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Quebec observers react to Scottish referendum vote

09/18/2014 02:58 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:59 EDT
Parti Québécois MNA Martine Ouellet paid her own way to Scotland to observe today’s vote on independence with an eye on drawing lessons for the sovereignty movement in Quebec.

“I wanted to feel the atmosphere. I think it’s really important. I think [the pro-independence campaign] has a really positive campaign and I want to be here to feel how they’re doing things — on the Yes side but also on the No side,” she told CBC Montreal’s Radio Noon host Shawn Apel from Edinburgh.

One of the key lessons she’s drawn is the way the Yes campaign has taken hold and spread at the grassroots, especially through social media.

“There’s a lot of citizen initiatives and I think that’s really interesting,” she said.

She was also encouraged from the surge in voter support that the Yes campaign enjoyed in the last half of the campaign, going from under 30 per cent of decided voters to around 50 per cent in the final weeks.

“It shows you can have an amazing increase in support during a campaign. That message is really important,” Ouellette said.

Despite it’s “better together” motto, Ouellette said the No campaign has been resorting to fear in the final days of the campaign, which she compared to the federalist campaigns against Quebec sovereignty in 1980 and 1995.  

Different issues in Scotland and Quebec 

Jack Jedwab,  executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, is also in Edinburgh to observe the vote and spoke with Radio Noon.

He echoed Ouellette’s views on the No campaign, which he said has turned to threats about what will happen in the wake of a Yes vote as support for independence grew in the weeks leading up to today.

Jedwab, however, said the supporters of the Yes campaign have not been above intimidating those who were planning to vote against independence.

Jedwab compared to the experience of some Scottish No voters he spoke with to pro-Canada campaigners in largely separatist neighbourhoods of Montreal in 1995.

“You feel the intimidation,” he said.

For Jedwab, the comparisons between Scotland and Quebec don’t go much further than that.

When asked about how a Yes vote might resonate in Quebec, Jedwab said the different realities in Scotland and Quebec made comparisons difficult.

“The comparisons between what’s happening [in Scotland] and a Quebec referendum are at least imperfect. In the case of Quebec, the referendum in 1995 was built around cultural insecurity, around the preservation of the French language. It was very identity based. And in Scotland, it’s not identity based. There is a certain degree of frustration and anger, but the anger is less along cultural lines than is the case in Quebec,” he said.

Jedwab said those differences make replicating the kind of grassroots initiatives that Martin Ouellette found inspiring in Scotland unlikely in Quebec.

“There’s a real serious difference in terms of the types of campaigns and the thematics of the campaigns,” he said.

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