Separatist Quebec premier to meet with Scottish counterpart
Quebec's premier says she has no intention of interfering in the internal politics of the United Kingdom when she meets with Scotland's separatist leader next week.
Pauline Marois says she looks forward to chatting about independence next week — not to helping achieve it.
She will meet with Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, during a stop in Edinburgh on Jan. 29.
Marois says she knows his pro-independence Scottish National Party has observed her Parti Québécois with interest and she's ready to answer any questions Salmond might have.
"I will obviously not interfere in their politics or decisions," Marois told a news conference Tuesday.
"But you know they have observed Quebec quite a bit, and our experiences. Mr. Salmond will surely have some questions to ask me."
So what is the meeting's objective?
"My objective is not necessarily to make a contribution, to have an influence, but it's really an exchange between political people who have similar perspectives on certain subjects, such as achieving more powers and on the means for achieving powers or becoming independent," she said.
Unlike the Scottish nationalists, the PQ has already held two referendums in failed attempts at independence over the years but currently has no timetable for a third such vote.
The SNP, on the other hand, is now planning to hold its first such referendum after being elected with a majority government for the first time since the creation of the modern Scottish parliament.
Although the PQ and the SNP have forged ties over the years, it will be the first time their respective leaders meet while in power.
Their movements do share a familiar obstacle: less-than-favourable polls.
Surveys peg support for Scottish independence at levels that suggest it might be hard to achieve when the referendum takes place in the fall of 2014.
Marois' office, in announcing the meeting, has said it would be an opportunity to underscore the parallels between the respective independence movements.
Scotland has many powers, including jurisdiction over education, health, law and local government. But there are several areas — including economic policy — where it is dependent on decisions made in London.
Many Scots have long contended that revenues from North Sea oil should stay in Scotland, a situation they say would increase wealth in the country of slightly more than five million people.
In Quebec City, the opposition Liberals criticized Marois' upcoming visit, saying she should focus on economic issues instead of building nationalist alliances.
Federal government keeps quiet
The federal government had little to say about the planned meeting.
When asked whether Ottawa might have a diplomatic response to it, the office of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird replied with the customary line repeated by the Harper Tories in any discussion related to Quebec nationalism.
"Canadians do not want to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past. Our government will continue to focus on what matters to Canadians: jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity," the government responded in an email.
Marois' trip will also take her to London and to Davos for the World Economic Forum, before she heads to Scotland.
A referendum on devolution was held in Scotland in 1979.
The regulations at the time stated that at least 40 per cent of eligible voters had to vote Yes as well as 50 per cent of people who actually voted.
While more than 51 per cent of those who cast a ballot voted in favour of devolution, the referendum did not carry the day because turnout was low and only about 33 per cent of eligible voters voted Yes.
In 1997, nearly 75 per cent of voters endorsed the creation of a Scottish parliament in another referendum.