Scotland pitches to become independent; Quebec is watching closely

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond holds the referendum white paper on independence during its launch in Glasgow, Scotland November 26, 2013. An independent Scotland would keep the British pound, the queen and remain in the European Union but have its own defence force and collect its own taxes, Salmond said on Tuesday. In a 670-page blueprint aimed at convincing Scots they should vote on Sept. 18 next year to end a 306-year union with England, Salmond said there would be no need to increase taxes if Scotland broke away. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)

The government of Scotland released its strategy for becoming an independent nation on Tuesday and there is little doubt their separatist counterparts in Quebec are taking notice.

The 650-page independence blue print, titled Scotland's Future, outlines in detail what the country would look like if and once it separates from the United Kingdom. A referendum is to be held next September.

Quebec nationalists have long been in contact with likeminded Scots, especially since Parti Quebecois Premier Pauline Marois assumed power last year. Marois and Scottish leader Alex Salmond met privately earlier this year, and there has been open comparisons between their missions to separate from Canada and the U.K. respectively.

Indeed, Salmond appeared completely aware of the precedent being set when he released the blue print on Tuesday.

"This is the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent nation,” Salmond announced, according to the Globe and Mail.

“The key point here is one of choice. Unless we are independent we won’t have the ability to make these choices.”

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According to the blue print, Scotland would continue using the British pound, the Bank of England and keep the Queen. They would remain part of key alliances such as the European Union, and move forward with a plan to join NATO as a full member.

Key policies will include maintaining its current income tax rate and reform its immigration practices to increase population flow into the country.

According to the Scotsman, Scotland's finances are healthier than the U.K. as a whole, which would help the country land on its feet after independence.

An independent Scotland would have its own passport and any British citizen who is "habitually resident" in Scotland, and anyone with Scottish ancestry, would qualify for citizenship.

Many of these points, which would still need to be negotiated pending the result of Scotland's referendum next year, sound like heaven to Quebec.

Some sketches of an independent Quebec have them retaining the Canadian currency and monetary system, although one presumes the Queen could be the first thing to go.

The PQ pledged to remain in NATO and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), although the extent of their effectiveness would be in doubt.

Most most importantly, the province's precarious economic situation does not leave them in as comfortable position as Scotland. iPolitics.ca's Zach Paikin wrote last year that Quebec's debt was work 61.7 per cent of its GDP. Presuming secession negotiations included Quebec taking on a piece of the federal debt, and considering other economic effects of leaving Canada, an independent Quebec would begin as a financial catastrophe.

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There are, of course, plenty of differences that make comparisons between Scotland and Quebec difficult. Not the least of which is the language barrier, which seems to made battle lines hard and less forgiving.

As University of Cambridge history professor Lee Tunstall wrote in the Huffington Post earlier this year, there is also the way they came to join the union. Quebec became part of Britain after France lost at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Scotland actually negotiated its union in 1707.

Since then, Scotland has entered talks with England over devolution. Quebec has held two contentious referenda.

Still, there is little doubt Marois and her team are taking a close look at Scotland’s blue print for independence. They probably aren’t the only ones, either.