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Shades of Nationalism – Scotland and Ukraine

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Re-birth of a Nation?

‘Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind’, Winston Chuchill

Alex Salmond is giving the Scots a once in a generation chance to become and independent nation state. Yet current polls suggest that while the ‘Yes’ side is gaining momentum, the ‘No’ side is still the favourite. This is despite what’s been an almost universal negative campaign from the Noes. There have been scare stories about the Pound and Europe – the message being; you’re free to vote whichever way you want but the following very bad things will or won’t happen if you vote ‘Yes’. Salmond is in the Shroedinger’s Cat position of either being the greatest Scottish Nationalist since Robert the Bruce or just another failed politician who over-promised and under-delivered. The campaign still has almost seven months to run and there’s bound to be a few more surprises in the offing. Alistair Darling has been criticised as an anti-charisma Leader on the ‘No’ side but he is a good example of where slow and steady could end up winning the race. If the antis stay on message and remain consistent in their narrative, they could go on to win; and this would be an historic lost opportunity for the independence movement.

The alternative approach by the Naes, the somewhat patronising Westminster Tone of showing the Scots some Love, may not be to the favour of the Northern Tribes. While at Elections most people vote with their wallets, such an emotive issue as Independence may come down to a gut feeling rather than fear of living costs. Do the majority of Scots favour the status quo of a version of Home Rule with a separate culture, Football and Rugby team? Or do they want to go the full hog-many (groan) and become a Nation once again? The recent rival cabinet meetings in Aberdeen – Coalition on one side, SNP on the other was an example of the symbolic campaigning that will take place between now and September. This is a vote as much about sentiment as it is about financial security and Salmond knows that his best chance of a ‘Yes’ win is to engender the ‘Braveheart’ Factor. This is a once in a generation opportunity for the Scots – a ‘Yes’ vote would have profound effects on the United Kingdom. The Labour Party could struggle to form a majority government in England and Wales. It is a massive ‘game changer’. 

Russia and Europe’s Faultline

The revolution in Ukraine is a clear demonstration, if one were required, of the fault-line between Russia and the West (EU and USA). It’s easy to understand Ukraine’s strategic position for Russia – it is in their backyard, with a history underscored by war and conflict. The current upheaval presents a real challenge for the EU and US; what happens if Russia sends in the tanks? Or, and more frightening in terms of loss of life and suffering, what should the West do if the country descends into civil war and Ukraine becomes another Syria or Yugoslavia?

There is a real dilemma for policy makers and diplomats – talk too tough and you encourage the view of the West ganging up on the Russians and making it look like they’re out to destabilize the region. Talk too softly and you are seen to let the Ukrainian people down in their hour of need or maybe even put them in harms way by encouraging the democracy movement to move beyond the sphere of EU and US support. Regional and international conflicts have broken out over less and the key players will above all want to contain any military adventurism coming from the Russians. The current loss of life has been horrendous – it must be an  ongoing aim of the West to work with Russia (if possible) to prevent any more lives being lost over a regional chess game. The UN could play an important role in facilitating the path to full parliamentary democracy. The dangers ahead are many; the IMF ‘rescuing’ the country with severe spending cuts is one such possibility which could dissuade pro-European Ukrainians from their EU enthusiasm. The country may split in two as the Russians seek to maintain their strategic hold. Or there could be years of awful conflict ahead. The collapse of the Iron Curtain is still rippling in the present – let us hope that there can be a peaceful solution to a seemingly intractable problem. The danger for Europe and the World if not is potentially catastrophic.

 

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