In late summer 2011, three months after Alex Salmond secured an unprecedented majority in elections to the Scottish Parliament, officials from his party flew to Montreal to learn how to organize a referendum.
There, the Scottish National Party delegation met with separatists from Parti Quebecois waging their own four-decade battle to split from Canada, fighting on after calling -- and losing -- two plebiscites in 1980 and 1995. Conscious of that failure, the Scots had one request: no media.
“They didn’t want to be very close or be seen with people of the PQ and other sovereigntists of Quebec,” said Daniel Turp, a former legislator for the party who helped organize the visit. “They want to win and obviously the PQ did not win the two referendums they initiated.”
As the Sept. 18 Scottish referendum goes down to the wire, Quebec’s experience holds a lesson for campaigners and voters on either side of the debate: even if the bid for independence from the U.K. is lost, life will never be the same.
Polls show the two sides are neck and neck. One by YouGov Plc for the Sunday Times put the Scottish nationalists ahead on 51 percent, excluding undecided voters. Another, by Panelbase for the Yes campaign, put the anti-independence Better Together group four percentage points ahead.