Scotland, in the end, decided not to be independent. However, it did encourage other separatist movements, many of which supported Scottish referendum. There is evidence that Catalonians from Spain helped the ‘Yes’ vote campaign and many Kashmiris in Scotland and England supported Mr. Salmond’s Scottish National Party, not for any love for an independent Scotland but for its positive implications for Kashmir region. Despite the negative results, referendum has shown that there is no need for fighting or killing for independence in the 21st century. As Jonah Blank, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, writes in the Foreign Policy after the Scottish referendum.
Almost every modern nation has some sort of local separatist movement, and the international community views nearly all of them either with indifference or contempt. Merely to be considered a quasi-legitimate candidate for independence, a group generally has to suffer generations of brutality bordering on genocide. Even then, the odds aren't great. Just ask the Kurds.
The vote in Scotland shows what modern-day secessionism should look like. What if an ethnic group didn't have to justify its bid for a separate state through a saga of historical oppression, or seek to achieve it through a violent insurgency? What if the standard for independence were nothing more than the statement: "We want out." London agreed to take aye for an answer.
Blank, however, does not remember that it was Canada that first showed the world the ‘mature’ way to deal with separatist movements. The two referenda (1980 and 1995) for Quebec independence were held at a time when there was no social media, not even internet for most of the humanity, so their impact was limited but a precedent was, nevertheless, set.
Blank lists five separatist movements (Kashmir, Tamil Eelam, Papua, Pattani and Tibet &Xinjiang) from Asia and the question is would these movements succeed in getting their independence referenda?
It looks improbable. Both Canada and Great Britain were consolidated democracies when they gave the secessionists option of staying with the union or independence. The separatist movements listed by Blank are fighting against India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and Indonesia. None of these states are consolidated liberal democracies. Infact, these states have a long history of using violence to thwart separatist movements within their borders.
The current leadership (except perhaps in Indonesia) and atmosphere in these countries does not inspire much confidence about the future. Rabid extreme nationalism is on the rise and anyone not following the ‘patriotic’ line is branded a traitor, a stooge of foreign powers trying to destroy the ‘great’ nation. Thinking of referendum, like the one in Scotland, is absurd when even asking for basic minority rights is considered sedition. Unfortunately, the press and big business have also joined the fray and rather than advising reason and caution, they are inflaming atavistic passions. This dismal state of affairs is, however, not limited to these countries only. Current or previous leaders in Turkey, Hungary, Pakistan and Russia have also used nationalism to advance their illiberal policies and to stifle minority rights. Depending on time, space and audience, this extreme nationalism allies with democracy, development, ethnicity or religion.
So, in my view, for a large part of humanity, unfortunately independence would still require ‘suffering generations of brutality, bordering on genocide’.