Irish Examiner view: Scottish split would mean a lot for us politically

Irish Examiner view: Scottish split would mean a lot for us politically
Spectators watch golfer Colin Montgomerie at the 2005 Open Championship with Scotland flags. File photo

Whatever government emerges in the coming weeks, our political leaders will have a lot to grapple with: Steering us fully out of lockdown; rebuilding a decimated economy and re-engaging with Brexit, not to mention the huge work needed in health, education and climate change.

What is currently not on any politician’s radar — but, perhaps should be — is the issue of Scottish independence. 

Recent opinion polls in Scotland show a growing and unmistakable trend towards independence becoming the majority opinion.

According to Angus Robertson, former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), not only do a succession of polls suggest that momentum is now with the independence movement, it demonstrates that there is an underlying trend towards ‘Yes’ from undecided, open-minded and previously ‘No’ voters.

Support amongst younger voters aged between 16 and 34 is overwhelming at 73% to 27%.

That is a huge change, thanks in part to the relentless appeal to nationalism by the SNP in a drive for another referendum on independence since the 45%/54% defeat in 2014.

Writing in The Scotsman, Robertson sees a combination of Brexit and Boris Johnson’s poor handling of the Covid-19 crisis in England as providing a game-changer.

But the question is what does this mean for Ireland? Potentially, quite a lot.

Scottish independence would affect politics on the whole island. Ireland would be expected to assist Scotland in any attempt to rejoin the European Union, given the trade and social links between the countries and its support for the principle of self-determination.

There would be numerous opportunities for alliances between Ireland and Scotland, particularly in the realm of the arts and other cultural endeavours.

We already have a shared history, culture and even a shared language. There is hardly a fada separating Gaeilge from Gaelic.

Scotland could learn from us how to operate as a small open economy within the EU while we could benefit from Scottish inventiveness and ingenuity.

In considering the extent to which any future Irish government should engage directly with the Scottish government while Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, we should be cautious not to face accusations of interfering with the cohesion of that union.

It is up to the people of Scotland alone to decide whether to remain within the UK.

We must also recognise that the prospect of an independent Scotland is likely to be greeted with alarm by Unionists in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons.

Firstly, a shared religion has helped form social cohesion between NI and western Scotland.

There is also the issue of the integrity of what would remain of the UK. An independent Scotland would mean the only kingdoms remaining united would be England and Northern Ireland, Wales being a principality.

For now, Irish political leaders should be guided by the Good Friday Agreement which was tasked “to promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands”.

In enhancing relations with Scotland, we do not want to alienate the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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