In an extraordinary and by some measures outrageous interference in the constitutional debate now underway in Scotland, the Pope of Rome has come out in favour of a 'No' vote to Scottish independence. He said that voting to break away from the United Kingdom “may not be just” and would be “a dismemberment.”
Pope Francis, a native of Argentina who has in the past supported Argentinian claims on Britain’s Falkland Islands, told La Vanguardia, a Spanish magazine, that “One has to take the secession of a nation with grain of salt” and indicated that Scotland’s desire for independence from the United Kingdom “may not be just.”
Yet bishops and priests of the Catholic Church in Ireland supported Irish independence from the UK 100 years ago, even when the independence struggle turned violent.
The Pope, whose own country gained its independence by breaking with Spain, told La Vanguardia: “All divisions worry me. There is independence by emancipation and independence by secession. The independences by emancipation, for example, are American, they were emancipated from the European states. The independence of nations by secession is a dismemberment.”
“Obviously, there are nations with cultures so different that couldn’t even be stuck together with glue. The Yugoslavian case is very clear, but I ask myself if it is so clear in other cases, Scotland, Padania [the north of Italy], Catalonia.”
“There will be cases that will be just and cases that will not be just, but the secession of a nation without an antecedent of mandatory unity” – apparently a reference to forced union – “one has to take it with a lot of grains of salt and analyse it case by case.”
As reported in the Times, research by Scotland’s University of Stirling published earlier this year, “Catholic voters and those with no religious affiliation were substantially more likely to back the Yes campaign than Church of Scotland and Church of England voters. The study found that support for independence among Catholics was just below 40 per cent.”
The Pope’s intervention may raise fears that Catholic support for the Yes vote will weaken.
His support for a No vote follows interventions in the debate by President Obama and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom have said they want to see Scotland stay in the United Kingdom.

Argentinian Pope says No to Scottish independence