The spectre is back. The spectre, that is, of Scottish nationalism.

Or so Milan's Il Giornale reckoned as it watched First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepare for a third term.

The Conservative daily, owned, ultimately, by the family of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, views Scotland firmly through an English prism. The phantom of the SNP is only scary - its logic, I guess, goes - because it spooks David Cameron and the rest of Europe.

This sums up the strange paradox of Scotland as a running global news saga. We are interesting because some of us do not want to be British. But our story is only important because, whether we like it or not, we are British.

Screengrab: Il Giornale, Milan, on the returning spectre of independence

HeraldScotland: "Scotland: Nationalists break records. The spectre of independence returns."" Il Giornale said in its headline, before adding: "Edinburgh is once again teasing London and two years after the vote on secession which made the UK tremble, Scottish nationalists are once again starting to disturb Mr Cameron's sleep by waving the prospect of another independence referendum."

It's all about another referendum for Il Giornale, writing before the final results appeared on Friday. "Lady Sturgeon", the paper stressed, has said it is not a matter of if there shall be a second vote, but when.

International coverage of Thursday votes around the UK - "the English SuperTuesday" as some papers have called them has once again focused on Scotland. And the big issue half the country thought was settled in 2014 - but the other half did not. Independence is now deeply associated with Scotland overseas.

A recently study of Google questions, for example, found the most common auto-complete for the Japanese word for Scotland is "wants independence".

The New York Times on Friday began its wrap of UK politics with a "third term for the independence-minded SNP" - although quickly pointing out the party no longer had an absolute majority. Its columnists have, nevertheless, been fretting about Scotland before the vote. But firmly in the context of what this country may do if the UK quits the European Union.

Strobe Talbott, a former diplomat and foreign policy analyst, appears to worry about contagion, He said: "Brexit might shrink the United Kingdom itself. EU membership is popular in Scotland, both for economic reasons and because it provides a counterweight to being governed from Westminster.

"When Scotland held a referendum on independence two years ago, a majority said 'no'. Brexit might very well prompt another vote — but with a different outcome. This in turn would encourage secessionist movements like Catalonia’s in Spain."

This is the spectre - Brexit followed by a second referendum - that makes Holyrood elections interesting around the world. French daily Le Monde on Thursday led its website with a report from Greenock from special correspondent Philippe Bernard. His final thought: that Ms Sturgeon has suggested that Scotland being forced to leave the EU against its will could trigger a second vote. But he adds: "The SNP is careful not to promise a referendum."

International media for weeks have been latching on to every hint of a possible repeat referendum from Ms Sturgeon. "The Scottish head of government hopes to hold a second independence referendum," headlined the official news agency of Transdniestria, the unrecognised statelet that occupies a sliver of land between Moldova and Ukraine (or a sliver inside Moldova, depending on your point of view). A referendum, it quotes the First Minister, is "more likely than not".

Prospect of second indyref makes headlines in Russian-speaking Transdniestria


Transdniestria is just the kind of place eager to big up any international example of a way it could legitimise or try to legitimise its very existence in world eyes. This, as with Crimea (now seized by Russia from Ukraine after disputed plebiscite) or the breakaway republics of Eastern Ukraine, is Scotland being used as a propaganda tool in global realpolitik.

There are other places which find clearer parallels with Scotland. One is Catalonia. It has seen its Socialist Party - and its federalist vision for Spain - hammered at the polls, squeezed between independence and hard-line unionist parties. So Labour's fate in Scotland this week was of real interest. Barcelona's La Vanguardia on Friday headlined that "Independentists win in Scotland but lose absolute majority" and had consolidated victories from 2015. But, in copy provided by the Spanish news agency EFE it added: "The other big winners were the Tories of charismatic Ruth Davidson.... Labour has suffered a heavy blow in the region."

Catalan language newspaper Ara said: "SNP lose majority and now have to govern with the Greens."

Pro-independence Catalan paper says SNP must govern with Greens


This headline also has resonance in Catalonia. An alliance of leading pro-independence parties in Catalonia had to parlay with pro-independence green-left party CUP in order to form an administration in Barcelona after last year's general election. Its reporter Quim Aranda stressed that the SNP victory was historic since no other party had secured three successive terms. But he said it had also poured "a bucket of cold water over Nationalist aspirations of independence" especially give polls predicting an even better result.

Here is another pro-independence Catalan paper, El Punt Avui. It came out this morning with Ms Sturgeon on its front page.