November 17, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Great Scot! The land of Loch Ness has caught independence fever — and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart may be the cause. Since its release last May, Gibson’s movie about 13th-century Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace has increased talk of splitting from England and helped boost interest in the Scottish National Party (SNP), an organization that advocates independence. ”Braveheart touched a great deal of emotion,” says an SNP spokesman, Craig Milroy, who adds that campaign fliers bearing Gibson’s likeness have been the ”most successful ever. Our offices are swamped.”

Why did Braveheart ignite passions when Liam Neeson’s Rob Roy — also about a stellar Scotsman — did not? ”Roy was just an 18th-century kilted adventure,” says Brian Pendreigh, film critic for The Scotsman. ”Braveheart is the only film I’ve heard about where people are breaking into applause.” While the normally outspoken Gibson declined to comment, a spokesman from Paramount did offer a cavalier ”Who cares?”

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