MONTREAL – Prominent Quebec sovereigntists say they hope pro-independence Scots fight to ensure London delivers on its referendum-campaign promises of new powers for Scotland.
Otherwise, they fear the Scottish Yes camp could end up like the Quebecois.
Daniel Turp, who played a key role for the Yes side during Canada’s own hard-fought unity battles, said the Scots are in a position Quebec sovereigntists found themselves in during the 1980 and 1995 referendum campaigns.
“They voted no because to some extent they were promised some more powers or some more devolution, so I guess it’s up to the No camp now to prove that they will abide by their promises,” Turp said Friday in an interview from Scotland.
“And if not, what happened in Quebec will happen in Scotland — there will be another referendum on independence one day.”
READ MORE: Scotland referendum: Independence rejected
Turp, who travelled to Edinburgh for Thursday’s vote, said the No side made pledges during Quebec’s independence-referendum campaigns. Sovereigntists say among the unfulfilled promises was the vow to recognize Quebec as a distinct society.
As recent opinion polls predicted a tight finish in the Scottish referendum, nervous political leaders in Britain promised Scotland’s government “extensive new powers” if voters chose to stay part of the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated that vow Friday after the No campaign prevailed, insisting the commitments to give Scotland more say over tax, spending and welfare would be”honoured in full.”
In his concession speech, Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond said, “Scotland will expect these (pledges) to be honoured in rapid course.”
Maxime Laporte, president of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, also travelled to Scotland for the referendum. He also hoped the Scots would keep pressure on the British government to deliver on its pledges.
“It’s important not to blindly trust the No camp when they’re saying that there will be devolution,” Laporte said Friday in a phone interview from Edinburgh.
“Nothing happened (in Quebec) and since then it’s been the status quo. So it’s important that Scotland keeps on working on its autonomy.”
The success of Scotland’s pro-independence campaign captured the imagination of supporters of Quebec’s down-and-out sovereignty cause. The fractured Quebec movement is searching for ways to rebound after major electoral defeats in recent years.
Laporte, among many Quebec sovereigntists who attended rallies in Scotland on Friday, said the disappointment was evident in the streets among pro-independence supporters.
But he said he also saw optimism.
“Now Scots are saying, as (Parti Quebecois founding father) Rene Levesque said in 1980, … ‘Until the next time.’ I think it can be an inspiration for Quebec,” said Laporte, whose group is dedicated to protecting the French language in Quebec and promoting sovereignty.
“It’s important not to despair. The struggles for independence throughout history have been long — very long for many people.”
A potential PQ leadership candidate who also travelled to Edinburgh for the vote said earlier this week that even a narrow loss for Scotland’s Yes side would feel like a victory.
“Very few people — pretty much nobody — seriously thought the Scots had a chance to win,” said Alexandre Cloutier, who was cautious about drawing parallels between Quebec and Scotland.
For years, surveys have shown most Quebecers oppose the idea of independence. The PQ, the movement’s primary political vehicle, suffered an historic electoral defeat in April after it promoted its sovereignty ambitions during the campaign.
The party is now looking for a new leader and a new way of selling its project to the province.
Scotland became a real-life example.
Support for the Scottish pro-independence movement has climbed in recent months to put it in a dead heat with the pro-union No side. For several years, surveys had pegged support for separatism somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent.
Other PQ members of the legislature were also in Scotland for the referendum. Martine Ouellet and Pierre Karl Peladeau, who are both considered possible leadership candidates, and Mathieu Traversy.
Turp said watching the No campaign win Thursday’s referendum was an emotional experience.
“Not in the same way if it had been my people, but there was a certain sadness,” he said.
“Because I really hoped the Scots would make a choice that we didn’t make in Quebec.”