Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Globalisation, Regional Integration and the Evolution of the Independence Rhetoric of the PQ and the SNP

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Globalisation, Regional Integration and the Evolution of the Independence Rhetoric of the PQ and the SNP

Article excerpt

Whether it is accomplished peacefully through the democratic process or as a result of violent insurrection, minority nationalist movements will only attain independent statehood if the political elite can successfully rally the masses to support the cause. In the words of Anthony Smith, 'As an ideology, nationalism can take root only if it strikes a popular chord, and is taken up by, and inspires, particular social groups and strata' (1995: viii). Although most scholars working in this field have suggested that nationalist leaders use a discourse designed to appeal exclusively either to the emotions or the reason of the regional group, the reality is such that virtually all nationalist discourses contain elements of both. References to the shared language, customs and history of a people as a means of generating support for independence - the so-called 'blood and belonging' types of appeals (Ignatieff 1993) - are frequently heard alongside arguments that the minority group is being economically exploited, lacks control over policy-making in key areas, or could be more prosperous on its own.

Minority nationalist leaders have been astute enough to appreciate that the best way to mobilise a regional group for independence has been to formulate and articulate a discourse that captures their hearts and imaginations as well as their minds. But for minority nationalist movements in countries of the developed west, where financial prosperity is a foremost concern, the economic arguments tend to predominate. In this chapter, the nationalist mobilisation strategies of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) will be examined, demonstrating that economic arguments have been at the forefront of both debates particularly since changes in the international political economy have provided the minority nationalist leaders with a compelling new discourse from which to promote independence.

Despite the different historical, political and economic contexts in which the nationalist movements in Québec and Scotland emerged, this chapter will demonstrate that the mobilisation strategies of the PQ and the SNP parties were virtually identical. While appeals to the primordial sentiments of Quebeckers and Scots have been heard at various times by the PQ and the SNP, economic considerations have played a far more prominent role in their nationalist discourses, particularly after the Second World War. This is consistent with the claim of the noted political theorist, Gianfranco Poggi (1990), who argued that there has been an economisation of modern western politics. But even though the devotion to economic considerations has been constant in the post-war era, there have been some crucial changes in the nature of the nationalist debates. Specifically, this chapter will assess the impact of changes in the global economy on the tone and content of the nationalists' independence message in the period from the mid-1980s onwards, when there were notable developments both with respect to regional integration and globalisation.

There was an expectation that both the PQ and the SNP not only altered their independence strategies during this time, but that these changes reflected transformations, both political and economic, in the international environment. Others have written about the connection between globalisation and the emergence of a new minority nationalist mobilisation strategy (Newman 2000; Meadwell and Martin 1996; Keating 1996; Meadwell 1993), but these studies have not carefully scrutinised the evolution of the nationalist rhetoric. To that end, in the new global economy, one marked by greater trade liberalisation and where a premium is placed on human resources and adaptability to rapid change, this chapter documents how the nationalist parties shifted the focus of their attention from negative economic security to positive economic advantages. Both parties began to use a rhetoric that was designed to respond to the exigencies of the new international political economy. …

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