland, as is the level of warmth and support my colleagues and I have received from new friends from overseas.

“People recognise Scotland as an ambitious, outward looking and progressive nation. Now, far beyond these shores, it is understood that our noble desire for self-determination is within the grasp of the people of Scotland.”