Angus Robertson: How German media are reporting on Scottish independence


SCOTLAND’S high profile in the German media is continuing, with reports yesterday about Brexit boosting moves towards an independence referendum in national and regional newspapers, radio and television, following coverage by the German Press Agency DPA.

National news magazine Der Spiegel reported online and to its 2.7 million social media followers under the headline quote: “The (UK) government is playing with fire.”

It continued: “Premier Johnson is hoping for a successful global Great Britain following Brexit – however the nation could fall apart. The Scots are working on next attempt at independence. More could follow.”

Their report included a photo of an anti-Brexit protester with a Scottish saltire flag superimposed with the stars of Europe and carrying a placard saying: “I didn’t vote for Scotland to lose her place in Europe (and be ignored in London).”

Major newspapers which ran the Scotland update, included the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “Brexit and Corona – Scotland hopes for independence”, the Berliner Morgenpost and Münchener Merkur “Calls for Referendum” and Sächsischer Zeitung with “Will Great Britain become Little Britain”. Reports were also run by the regional titles: Aachener Zeitung, Osnabrücker Zeitung, Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, Freie Presse in Saxony and Ostfriesen-Zeitung.

READ MORE: Unionists fume at Nicola Sturgeon for trying to keep Scotland in the EU

In addition to Der Spiegel, the other major news magazine Stern also reported on Scotland, as did the financial titles Handelsblatt, “Scots are frustrated with London says German expert”, Wallstreet Journal Online, Boersen News and national TV broadcaster RTL.

Background to the coverage, which follows a recent interview with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon which was widely seen in Germany, was a report by Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), the biggest national press agency in Germany which counts most national and regional newspapers, radio and television stations as clients. Their DPA Bureau Chief for Northwest Europe, Britain and Ireland Benedikt von Imhoff spoke with a range of leading experts in Scotland, London and Brussels.

Leading pollster Professor John Curtice said: “The nationalist movement is closer to the realisation of its ambition than it’s ever have been in the past.”

He identified Brexit as the key factor in driving majority support for Scottish independence as well as the competence of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon compared to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in dealing with Coronavirus crisis.

He said: “The Prime Minister is not known for his command of detail, whereas Ms Sturgeon sounds like a chief medical officer and a top scientist.”

The head of the European Policy Centre Fabian Zuleeg said: “EU membership is overwhelmingly supported by a majority of people in Scotland and independence is now the only way to secure that”, while Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Council on European Relations pointed out that “people under 35 are 70 or 80 percent pro-independence and also pro-EU”.

Constitutional law expert Robert Hazell of University Colleague London told Deutsche Press Agentur that Scottish independence would have major consequences with growing calls for constitutional change in Northern Ireland and Wales.

READ MORE: German newspapers put focus on Scottish independence with Union set to ‘fall apart’

Stirling University academic Holger Nehring, who is German, said: “There is a growing frustration with the political direction from London, because it ignores Scottish interests … one can’t simply imagine away the idea of independence. The United Kingdom is in a state crisis and a big one at that.”

Interviewed as the head of pro-independence think-tank Progress Scotland and as former deputy SNP leader (who happens to be half-German) I told DPA that “the government is playing with fire when it blocks democracy in Scotland. If London continues to stonewall, the majority for independence will go up”.

At the same time as the German media has been covering developments in Scotland, interest amongst decision-makers and academics in Germany is also considerable.

Speaking at an international panel event hosted by the European Movement in Scotland, Barbara Lippert of the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs said that Brexit had been a “game-changer” for many in Europe about Scotland.

She said she believed there would now be “broad openness” to an independent Scotland becoming part of the EU.

“Scotland will look like a bright spot … I think it will be top of the list of candidates,” said the leading German expert on EU enlargement.

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