POLITICS

Scottish Independence: 'Revolutionary Tourists' Seek Inspiration From Referendum

18/09/2014 16:11 BST | Updated 18/09/2014 16:59 BST
Matt Cardy via Getty Images
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: A visitor from Catalonia poses for a photograph as he shows his support for the Yes vote in central Edinburgh on September 18, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. After many months of campaigning the people of Scotland today head to the polls to decide the fate of their country. The referendum is too close to call but a Yes vote would see the break-up of the United Kingdom and Scotland would stand as an independent country for the first time since the formation of the Union. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

EDINBURGH - Alex Salmond's claim that the "eyes of the world" are looking at Scotland today might be a bit of an exaggeration. But separatists in other countries are certainly paying attention. And more than a few have descended on Edinburgh to join the 'Yes' camp and watch the results come in.

Monsi, 33, from Barcelona, is one of several Catalonians, eying independence from Spain, to have made the trip to Edinburgh for polling day. "We want to support he Scottish people to get 'Yes'," she says. "It will probably will help us, because they started it before us. It will make it easier for us."

She is one of a number of people draped in both the Scottish and Catalan flags up and down Edinburgh's Royal Mile. But while the southern European travellers are hopeful a 'Yes' vote will help push their own separatist movements forward, Monsi doubts the Spanish government will grant her a referendum as easily as David Cameron agreed to one in Scotland. "I think that it's different because of the economy probably. The Spanish government doesn't want Catalan to be independent because most parts of the economy is in Catalonia so they don't want it to be independent."

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David Aguilar from Catalonia holds up a placard supporting a Yes vote in Edinburgh

It is this Catalan enthusiasm for the break-up of Britain, and the precedent it could set, that has Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy worried. And why he could cause quite a few problems for Salmond following a 'Yes' vote. A key part of the SNP's plan has been for an independent Scotland to join (or remain, depending on your reading of European treaties) a member of the European Union. However Rajoy is less keen. Just yesterday he warned that Scottish independence could "torpedo" the European project. Madrid will not give Scotland an easy ride in EU accession talks, lest it give further encouragement to Catalans like Monsi.

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Catalan supporters for the Scottish 'Yes' campaign at a demonstration in Barcelona

Near another Edinburgh polling station, Mabon Apgqynfor, from North East Wales, sporting a giant 'Yes' logo on his shirt, is enthusiastically handing out blue stickers and hats. He describes himself as a "revolutionary tourist" who has spent the last two weeks helping Scottish nationalists get the vote out alongside Europeans, Americans, Australians and others.

"If this is the hard area in Edinburgh, it gives me hope for a 'Yes' vote," he says, analysing the level of support for the break-up of the UK on the streets of the Scottish capital, which is seen as more unionist that other parts of the country. A shout of "you fool" from a van evidentially driven by a 'No' supporter is ignored as it passes by.

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Even the nationalist graffiti has an international flavour

What would a 'Yes' vote in Scotland mean for the Wales, where the desire to break the union with England is far less pronounced than here. "I'd be overjoyed," Mabon says. "It's going to mean that we have hope we can create our own future.

"It will be a wake-up call. Because at the moment people in Wales haven't got any hope. They are voting Labour because they don't know anything better and because they are not the Tories. They have been taught to hate the Tories. What we have found is Scotland could become a beacon of progressiveness, we could look north and say; 'we could actually do this'."

The desire to shed the conservative English is a running theme. "It's mainly Ukip down there now," the Welsh-Scottish nationalist, sighs.

And even with a 'No' vote, Mabon is confident that the direction of travel is set. "The campaign has inspired hundreds of thousands of people. The genie is out of the box and you can't put that genie back."