The Scottish independence referendum of 2014, and the Brexit referendum of 2016 have led to a growing appreciation of Scotland’s distinctiveness amongst the European media. As a Scots Italian who moved to Italy 15 years ago, the “No, I’m not English” response was often met with a respectful smile and an engaging chat on some Scottish cliches such as whisky, tartan and, the old classic, Braveheart!
Much of the European media reporting on Scotland at that time was limited and sporadic. A growing appreciation in the Italian media of Scotland’s distinctiveness, first noticed in 2014, has increased markedly since 2016.
Possibility of another referendum grips European media
The day after the Brexit vote, La Repubblica, the centrist Rome-based national had the headline, “The anger of Scotland and Northern Ireland”. Not only did it report that all 32 unitary authorities in Scotland had voted to remain in the European Union but noted that Nicola Sturgeon’s call of, “We are Europeans” would, inevitably, lead to increased calls for a second independence referendum.
Sturgeon’s announcement of a proposed second independence referendum was widely reported across European media platforms. Il Giorno, the left leaning Milan based newspaper, reported that the impetus for calling a second referendum was the result of “a material change” in circumstances caused by Brexit. The paper reported Sturgeon claimed that Scotland had “paid the price” for the failed independence referendum of 2014. The article noted that, together with Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland with its own Parliament, has autonomous legislative power over issues such as education and public health.
This increased awareness of ‘us’ across European media enhances Scotland’s profile and, more importantly, how it’s governed. Perhaps the Scottish Government should be building on this to help both the EU and its citizens understand how Scotland functions. This may then secure Scotland’s distinct place within Europe.
From a wider European context, the German newspaper, Der Spiegal not only set out a similar theme, but also had a snap poll asking its readers whether Scotland should be independent. Of the 17,000 votes cast to date 60% have voted yes, 28% no, with 12% don’t knows. This is reflective of a growing European interest in what is happening in Scotland. Although, this perhaps reflects more enlightened journalism that respects its readership unlike, say, of some of the English mainstream media.
Scotland’s enhanced legitimacy sparks a wider conversation
Key Scottish cultural stereotypes will continue to come up in conversation for Scots living within the EU. However, thanks to an increasingly informed European media, questions over Scotland’s distinctive social and political direction are now also forming part of this wider conversation.
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