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MAINZ, Germany - First the kilts, then the Lederhosen?
A small political party in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria is closely watching the outcome of the Scottish referendum, hopeful that a resounding “YES” for independence” could have a knock-on effect for the region from which Oktoberfest gets its roots.
It’s been more than 100 years since the Kingdom of Bavaria was a sovereign state – but the so-called “Bavaria Party” has long campaigned for independence to come once more to the region’s rolling hills. The fringe Bavaria Party has just over 5,000 members - in the southern state of 12.4 million people - and regularly campaigns with slogans such as “Bavaria can also succeed on its own,” but so far has failed to gain widespread support for its ideas.
The party hopes all of that will change if Scotland gains independence – envisioning a domino effect - and is putting their voice out in front to support the referendum to their west.
“We hope that the vote will send a clear signal for Europe and that in the long run, Bavaria will become an independent member of the European Union,” party chairman Florian Weber told NBC News. The Scottish vote also has fueled hopes for independence in Italy's Sardinia and Spain's Catalonia.
In the last local elections in 2013, Weber’s party received only 2.1 percent of the votes - a dramatic fall from the golden years of the 1950s, when the nationalistic party had 17 lawmakers in Germany’s lower house of parliament. A 2009 poll found that only 23% of Bavarian residents questioned said they would favor independence, while 56 percent said “no” to secession in the study on ‘Life in Bavaria’ by the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation.
Despite the odds, the party consistently has pushed for their own independence referendum and more Bavarian sovereignty. With prospects of success widely considered to be slim, Weber’s party has often been mocked as a bunch of Lederhosen-wearing, slap-dancing, beer swigging, self-proclaimed freedom fighters – an image the party chairman squarely rejects.
“We no longer want to be ridiculed for our demands, this is a serious matter for us,” Weber said.