Swiss hail ‘success in failure’ of Scots no vote

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Caroline Bishop - [email protected]
Swiss hail ‘success in failure’ of Scots no vote
No supporters celebrate in Scotland. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

Commentators in Swiss media have called the Scottish no vote “a success in failure” after 55 percent of Scots voted against independence in Thursday’s historic referendum.


One of many Swiss papers to splash the Scottish result over its front page, Neue Zurcher Zeitung was full of praise for the independence movement, despite the no vote, saying:

“Although the ultimate victory failed, no other separatist movement in Western Europe can boast such achievements as the Scottish nationalists.”

Warning of a “neverendum” in which Scottish nationalists will continue to attempt to bring about independence from London, it said “the spirit of separatism cannot be forced back in the bottle”.

Tabloid Blick agreed, saying the defeat “represents a great success for Scotland” given the so-called ‘devo-max’ powers now promised by British Prime Minister David Cameron to the Scottish parliament.

Tages Anzeiger was less upbeat in its analysis, however.

Under the headline “Lessons should be learned from this episode of British history”, its report emphasized the relief felt in London “as no one was really prepared for Scotland to leave.”

Doubting the momentum of the yes campaign it added: “For many Scots the uncertainty of sudden independence was probably too much”.

The Swiss public, who are well used to going to the polls in quarterly referenda, added their opinions on social media, with one Geneva-based journalism intern quipping on Twitter: “Close the polls at 10pm, start to count at midnight... Happily Scotland doesn’t vote every three months like the Swiss.”

Swiss-based British author Diccon Bewes – a no supporter – drew parallels between Switzerland and Scotland, writing on his blog this week “Throw in the fact they each have difficult relationships with their bigger neighbours and splendid countryside – and they are practically twins. Especially as, for this week at least, Scotland is discovering the power of direct democracy.”

Referencing the similarity with the February 9th anti-immigration vote in Switzerland, which was narrowly passed, he said: “Both crucial votes to decide the future direction of the country. Both with a Yes camp that campaigned with nationalist fervour and Utopian promises. Both with a No camp that focused on economic calamity and keeping the status quo. Both neck-and-neck races where a few thousand votes make the difference.”

Sky News reporter Harriet Hadfield also drew a comparison with Switzerland’s “decision-by-referendum” policy.

The Local contributor Morven McLean, a Scot living in Switzerland, praised Swiss media for its  "broad and balanced" coverage.

McLean, who supported the yes campaign despite – like all Scots overseas – not having a vote, told The Local: "I was also struck by how interested my Swiss friends and colleagues were in the debate – although they were almost all against independence."

She added: "This vote has shown up the splits not just in Britain but also within Scotland. I think many Brits will envy the Swiss their federal system."

Meanwhile others were perhaps less impressed with Swiss reporting of the result:

Switzerland next goes to the polls itself on September 28th in a referendum which will decide, among other things, whether the country should have a nationalized health insurance scheme instead of the current 90 private insurers.


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