The New Flemish Alliance (NVA), whose ultimate aim is Flemish independence, had an astounding result in the Belgian Federal elections. The NVA not only won the election in their own national territory of Flanders, but won more seats than any other Party in any part of Belgium.
The fact that federal election campaigns in Belgium are fought in two distinct parts, with different parties contesting in Flanders from those in French speaking Wallonia, undoubtedly helped NVA to sweep to victory across Flanders by focussing on their constitutional position, and inspiring Flemish voters to confidently choose the path towards independence.
The customary post-election negotiations in Belgium are still going on, but should ultimately produce a new coalition government perhaps with as many as eight political parties involved. One certainty is that the new government will take account of the election result in Flanders, and progress can be expected in terms of greater power and influence for Flanders as a further step on the independence road.
The contrast with the UK election outcome, from Scotland's viewpoint, could hardly be more stark. We had to contend with a UK campaign, largely focussed on issues over which Westminster has no say north of the border, and a Unionist media determined to squeeze out debate on Scotland's distinct position and interest.
In spite of the fact that Scotland voted very differently from other parts of the UK, returning just one solitary Tory MP, we find a Tory government inflicted upon us with the collusion of their Lib Dem coalition supporters.
The only way of preventing a Tory government being foisted upon Scotland is to vote Labour! So said the Labour party in Scotland during the general election campaign. The reality is very different. Voters in Scotland did reject the Tories again. Many did choose to believe that voting Labour would keep the Tories out of government. Scotland was duly rewarded by the imposition of a Tory government anyway!
What did the Labour Party do to keep their promise to Scotland of preventing a Tory government? Absolutely nothing! When the opportunity was available to construct a progressive alliance, rather than the extremes of Toryism, Labour chose to allow a Tory government to be foisted upon Scotland. In spite of their own pre-election rhetoric in Scotland, and in spite of the fact that Gordon Brown had cleared the way by standing down as leader, Labour ran away from the option of a progressive alternative which would have better reflected the outcome of the election in Scotland.
Scotland does have another option though. Next May we will have a Scottish general election, at which the focus will be on the future governance of our nation. There are many positive reasons why voters in Scotland should choose the SNP in that election. SNP votes are for building on our record of real achievement in government, in total contrast to the wasted Lab/Lib coalition years.
SNP votes are votes for independence. With independence, we would have a full and proper say in international bodies like the EU, with the guaranteed rights to vote, and to veto, that only independent member states are entitled to. With independence, we would have full control of our own national finances, both income and expenditure. The recent GERS report confirmed Scotland's healthy financial position with a £1.3 billion surplus.
Let us appeal to voters in Scotland who want their votes to really count in shaping the future development of the Scottish nation, rather than suffering a dismal decade of Westminster spending cuts, to Put Scotland First by voting SNP in 2011 and hastening our progress towards independence.