RARELY before has Scotland provided such a focus for the world's attention than it did during the run-up to the referendum.

It was for all the right reasons too. Not only was the turnout one of the largest ever witnessed in such a crucial democratic vote, but Scotland showed that it could address the concept of separation without, for the most part, the need to resort to violence.

Inevitably perhaps the countries with the greatest interest were those which were either keen to embrace separation or felt threatened by it. Take Russia and Ukraine, whose stand-off has been so bitter that many feared it would escalate into open warfare. Earlier this year Russia's president Vladimir Putin reminded Scottish voters that they had everything to lose and nothing to gain because they would forfeit their membership of "a strong single state".

Fast forward to last week when Russia was still being condemned by the outside world for allegedly imposing its own interests on Crimea and eastern Ukraine and Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of Russia's federation council, could be heard praising Westminster's willingness to listen to the wishes of the Scottish people.

"When information appeared that in Scotland the majority of citizens were planning to vote to leave the United Kingdom, what did Prime Minister Cameron do?" she asked. "He didn't send in tanks and planes, but instead announced that British authorities were prepared to grant Scotland extra wide-reaching powers in order to protect the state's integrity."

The inference was obvious.

Closer to home, Spain took a lively interest in what was happening in Scotland for the very good reason that they hoped it would shed some light on their own separatist challenges in Catalonia and the Basque region.

Exactly a week before Scotland's referendum took place, around 1.8 million Catalans staged a protest in Barcelona for the right to decide their region's political future in a referendum which is planned to take place on November 9.

It was a peaceful demonstration but the move has been rejected by Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy on the grounds that it would be illegal and that in any case it would be an economic disaster for both Spain and Catalonia.

The presence in Edinburgh of several young Catalans wearing national dress was a reminder of the historic and cultural links that already exist between the two countries. Many of them were attracted by the notion that the Scottish referendum presented the first practical and peaceful exposition of a movement towards independence carried out by a state-in-waiting (Scotland) and an existing nation-state government (Westminster).

There were other parallels. Catalonia is one of Spain's richest and most highly industrialised regions, and Catalans believe their wealthy region will be better off as an independent country rather than carrying the economic burden of the rest of Spain. It is not surprising perhaps that during the referendum campaign, Spanish politicians warned that they would block any application made by an independent Scotland to join the European Union. What would be sauce for Scotland's goose would be equally applicable to Catalonia's gander.

Perhaps the most unexpected observers came from Venice, once a maritime power in its own right with a political and strategic influence in world affairs out of all proportion to its small size. Nowadays it is better known as a popular tourist destination but earlier this year, in March, it held an unofficial online referendum poll on whether or not it and the surrounding state of Veneto should secede from Italy and restore the sovereign Venetian republic which existed for more than 1000 years before losing its independence in 1797 during the Napoleonic wars. Like Catalonia, Veneto is one of Italy's richest regions and many of its residents have come to believe the Italian government is using that wealth to prop up the poorer southern parts of the country.

Further afield China, too, took an interest in what was happening in Scotland as it has its own separatist challenges and territorial claims where pro-democracy claims are gaining momentum. The best known are the former British Crown Colony of Hong Kong and the independent presence of Taiwan, but within China itself there is a growing separatist movement in the north-western province of Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority. Xinjiang is China's largest province whose mineral wealth contributes hugely to the national economy.

Activists within the province and exiled Uyghur groups have ambitions to gain independence from China and establish a new country to be known as East Turkestan but Beijing insists that Xinjiang has been part of China since time immemorial. This has led to periodic outbursts of violence which have been countered by repressive operations conducted by Chinese security forces. Earlier in the summer nine local fighters were sentenced to death for attempting to overthrow Chinese government rule and human rights activists have consistently blamed the Chinese authorities for imposing restrictions on freedom of worship and for selective repression of the Islamic faith. Again the parallels are obvious: Xinjiang is a successful and wealthy province with a population seeking greater self-determination.

China might be many miles away from Scotland but any successful separatist movement always causes concern in Beijing. In the weeks before the Scottish referendum, Chinese newspapers gave a lot of editorial space to the economic and financial consequences of a Scottish Yes vote, with some commentators questioning why an apparently successful country such as the United Kingdom was taking such a risk.

Typical of this approach was a leader article in the influential Beijing News, which claimed last week that if Scotland became independent then the UK would "simply slip into being a tourist hot spot and a museum, no longer a centre of global politics, finance and culture".

In stark contrast to the Chinese hauteur, US President Barack Obama was gracious in his words of congratulation. He too had been critical of the referendum's threat to the integrity of the UK but on Friday night his relief at the decision was balanced by a degree of gratitude that the UK would remain his country's main partner.

"Through debate, discussion, and passionate yet peaceful deliberations, they reminded the world of Scotland's enormous contributions to the UK and the world, and have spoken in favour of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom," he said in an official statement.

"We have no closer ally than the United Kingdom, and we look forward to continuing our strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as we address the challenges facing the world today."