There has been a lot of buzz lately about secession, owing to the Scottish vote yesterday on the question of whether to leave the United Kingdom. As a scholar of secessionism, it’s thrilling to see this stuff back in the news, if for no other reason than somebody might think some of our work is relevant. It’s also just plain fun to watch.
Now that the results of Scotland’s vote are in, discussion will turn – if only briefly – to what this means for other parts of the world. My coauthor and partner in ethnic conflict scholarship Steve Saideman has already posted a piece re-arguing a point we have made elsewhere: that secessionism and its outcomes in any one place aren’t really contagious anywhere else. That’s what our research has shown, and it suggests that Scotland’s failure to secede likely won’t deter others from trying (just as success would not have instigated secessionism where it wouldn’t have happened anyway).
This is true because secessionist movements are really driven by underlying political dynamics that are unique to each place. Tip O’Neill was right – all politics really is local. And with that in mind, I read this Reuters piece reporting on secessionist sentiment within the United States with some fascination. Maybe the Scots do have something to teach us – that we should be having much more significant conversations about deep political issues here at home.