In a much less violent and more democratic way than history is accustomed to, Scotland was afforded the opportunity to vote their way to independence. Ultimately Scotland decided to stay with the United Kingdom. Although it may seem to some that an opportunity was wasted, the Scots’ decision to stay united is not a total lost and can be seen as a chance to question whether or not the time is right for other countries or regions longing for independence to hold a referendum of their own.
Ranging in desire, seriousness and urgency, there are regions seeking independence across the globe. The following countries can certainly be included on this list and perhaps may find a newly lit spark thanks to Scotland’s bold referendum.
Certainly one of the more well-known separatist movements, Catalonia in the northeastern portion of Spain has long called for the region to become it’s own separate sovereign state. The region has roots dating back to the 11th Century with a rocky and muddled history that includes in the late 1970s Catalonia adopting the Spanish Constitution in an attempt to support democracy. However, with its own provincial government, statute of autonomy, and different language, the Catalonian people have well-aligned themselves to achieve freedom.
Interestingly, the Catalonia region in Spain is home to seven million people, is the most industrialized area of the country and hosts the most economic vitality in the troubled Spanish economy. In other words, Catalonia is a key asset for Spain, one it is not willing to easily part with. Nonetheless, with its European brethren establishing a referendum on independence, the Catalan people have a newly found zeal to pursue independence.
In fact the day after Scotland voted, the Catalan parliament voted to give its regional president the authority to call an independence “consultation.” Following in 10 Downing Street’s footsteps, the Spanish government admonished the vote, calling it foolish. Although technically this call for a referendum may be against the Spanish constitution, the newly reenergized spirit in the region and the economic woes of Spain may lead to something more for the Catalan people.
Sitting in the French-speaking portion of Canada, Quebec has gathered a large national identity that has well-defined itself away from the rest of Canada. Like Scotland, Quebec has a strong nationalist movement that has long called for independence and the preservation of the French-Quebec way of life. However, unlike Scotland, Quebec’s provincial government has far more power. Meaning there was substantial worry from the anti-independence movement in Quebec that a yes vote in Scotland would spur on serious independence talks in Quebec.
Although relieved, the worry isn’t over yet. The last vote for independence in Quebec in 1995 ended with an incredibly close result with 50.5 percent of Quebecers voting against independence. And with the conservative policies of Stephen Harper being widely criticized in both Quebec and the rest of Canada, a vote may not be far off the horizon.
Kurdistan has gained prominence in recent months in their own independence fight thanks to the brutal battle with ISIS across the northern region of Iraq and Syria. The Kurdish people reside in this area as well as in Turkey and Iran. Within this region the people have developed their own language, culture and strong identification towards their own state of Kurdistan.
With their geopolitical location, oil-rich land, war-torn borders, and all around instability, the Kurdish people are certainly the group with the lowest chance of achieving a referendum for independence on this list. It is important to note that the Kurds have been fighting for their own sovereign, peaceful and secular country for thousands of years and they have faced a huge amount of inequality as sectarian violence has dominated the attention of their overseeing governments.
This does not mean that the Kurds are not taking note of Scotland’s referendum and planning how they can to find a way towards the freedom they have been calling for. With the battle against ISIS relying on the assistance of the Kurds, it’s fair to wonder if the Iraqi Kurds could manage to get their own state once the ISIS battle is over.
These three regions are far from the only regions in the world that are seeking to govern their own sovereign state. In some cases, like Tibet, people are hoping to escape an oppressive government that quells their culture and ideology and prohibits free exercise of their religion. In much less dire circumstances, regions like the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica, the Flanders region in Belgium and the Venetian region of Italy all cite cultural differences and history as reasons to break apart from their respective nation state.
With countries and regions across the world searching for a way to find independence, Scotland’s vote should serve as a reminder for the importance of freedom and the right to be able to open the debate for independence in order to, if nothing else, gain more rights and greater cultural autonomy at home.