The prime minister who led Canada during the 1995 Quebec referendum says the U.K. government sought his advice during back-and-forth meetings in Ottawa and London over the course of the past year in preparation for Scotland's referendum Thursday.
A day after a majority of Scottish voters rejected the idea of independence in a 55 to 45 per cent vote, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien told CBC Radio's The House he met with three key U.K. government officials who sought his views on the matter.
"I discussed that a little bit with them when they came to see me. Mr. [Alistair] Carmichael and Mr. [Michael] Moore … they came to see me in Ottawa and I met them two or three times in London, plus Mr. [Alistair] Darling," Chrétien told host Evan Solomon in an interview scheduled to air Saturday.
For the full interviews with Jean Chrétien and Jean Charest listen to The House with Evan Solomon, Saturday on CBC Radio One and SiriusXM Channel 169 at 9 a.m.
Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore was replaced by the party's chief whip Alistair Carmichael in a cabinet shuffle last October. Alistair Darling led the No side with the Better Together campaign.
"It's always more complicated to manage the No side than the Yes side, because the Yes side is appealing to the heart and the nostalgia of the past and so on. And when you deal with the No, you deal with the reality of life.
"Diving into the dark might be exciting, but you have to find out if there's water in the swimming pool before diving," Chrétien said.
Chrétien also told Solomon he learned that British Prime Minister David Cameron was studying his No victory speech ahead of his own patriotic plea for unity this past week.
"My daughter told me she was at a wedding on Saturday and Prime Minister Cameron said he was working on his speech, and he had a nice speech in hand to do that."
Asked if Cameron was studying his 1995 speech, Chrétien said "yes."
Charest predicts another referendum
Chrétien said the fallout of the vote will not be easy for Cameron, who promised to give Scotland greater powers if it voted No.
"It's going to very complicated because they will enter into some very complex constitutional negotiations."
In a separate interview also airing Saturday on The House, former Quebec premier Jean Charest drew parallels between Scotland's referendum and the one held in Quebec in 1980, where the No side won with nearly 60 per cent of the vote.
The Better Together campaign, Charest said, adopted the slogan "No thanks" just as the federalist side in Quebec said "Non merci" during the 1980 referendum.
While then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau promised to make some changes following a win by the No side, it was not enough to satisfy Quebec's separatists.
"I think what we are seeing now happening in the U.K. is almost a total, perfect replay of what happened Canada."
Charest told Solomon he's convinced Scotland will hold another referendum in the next 10 years.
"They are not going to abandon that idea. From their perspective … they've evolved from zero per cent of support all the way up to 45 per cent.
"They are so close to the goal line, why would they stop now?"
Separatists 'a bit less cheerful'
Chrétien said Cameron's officials were diligent with their homework ahead of a vote that could have seen Scotland break from the U.K.
"They were not negligent about it at all you know, they came more than a year ago the first time."
Chrétien said he invited Liberal MP Stéphane Dion to take part in at least one of those meetings.
"They asked me questions about my experience and I talked about my experience and what are the problems and what are the solutions. And we debated everything for many hours and somebody was taking notes."
'I'm happy that those who sought advice from me won.' - Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada
"One meeting in Ottawa, here, we had Mr. Dion with me. I invited Dion to come with me."
Under Chrétien's leadership, Dion sponsored the Clarity Act, which became law five years after the 1995 Quebec referendum establishing the conditions under which the government of Canada can enter negotiations on secession.
"We gave advice and I'm happy that those who sought advice from me won," Chrétien said adding "the separatists did not come to me for advice.
"I'm not surprised," he said.
As for the impact of Scotland's referendum on Quebec separatists, Chrétien said those who went to Scotland to witness a historic vote must have flown back "a bit less cheerful."
Parti Québécois MNAs, including media mogul and PQ leadership hopeful Pierre Karl Péladeau, went on a fact-finding mission to Scotland earlier this week.
While Chrétien may have been keen to share his views on the 1995 referendum with U.K. officials, he told Canadian journalists Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre in their recent book The Morning After he preferred to keep his post-referendum cards close to his chest.
"I had a number of cards that I ended up not having to play. I do not like to discuss them. There would have been quite a number of options at my disposal in the event of a Yes vote. But I wasted no time on them. That would have been for later if needed."
CBC Radio's The House airs Saturdays on CBC Radio One at 9 a.m. and on SiriusXM Ch. 169.