We recently brought you the stories of plans to split California into two (or even more) separate states. But secession isn’t just an American-made solution to internal cultural, political, or economic differences. Three different European regions are looking into splitting from their countries.
The sun once famously never set on the English empire. Today, that empire consists mainly of the local areas surrounding England that make up the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each of those places have strong cultural identities and were sovereign for hundreds of years before they came under British rule—either peacefully or not. Scotland has been under the rule of the crown since 1707, following more than 800 years of independence. The fierce cultural identity of Scotland never went away. In 1979, a referendum was put to Scottish voters, and 52 percent of votes cast favored “devolution” from the U.K. Scotland remained part of the U.K., however, because British law required 40 percent of the total electorate to vote yes, and that 52 percent number made up just 32.9 percent. (It’s worth noting that Wales also voted for devolution in 1979 and soundly rejected it: 80 percent to 20 percent.) But if at first you don’t secede, try, try again. In 2013, the regional Scottish government (which has established its own parliament) reached an agreement with the U.K. government, and in September of this year, Scottish voters will weigh in on “The Scottish Independence Referedum Bill,” which will once again seek to separate Scotland from England.
Catalonia has its own cultural identity apart from the rest of Spain, and it’s also the nation’s wealthiest area—it’s one of the few prosperous spots in an otherwise economically recessed country. Since 2010, local leaders have struggled with the central government in Madrid for more autonomous rule, to no avail, resulting in frequent street demonstrations. This year, Catalonia asked the Spanish parliament to allow it to put the question of independence to the voters. Once again, the federal government said no—parliament voted down the request earlier this month 299 to 47. This probably isn’t the end of the story, however, as polls show that as many as 80 percent of Catalonians favor independence.
Italy was a collection of independent city-states until united under a single flag in the 19th century. Some of those states retain their individual identity, notably the island of Sicily, and Venice, the land of canals. In March, a Venetian political group held an online vote to gauge support for independent. Of the 3.7 million eligible voters, 2.3 million voted…and a whopping 89 percent voted in favor of separating from Italy. (They also voted yes to joining NATO, the European Union, and adopted the euro as currency.) Don’t go throwing our your outdated maps quite yet, though—the vote has held by a private group, and so it isn’t legally binding. Supporters say it sends a message to the Italian government that Venice is tired of bearing Italy’s financial burden—in one recent year, Venice generated a 20 billion euro surplus, while the rest of Italy struggled.