CHARLIE Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, is the latest publication to forecast that Scotland will become independent.
This week’s issue carries a four page report on the country and is headlined in its distinctive irreverent style: “Scotland, soon your balls will swing free under the kilt”.
That conclusion was reached following a five-day fact finding mission by the magazine’s journalist Robert McLiam Wilson and its publishing director Riss, who was wounded in the January 2015 attack on the paper.
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Wilson and Riss wanted to capture the mood following the UK’s Brexit vote and the impact it had on Scots who voted to remain.
They spent five days interviewing politicians, immigrants, a priest, fishermen, and publicans as well as drinkers in Gallowgate, Glasgow.
Wilson, a novelist born in Northern Ireland, who now lives and works in Paris, told The National he found “an incredible” level of political engagement and believed the country was on the cusp of independence.
“Scotland felt very international and outward looking. I was very struck by how European it felt. The levels of political engagement were incredible.
“It was like meeting a group of 1970s Marxist students, everybody everywhere had a political opinion they wanted to share, everyone had a very nuanced view,” he said.
“What the paper put in the standfirst was that 400 years of a link with Britain is less strong than 40 years link with continental Europe. I think the dynamism was already there and the final push has come from the Brexit vote and the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
“I personally can’t really see Scotland voting against independence again.”
He added: “I would however say the SNP really need to up their game in terms of the European press. I think a lot of people in Europe still don’t really know much about Scotland or the country’s political situation.
“People in Europe know that Scotland voted to stay in the EU, but my view is that isn’t going to last much after September when the new political year starts in Europe and the politicians here move onto other things, including preparing for elections in France and Germany.”
Twelve people were shot dead when the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo came under attack just over 18 months ago. Among those murdered were the staff cartoonists, Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, economist Bernard Maris and editors Elsa Cayat and Mustapha Ourrad. Two police officers were also shot dead and eleven people were wounded.
The two gunmen were identified as Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, French Muslim brothers of Algerian descent.
During their visit to Scotland Wilson and Riss visited the East Neuk of Fife where they met fishermen in Pittenweem and visited Kingsbarns Distillery before travelling to the west Fife town of Ballingry to meet Willie Clarke, Britain’s last elected Communist, recently retired after serving 43 years as a councillor.
They also interviewed Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, Jackson Carlaw MSP, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives,Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP for Edinburgh East, and Frank McAveety, the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council.
Francophone writer Wilson is best known for his highly-acclaimed novel, Ripley Bogle, which won the Rooney Prize, the Hughes Prize, and the Irish Book Award, while his second novel, Eureka Street, was adapted for television by the BBC.
Charlie Hebdo is a left-wing weekly which publishes cartoons, columns, and special reports, and is interested in politics, animal rights and environmentalism.
It has often been embroiled in controversy due to its irreverent and sardonic take on awkward issues – often race and religion.
The magazine mocks the far-right, particularly France’s Front National party, led by Marine Le Pen, and religions including Catholicism, Judaism and Islam are satirised and has also taken aim at the facial veil, forced marriage and the stoning of women.
In September 2012, Charlie Hebdo once again published satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including nude caricatures of him, prompting outrage among some Muslims and criticism of its editorial judgement from both the French government and the White House.
Following the massacre in January last year supporters of free speech around the world adopted the phrase “Je Suis Charlie”.
Riss was shot once during the incident and from his hospital bed drew four cartoons for the next issue of Charlie Hebdo, released on January 14, one week after the shooting.
Since the attack he has been given 24-hour protection by the French state, with a team of armed police officers guarding him both at work and home.