Marois looks to Scotland for separatist inspiration

Quebec City — The Globe and Mail

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois gestures during a news conference Jan. 22, 2013, in Quebec City. (Clement Allard/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Scotland’s quest for independence will serve as an inspiration for Quebeckers, says Premier Pauline Marois, who is preparing to meet with her Scottish counterpart in Edinburgh to discuss his government’s strategy to secede from the United Kingdom.

Ms. Marois left on Tuesday for the annual economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, her first stop in a week-long European mission that will also take her to London to meet with investors before going to Scotland next week.

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Her Parti Québécois minority government is about to begin promoting sovereignty in Quebec, and is hoping the visit to Scotland will help “build the conditions” for achieving it. When developed nations such as Scotland strive for independence, she said, Quebeckers will be inspired to do the same.

“It will show that this [independence] is not an old idea, but a very modern idea, and Scotland is an example in this perspective,” Ms. Marois said before leaving for Europe.

Should Scotland choose to become an independent country in a referendum that will be held in the fall of 2014, Ms. Marois said it will signal to Quebeckers that sovereignty is within their grasp.

“It will tell Quebeckers that it is still possible to attain this objective.”

Liberal interim leader Jean-Marc Fournier warned Ms. Marois she has no mandate to promote Quebec independence in Scotland or anywhere else and that she should focus on economic matters.

“The responsibility she has as Premier of Quebec is to work for our economy,” Mr. Fournier said. “I don’t like the idea of her travelling in Scotland and promoting Quebec or Scottish separation.”

If the PQ ever hopes to form a majority government and prepare for independence, it must persuade Quebeckers it is necessary to secede from Canada. This remains a key to building the so-called winning conditions for holding another referendum. The PQ strategy will begin unfolding next month, when the party adopts a plan aimed at promoting the advantages of becoming an independent country at a party meeting in Drummondville Feb. 8-9.

Ms. Marois insisted that during her trip to Scotland, she will not intervene in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom but will simply respond to any questions that Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond may have about Quebec’s efforts to achieve independence. “I don’t pretend to want to give anyone any lessons.”

Quebeckers voted no in referendums on sovereignty held by PQ governments in 1980 and 1995.

The Quebec Premier said she was curious to learn more about how the Scottish National Party government and the U.K. negotiated the rules for the 2014 referendum. “I’m not saying we would follow this [with the Canadian government] … but it is interesting, it is different,” Ms. Marois said.

She said that even though her party has minority status in the National Assembly, promoting sovereignty now could pave the way for a referendum should the PQ win a majority next time. Several PQ strategists anticipate the province could go to the polls next year.

However, minority status is a serious handicap to defining a strategy for a referendum. In the meantime, Ms. Marois’s government will proceeding with a plan it calls “sovereigntist governance,” meaning to seek more political autonomy from Ottawa.

“We have not abandoned our efforts on ‘sovereigntist governance.’ A strategy will eventually be defined …Work is now being done on this. We will soon have a strategy to propose,” she said.

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