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Inside Track: Thoughts on independence from the worldly wise

I've been spending a lot of time on the road of late.

Over the past months I have journeyed in Africa, Latin America and recently returned to Bosnia whose bitter war during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia I covered back in the 1990s.

Last month I was sitting in a restaurant at Nairobi airport with a colleague, when an elderly Dutch couple approached our table. They had, it turned out, been on a Kenyan safari holiday.

"Forgive me, but I couldn't help overhearing your accent," said the man by way of an introduction before continuing.

"I just thought I'd wish you luck with the vote for independence in Scotland's forthcoming referendum."

When I asked what made him think I would be voting Yes, the man gave me a puzzled look before throwing the question back at me: "Why wouldn't you? It's a wonderful opportunity for Scotland," he insisted.

It wasn't the first or indeed last time that I've heard such pro-independence sentiments expressed in far-flung places. Indeed, many of the places where this has been most vociferous, have been those where - for understandable reasons - you might expect the very words independence or separatism to give people pause for thought or wariness.

South Sudan is the world's youngest nation, having only achieved its independence from the Republic of Sudan's northern rulers in Khartoum in 2011. Recently while in the capital, Juba, I listened as some men laid out their reasoning with an incredible grasp of the issues at the heart of the Scottish independence debate, as to why they thought it good for Scotland to vote Yes.

Not only was I amazed by their knowledge of the case for and against, but the fact too that this discussion was happening in a country still struggling with tensions that have brewed since its own separation from a large powerful neighbour of which it was once part.

Likewise, while in Bosnia a few weeks ago as part of a charity initiative delegation to learn from the lessons of the Srebrenica massacre and genocide, I was consistently quizzed on my view of Scottish independence. What struck me most about these Bosnian encounters was that even here, in a European country that faces continuing difficulties as a result of the war and subsequent political division of the nation into two entities under the Dayton Accord, Bosnians I met almost unanimously thought Scottish independence a positive thing.

From Juba to Bosnia and beyond, three things have struck me about the Scottish independence issue. The first is that whatever the resonance of the debate here, there is no doubt that it has now caught the imagination of people globally.

The second is that even in countries all too familiar with the risks and costs that political separation brings, the anecdotal evidence suggests people still think it a cause we Scots should embrace. Viewed through the prism of such people and their experiences, the ludicrous scaremongering that has been a hallmark of the debate within the UK can be seen for the nonsense that it is. If such people are not afraid, why should we Scots be?

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