Independence Movements Rise When Governments Don't Engage, Warns Academic

By McCall, Chris | The Scotsman, August 23, 2018 | Go to article overview

Independence Movements Rise When Governments Don't Engage, Warns Academic


McCall, Chris, The Scotsman


A breakdown in dialogue between central and regional governments only strengthens breakaway independence campaigns, a leading historian has warned in a landmark comparative study of Scotland and Catalonia.

Sir John Elliott, an expert on Spanish history and one of the UK's most prominent historians, said "a failure of imagination" too often led to rows between devolved governments in Edinburgh and Barcelona and the central authorities in London and Madrid.

The academic has examined the social, political and historical factors of both pro-independence movements in a new book, Scots & Catalans: Union & Disunion.

Its publication by Yale University Press comes as the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster is tested over Brexit, while Catalonia is split over the aftermath of a hugely controversial independence referendum staged in the northeastern Spanish province last year. "The failure of dialogue is the result of a failure of imagination - of the ability to put oneself into another's shoes and grasp the power of sentiment," Sir John writes.

"This failure of imagination has all too often bedevilled relations between Edinburgh and London on the one hand and Madrid and Barcelona on the other, creating an impasse where bridges might otherwise have been built.

"Dialogue alone is not enough to solve longstanding and complex problems of mutual accommodation, but whenever dialogue ceases, one more obstacle on the road to independence is removed, and secession comes closer to being the final response."

Sir John, whose books are published under the name JH Elliott, is a former regius professor of modern history at the University of Oxford. Having written about Spanish history for five decades, he found himself wondering "if there were any parallels between the two movements that might be worth exploring". …

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