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How the Yes campaign has become a global model

To its enemies at home, Scottish nationalism is "thuggish".

To its friends abroad, it is inspirationally peaceful.

It is just about the last thing the SNP wants. But Scotland, whether they like it or not, has turned in to a school for the world's independentistas.

And the lesson they are learning: how to conduct an overwhelmingly positive grassroots campaign largely (if not entirely) free of the toxic ethnic chauvinism.

The trickle of indyref tourists - politicians and campaigners excited by Scotland - began almost as soon as the Edinburgh Agreement was signed, setting the way for a democratic act of self-determination of the kind most stateless nations can only dream.

Now - as the big day looms - the trickle has turned in to a torrent of visitors eager to pick up some tricks from Yes Scotland - or just gawp at the potential disintegration of one of the planet's oldest states. The problem: this interest winds up their enemies at home and puts the SNP in an awkward diplomatic spot (about which more later).

Take the Basque Country, a once-troubled place where LibDem leader Willie Rennie's recent talk of thuggish Scottish nationalists sounds particularly hollow.

Last month leading figures in the Iberian nation's broad nationalist movement announced they would head north for the vote.

Both the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party of PNV, which favours a gradual progress to ever-greater autonomy, and the outright pro-independence EH Bildu are sending "high-level delegations" to Scotland.

Cue a furious reaction from their Spanish unionist opponents. Their key charge would sound familiar to any British unionist: Scottish politics, they said, are a distraction,

Idoia Mendía, a leadership candidate for the Basque Socialist Party, said: "Those tempted by nationalist tourism in Scotland should take a trip around the neighbourhoods of Bilbao or other Basque cities and see the real problems people have and try to respond to them."

Her fellow unionist, Arantza Quiroga, president of the Basque wing of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), cranked up the rhetoric even higher. Her party, she said, would not be "used for partisan purposes in Scotland, which has no bearing on what happens in Spain or Euskadi".

When she says "Euskadi" Quiroga means the current Basque autonomous region, which enjoys far more powers than Scotland or any other part of Spain. This should not be confused with Euskal Herria, a wider area of Basque settlement that spills over the Pyrenees in to France and the EH in EH Bildu's party name.

Both Spain's main unionist parties see our indyref as a threat. The PP, ruling in Madrid, has refused to countenance Scottish-style votes for its autonomous regions, most pressingly Catalunya but, ultimately, also Euskadi.

EH Bildu, which includes figures who would once have supported the violent insurgency of ETA, sees this month's vote as a lesson in democracy for both Euskadi and the wider Basque lands.

Oskar Matute, one of the party's parliamentarians summed up why he and colleagues were heading to Scotland. "We will be present at this important milestone which has a special significance for Euskal Herria, where we have a similar struggle," he said. "This delegation will be clearly representative of the stake that BH Bildu has made in defence of the right to decide in Scotland, Catalunya and Euskal Herria."

As I reported earlier this year, interest in visiting Scotland is so high among pro-indy Basques and Catalans that a specialist company has been set up to offer indyref tours. Partizan Travel is even offering day trips to the schemes of south Glasgow to give Iberian guests a warts and all picture of the country.

The Basque country isn't the only place where indyref tourism has hit the headlines.

This week it was announced that Québec's main independence party, Parti Québécois, would send three of its parliamentarians to observe the big vote. Le Soleil in Québec City revealed that "numerous deputies" wanted to go on the official mission. "Many wanted to experience this historic moment for Scotland - and the very idea of independence," the daily said.

Bernard Drainville, a prominent former PQ minister and party leadership contender, spearheaded interest.

I first met Drainville in Québec City in the aftermath of his party's 2014 defeat when it was hammered for failing to rule out another referendum in the "Belle Province". Crestfallen and philosophical about the future of his movement, he told me: "We have to work on a positive rationale. Just trying to portray the rest of Canada as the dominating domineering 'other' no longer works."

A few weeks later Drainville was in Glasgow, all lit up and tanned after a sunny two weeks touring the country. He had found his positivity on the streets of our biggest city. "There is such passion," he said over dinner before rushing off to see Jim Sillars speak, a skip in his step.

Back in Québec, Drainville declared that he had returned "crinqué", enthused, fired-up, and "charmed" by the Yes campaign.

"To see a people asking itself to settle its future confirmed for me that independence is a living idea, that it is modern and relevant to the present and meets today's challenges," he told the Canadian press. "Civil society has taken over the referendum, groups and citizens have decided to take charge. The Yes campaign is largely decentralized, grounded, and very, very close to people,"

But can this Yes Scotland potion be bottled for Québec? Probably not, reckons Celine Cooper.

"The mood in Scotland right now is electric," she wrote in the Montreal Gazette "The grassroots nationalist politics are exciting, young and irreverent.

"The Internet brims with cheeky political commentary. Nationalism in Scotland - for the time being, anyway - is hopeful and alive. What a contrast with the situation here in Québec, where the sovereigntist movement of the Boomer generation has grown old and tired."

Drainville suggests replacing the slightly nerdy Québec concept of "sovereignty" with full-fat Scottish independence - and he now advocates a simple Scottish question (in contrast to the incomprehensible ones put to Quebecers in two referendums in 1980 and 1995). Not enough, says Cooper, who believes the PQ have drifted in to identity politics and failed to understand that the province wasn't ready for another vote. "Drainville's main take-away from this trip seems to be that Quebec nationalism simply needs to be repackaged and resold," she said. "After more than 40 years and two referendums, would talking about it any more have made a difference? In fact, Scots themselves have openly expressed their desire to avoid a Québec? 'neverendum' scenario."

Quebecers and Basques aren't the only indyref tourists - or the only independence movements excited by Scotland. Even the German-speaking Southern Tyroleans of Italy are now citing indyref as they seek more autonomy. But curiously the SNP finds itself with more in common with unionists such Basque PP than with their nationalist allies. Like Quiroga they don't want to be "used for partisan purposes" in Canada or Spain. They don't want to have any diplomatic enemies if and when an independent Scotland is applying to join Nato or the EU. "We have our own fight to fight," said one senior nationalist after I asked why senior party officials had effectively shunned Quebecers, Basques and Catalans. The SNP may not be thuggish. But they are brutally pragmatic.

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