Scottish election 2021: What the foreign media is saying

The Scottish election is dominating the headlines here, but how is it being reported further afield? The Scotsman takes a look at what foreign media outlets have to say about the Holyrood vote.

In an interview published on Tuesday with Tagesschau, a German news programme shown on state broadcaster ARD, SNP candidate and Scottish politics veteran Angus Robertson is keen to clarify the translation of the name “Scottish National Party” for German readers.

In Germany, the term “nationalist” conjures up an entirely different image to that which the SNP wants to portray.

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The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now the biggest opposition party in the national parliament the Bundestag, with 89 seats – with a right-wing, anti-European Union and anti-immigration stance.

Edinburgh Central candidate Angus Robertson, pictured here campaigning this week with Nicola Sturgeon, have an interview to a German media outlet.
Edinburgh Central candidate Angus Robertson, pictured here campaigning this week with Nicola Sturgeon, have an interview to a German media outlet.
Edinburgh Central candidate Angus Robertson, pictured here campaigning this week with Nicola Sturgeon, have an interview to a German media outlet.

“That sounds like ‘far right’,” Mr Robertson, who is half German and is fluent in the language, tells reporter Imke Köhler. “We are not. We are a moderate centre-left party that has a European perspective.”

In the article, journalist Ms Köhler points out the focus of campaigns by anti-independence parties such as Scottish Labour, which has called for a focus on post-Covid recovery. However, she tells readers that independence is not going to go away in Scotland.

“In fact, nobody can ignore the issue,” she says.

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Journalist Thomas Pierre, in a piece for French commercial radio and media outlet RTL, agrees. He suggests this week’s vote could kick-start a return to the EU for Scotland.

“Will Brexit have paved the way for a new independence referendum in Scotland?” he asks.

“If it is still too early to call it, the election on this Thursday, May 6, should certainly give food for thought to the European ambitions of a part of the Scottish electorate.”

Catalan media has, unsurprisingly, kept a close watch on events in Scotland, with many Catalan independence supporters travelling to Scotland to campaign for the first independence referendum in 2014.

The region has also attempted to hold an independence referendum, with the Yes side winning with 92 per cent of the vote in 2017, although the poll was declared unconstitutional and suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain.

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One news outlet in the Spanish region believes the Scottish Green party holds the key to the future of a second independence referendum.

“We must keep an eye on the results of the Green party, to which polls predict a significant rise,” says columnist Tomeu Martí of website

“It must be remembered that they are also supporters of the self-determination referendum.”

Daniel Postico, journalist at Catalan El Punt Avui, said he believed Ms Sturgeon would have to relent and agree to work with former first minister Alex Salmond to be able to hold a second referendum.

“If the predictions come true, Sturgeon and Salmond, the two leaders facing the courts and turned into enemies, will have to sit down and discuss the path to independence,” he wrote earlier this week.

In Canada, where the Scottish independence issue is also carefully watched by observers for the possible influence the outcome could have on its own breakaway territory, Quebec, columnist Pat Murphy of Troy Media argues the changed landscape post-Brexit should allow for a second referendum, if the SNP gains a majority on Thursday.

He also compares the popularity of Ms Sturgeon to Canada’s own Prime Minister, saying the First Minister has a “Scottish-style common touch”.

“Like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she has the ability to slough off scandals that would cripple many other politicians,” he says.

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Also across the Atlantic, a New Yorker piece which said Mr Salmond “chuckled” as he claimed that he could have “destroyed” Ms Sturgeon if he had wanted to, has been widely reported due to the controversy and intrigue surrounding his remarks.

Meanwhile, an in-depth profile of Ms Sturgeon by American magazine The Atlantic on Wednesday warned the state of uncertainty surrounding independence was stifling political debate, pointing to SNP failures such as the education attainment gap.

“The current state of suspended animation might be wonderful for Nicola Sturgeon’s party, but it is deeply corrosive to political debate in Scotland,” writes journalist Helen Lewis.

In Iran, where earlier this week reports claimed that cyber specialists working on behalf of the regime there were targeting Scottish voters by posing as pro-independence users on Twitter and Facebook, state news agency Isna has run straightforward pieces on the Scottish election.

However, a short, factual article published on Wednesday was illustrated with a graphic showing Scotland being chopped off the top of Britain with a pair of giant scissors.

Russia Today, where both Mr Salmond and candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh – as well as All For Unity party leader George Galloway – have hosted shows, has remained surprisingly quiet on the topic.

Russia’s Gazeta newspaper last week ran a feature entitled “From Scotland to Wales: how Britain is falling apart”.

However, the article quotes expert Igor Kovalev, first deputy dean for science of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s HSE University, who confidently states that a second referendum will be successfully blocked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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“The Scottish nationalists, of course, want to hold a second referendum, but no-one will let them do it,” he says.

In Romania, the reporting on Scotland’s election campaign, perhaps understandably, focuses on derogatory and allegedly racist comments made on Twitter about Romanian beggars by Alba candidate Alex Arthur.

Bucharest-based Media outlet Digi24 reported recently on what it described as the “outrageous” comments made by Mr Arthur last year, in which he claimed that Romanians begging on the streets of Edinburgh “ain’t hungry” and were “as fat as big juicy over fed pigs".

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