From a Scots-Canadian perspective, the closest parallel between Scotland and anywhere else is not Quebec, Ireland, Iceland, or Norway — it’s Canada. Indeed, it is Groundhog Day for people like me who lived in Canada for many years and live in Scotland now.
Scottish government rhetoric in favour of multiculturalism and immigration distinguishes it from other parts of the British body politic, but is very familiar to Canadian ears.
Ditto a recent consultation on gay marriage that unleashed exactly the same apocalyptic arguments against it that were heard in Canada before it was legalized in 1995.
Ditto the headline debate at the last Scottish National Party conference that confirmed party policy on withdrawing nuclear weapons from Scotland but voted in favour of membership of NATO. That debate raged in Canada from the 1960s until the squadron at Comox on Vancouver Island flew the last nuclear weapons back to the United States in 1984, leaving Canada a non-nuclear member of NATO.
This paralleling of the Canadian experience in Scotland has gone largely unnoticed on both sides of the Atlantic. Over here, comparisons between Scotland and Canada tend to be seen as historical rather than contemporary; in Canada anything with the words ‘independence’ or ‘referendum’ attached to it is viewed through the prism of Quebec.
However, there is definitely something going on, even if it is subliminal. It’s almost de rigueur in Scotland for politicians and others to use the saying “Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation” and attribute it to Scottish writer Alasdair Gray. In fact, Gray paraphrased it from a line in Canadian Dennis Lee’s iconic poem Civil Elegies published in the early 1970s. Back then, Pierre Trudeau was reinventing Canada as a European-style social democracy with a unique maple-leaf twist.