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Pictured in 2012, Axel Jonsson, leader of the Future of Åland.The Scottish independence referendum that was voted on 18 September attracted the attention of separatist movements across the globe.

According to The New York Times, Catalonians, South Tyroleans, Corsicans, Bretons, Frisians and Swedish-speaking Finns are flocking to Scotland by the busload.

To be pedantic, there is definitely one Swedish-speaking Finn who made his way to Scotland in time for the referendum. He is Axel Jonsson, 22, the leader of a secessionist party in the Åland Islands, the Future of Åland.

"The referendum has sparked great interest in Åland. There are a lot of people following the discussion on the matter," explains Jonsson.

Established in 2001, the Future of Åland is still a small party, which won around ten per cent of the votes in the elections for the autonomic region's parliament.

To date, the vast majority of the population of Åland has been in favour of the current model of autonomic status.

Jonsson believes that if other separatist movements continue to garner popularity in Europe, Åland Islanders may well jump on the bandwagon.

"Scotland, Catalonia and many European micro states have thriving economies," he says.

It is possible that Åland will follow in Scotland's footsteps and organise an independence referendum in a decade's time, Jonsson believes.

"This also depends on how the language question develops in Finland."

Axel Jonsson

• Born on 8 March 1992. Lives in Mariehamn.

• Has acted as t he leader of the political party Future of Åland since 2011.

• A member of Åland’s parliament.

• Ran for parliament in 2011 from the candidate list of an electoral alliance with the Social Democrats and the Centre Party.

• Gained 394 votes in the parliamentary elections, amounting to a 3.8 per cent share of the vote and sixth position.

Sole solution

The Future of Åland operates on the assumption that to maintain Åland's unilingual Swedish-speaking culture, independence is the only solution.

"It's for example difficult to get an education in Swedish in Finland. This is both a practical and legalistic stumbling block to maintaining the current autonomic status," claims Jonsson.

Another reason for seceding from Finland lies in financial policy.

"At the moment, Åland's business sector misses out on novel and innovative solutions because the economic structures are so different in the two regions. The mainland Finland has a strong industrial and forestry sector while we rely more on small businesses and maritime industry."

Meanwhile, in Spain, the leaders of Catalonia are set to organise an advisory referendum on independence on 9 November, despite the opposition from the Spanish central government.

Mirroring the separatist views in Åland, the supporters of independent Catalonia back their appeal with arguments related to cultural differences, language issues and economic problems plaguing the main country.

Iisakki Härmä – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
©HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Image: Jonas Edsvik / Str / Lehtikuva

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