In Scotland’s Image: Utilization of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum in Catalonia, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine

McCormac, Heather [Browse]
Senior thesis
118 pages


James, Harold [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Secession, the formal withdrawal from a central political authority by a member unit or units on the basis of a claim to independent sovereign status, is an increasing problem for nation-states today. The countries of Europe, and members of the European Union in particular, are heavily affected by this trend towards separation and the threats to territorial integrity that it poses, with secessionist movements going strong in regions and cities such as Catalonia, Flanders, and Venice. On September 18, 2014, Scottish nationalists actually received a chance from the UK government to obtain their dreams of independence, when in a Scotland-wide referendum the question was put to the vote. The international community worried about the aftermath of a Yes victory, specifically about the possibility of a “domino effect” across Europe. Therefore, it breathed a sigh of relief when a No result was returned, but even this was not enough to stop the setting of a Scottish precedent. In the end, it turned out that it was the vote itself that mattered, not the outcome. This paper looks at the cases of Catalonia, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine in an attempt to analyze how other secessionist movements have utilized the 2014 Scottish independence referendum in pursuit of their own goals, more specifically to promote and justify their own independence referendums. It finds that Catalonia and Crimea and Eastern Ukraine each developed their own “Scottish model”: defined as the “Western” and “Russian” model respectively. While these models differ from each other in content, each one is influenced by at least one of the four following concepts: democracy, defined as an expression of self-determination, legitimacy of the referendum as a formal and binding act, permission from the central government to hold the referendum, and electoral procedure that complies with international norms.

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