Quebec separatists seek independence inspiration

Alice Trudelle, Gabrielle Deaulieu and Genevieve Harvey from Quebec. Picture: Alex Hewitt
Alice Trudelle, Gabrielle Deaulieu and Genevieve Harvey from Quebec. Picture: Alex Hewitt
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YOUNG separatists from Quebec have flown to the Capital to learn lessons for their own campaign.

The 50 men and women are fighting to reignite their own independence bid following a disastrous election result.

The group, which wants its French-speaking region to break away from federalist Canada, is here until September 20 acting as “observers”.

They will attending a string of debates and conferences listening to both sides of the Scottish independence debate and may also attend polling stations on Thursday.

The members, most of whom are in their twenties, were all too young to vote in the knife-edge independence referendum that saw their region’s Yes campaign defeated by the narrowest of margins.

The 1995 referendum saw 49.42 per cent vote for independence, and 50.58 per cent against, very similar to the latest predictions for Scotland.

Alice Trudelle, 31, has worked as a political adviser to Jean-François Lisée of the Parti Québécois, which advocates national sovereignty for the region.

She said: “All of us are ‘independentists’. None of us had the chance to vote in the last referendum but I think the fact we are here is testimony to the fact that this movement still appeals to a lot of people.

“Scotland’s inspirational independence movement shows that independence remains a very valid and modern idea.”

She added: “We are really confident with Scotland’s Yes campaign. They have worked so hard. The No campaign hasn’t done enough, and now they are worried.”

All 50 of the Quebecers paid to come to Edinburgh with their own money and the organisers of the trip, Réseau Québec Monde, are “non-political”.

Like many Yes voters in Scotland, they are attracted to independence not only because of the increased powers.

They also believe it would bring “social benefits”, including improvements to healthcare and education.

Genevieve Harvey, 25, said she was impressed by the “grassroots” nature of the Yes campaign.

After attending a debate at Edinburgh University, Ms Trudelle said: “It was wonderful to see how engaged the debaters were, and how cordial it was. People watching were very appreciative of good arguments on both sides, and it was very inspiring. We want to understand how they managed to create that.”

The visitors are reeling after a recent election result which saw them lose by a huge margin.

Philippe Couillard’s Quebec Liberal Party sailed to an astonishing victory, winning a majority government in the provincial election that resulted in the defeat and resignation of Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.

Ms Trudelle said: “We were very surprised and now we are trying to look at ways to reignite the independence movement.”

A recent poll suggesting that Scotland’s Yes independence camp could possibly win its September 18 vote has also captivated Catalan separatists, as well as pro-independence Basques in northern Spain, Corsicans who want to break away from France and Flemish speakers in Belgium demanding more autonomy, independence or union with the Netherlands.

The reactions have sparked claims that an independent Scotland would galvanise similar movements elsewhere in Europe.

Meanwhile, independence supporters from all over the world have flocked to Scotland to express their support for the Yes campaign.

Among them is American Shelley Deflefsen, who flew into Edinburgh just over a week ago to join the independence campaign.

The 38-year-old Scot-
American has been campaigning for a Yes vote from her home in Oregon – more than 4500 miles away – for the last 18 months.

She said she was determined not to let Scotland fall prey to the privatisation sweeping the US and Britain, adding: “It’s been great over here – some of the people I’ve spoken to in Edinburgh find it quite funny that I’m this American coming to their door, talking about independence.”