It is, the French press says, the 'paradoxe britannique': that British nationalists want out of the EU while Scottish ones want in.

International journalists have been contrasting what they see as Scotland's Europhilia with England's Europhobia ever since the 'morning after' last June's historic Brexit vote. This week such reporting - no doubt disputed by those who wish to save the UK - reached a crescendo.

"As the UK leaves the UK on nationalist grounds, the Scottish nationalists want to stay," wrote commentator Jean Guisnel in Brittany's Le Télégramme. Prime Minister Theresa May, he added, was trying to avoid a "disaster before her very eyes".

Mr Guisnel, a veteran French journalist, concluded: "Mrs May can no longer ignore the stakes. Brexit will hurt Europe. But it will also plant the seeds of the break-up of the United Kingdom. Is that game really worth the candle?"

Theresa May

HeraldScotland: Theresa May

There can almost appear a degree of Schadenfreude in some European reporting and commenting about the prospects of a second independence referendum. Bad things, the refrain might be, happen to the governments of those states which turn their back on the EU.

Several major media outlets latched on to the remarks of Manfred Weber, the German MEP who leads the European People's Party, the main centre-right bloc in the European Parliament. "What we’re seeing is Theresa May isn’t managing to rally the whole country, to mobilise them behind her cause," Mr Weber said when asked about Nicola Sturgeon's announcement, according to reports carried by most French papers thanks to the agency AFP. He added: "When I see how Scottish prime minister is acting, how Scottish colleagues are acting, it gives me the feeling that they are not included in the whole process."

He added: "And so, we see the deepening of the splits inside UK society and that’s not good for the UK. London obviously is not reflecting all these emotions, all these political aspects enough that people really feel included in this process."

Turin's La Stampa could not be more plainly spoken about Theresa May's predicament. Ms Sturgeon's announcement, its writer Alessandra Rizzo said, was "an earthquake that would shake Westminster and put at risk a 300-year-old union between Edinburgh and London."

She added: "The UK, outside the EU, the single market and the customs union, may find itself a bit smaller as as well as more alone." The British state, Ms Rizzo added, using English words could go from being "Great Britain" to "Little England".

Tuesday's La Stampa: Scotland and Turkey, shocks for Europe


La Stampa also published analysis from a British journalist, Bill Emmott, suggesting that it was probable that British voters seeking to break one union, the EU, had also broken another their British one own.

El Punt Avui, Barcelona


Most continental papers continue to report Scottish and Northern Irish news firmly from the point of view of how it affects Teresa May and Britain. Not so much in Spain. With its own independence movements, not least in Catalonia, interest in Scotland is high. Ms Sturgeon made it on to the front pages of big Catalan and Spanish papers, including El Punt Avui.

Spain's big Scottish story yesterday was the response of Madrid's foreign minister. Alfonso Dastis, on a visit to Peru, said Scotland "could get in the queue" for EU membership, using language which will frustrate pro-independence voices - and experts - who reject the very existence of a waiting list.

In Madrid's El Mundo Ms Sturgeon's announcement was an "ultimatum", one that did not go down well, and her party was "separatist".

"Spain supports the integrity of the UK and does not encourage secessions and divisions in any member states," it reported Mr Dastis saying. "We prefer that things continue as they are."

El Mundo, Madrid, on a 'separatist referendum'


Contrast this with the Mr Weber, who described Scottish affairs as domestic. The German MEP was not the only voice to suggest that Scotland had been ignored by Mrs May's Brexit government.

The New York Times, in its analysis, said: "However things work out, there is an unmistakable note of destiny building in nationalist circles.

"Three decades ago, Scotland’s independence movement was little more than a fringe voice of romantic protest. Only one in four Scots voted for the nationalists.

"They have been galvanized above all by a sense of being ignored and patronised by the British Parliament, from the long and unpopular government of the former Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, through to the vote to leave the European Union."