Even the most hardened right-wing Eurosceptic cannot deny the shared history in Europe.
In this year, the centenary of the First World War, we are reminded of how the assassination of an autocrat in Serbia led to thousands of men in Edinburgh losing their lives in the trenches of France. History is not only in the past, but it binds us together in the present. So why would Europe, a continent that has so often celebrated the independence and secession of new states, be nervous of Scotland going it alone?
We all know about the separatist forces in Spain; the peaceful Catalonian movement and the former violent movement in the Basque country. There is of course Belgium, with its Flemish-speaking north and French-speaking south, who couldn’t agree on a government for more than two years. The Transylvanian region of Romania, the northern separatist movement in the South Tyrol region of Italy, the Poles in Lithuania – you have to be a specialist to have a real grasp of how prevalent separatist movements are across Europe. All I know is that colleagues of mine in the Socialist and Democrat group in the European Parliament, with representatives from all 28 EU member states, have raised their concerns to me. All are scared of the impact of Scottish independence in their region, their country and on Europe as a whole.
Could an independent Scotland lead to the “re-Balkanisation” of Europe, with nation states disintegrating into ever smaller regions hostile to one another? It is unlikely. But it will have an impact. A Yes vote will inevitably mean more confident, politically aggressive and valid secessionist movements across Europe, which will destabilise the political foundation of all European states. Scotland could provide a green light, an ignition, to these movements; be they violent or peaceful, left or right. Europe has always worked in funny ways. How often have we seen European states act as dominoes, with conflicts, political movements and ideologies spilling across borders and gathering the support of millions across the continent?
The impact of a Yes vote in September’s referendum on other separatist movements across Europe is as uncertain as every other aspect of independence. Should the Scottish people care about the potential impact across Europe, though? I accept it is one consideration amongst many, and compared to currency, pensions, healthcare and EU membership it is undoubtedly further away from our daily lives. The debate on an independent Scotland’s impact on European society will not be enough to sway you one way or the other, but it should be in the back of all of our minds when we walk into that voting booth on September 18.
• David Martin is a Labour MEP representing the whole of Scotland