Winds of separation hits Europe

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By Paul Martin

At a time when the EU’s future is at stake due to the economic crisis, Scotland will hold a vote of independence, Belgium’s polls winner urges a reshaping of federalism and Catalan seeking split

Britain’s prime minister and Scotland’s first minister approved plans yesterday for a referendum on Scottish independence, in a move that could lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom after 300 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposes a Scottish breakaway, signed the deal in Edinburgh with Scotland’s pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond, firing the starting gun on two years of campaigning. London gave Scotland’s administration the power to conduct the referendum in the autumn of 2014, offering Scots a straight yes-no question on leaving the U.K.

“Scotland’s two governments have come together to deliver a referendum that will be legal, fair and decisive,” Cameron said, according to a draft of his remarks released ahead of the meeting. “It is now up to the people of Scotland to make that historic decision.” Cameron’s Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the opposition Labour party are urging voters to keep Britain together.
The marathon campaign will pit them against Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP), the majority party in the devolved Edinburgh parliament. The support among Scots for independence appears to be slipping, with a survey by pollsters TNS-BMRB released last week showing 28 percent in favor and 53 percent opposed.

Belgium urged change to federal state

Another recent development that may lead to the split of an EU member came from Belgium where the Flemish nationalist leader scored a breakthrough election win Oct. 14 and urged for a radical re-shape the federal state. Hailing a “historic” victory for himself in Antwerp with big gains right across the wealthy Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in local polls, Bart De Wever said Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and his coalition partners should “assume responsibility.”

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