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The international view on Scotland's historic day

Historic: that is the word that most of international media is using to sum up events in Edinburgh yesterday.

The word cropped up in report after report from across the world as international media caught up with what is becoming firmly an international story.

A typical headline, repeated dozens of times over, came in Milan’s Corriere della Sera, which talked of an “historic referendum” under which Scots would be asked to say “addio” to the UK but not Buckingham Palace.

Some of the history cited yesterday, however, was old. World news giant CNN began its report with a reference to a poll to take place 700 years after “William Wallace died for Scottish independence”.

The Washington Post yesterday promoted its story on Scotland at the top of its website’s foreign news section. It too cited history: the anniversary of Bannockburn and centuries of “bloody battles” between Scotland and England. But the American paper of record had an interest closer to its own home: that the SNP could rip apart the junior partner in the United States’ special relationship.

“The vote on independence for Scotland sets up the possibility that Washington’s closest strategic ally could be torn asunder.”

But the paper had no doubt about the massive continent-wide context of Scotland’s vote. “The deal,” it said, “comes at a time when independence movements are also rapidly gaining strength in Spain and Belgium amid Europe’s brutal debt crisis.”

That context wasn’t lost on Spanish media. If Britain - with its perceived sense of fair play - could give Scotland a vote, why couldn’t Spain do the same for Catalunya, or other potentially breakaway regions?

Barcelona’s La Vanguardia quoted Artur Mas, Catalan leader, saying the first thing he will do if he wins elections scheduled for next month is ask Madrid for a Scottish-style deal.

Madrid’s El Pais, however, stressed in an unusual editorial that the Scottish independence movement was “based more on social values than on identities”.

It added: “Salmond doesn’t see independence as an end in itself but as a way of defending the wellbeing of Scotland.” Not exactly Braveheart stuff.

In Paris Nouvel Observateur said Cameron had “reluctantly” signed the accord. But elsewhere he was presented as munifiscent leader. Britain “permitted” Scotland to hold the poll, said Petra, the state news agency in Jordan. “Britain gives Scotland the chance of independence,” said major Russian TV channel NTV.

Not everybody was talking the issue seriously. Russian’s RBC TV, a rolling business news channel, ran its rather routine story under the headline: “Scots prepare to throw off 300-year-old British yoke”.

Read David Leask’s blog on foreign views of the Scottish independence referendum, As Others See Us

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