Scots independence ‘detrimental’

By Staff Reporter

In Northern Ireland both Unionists and Nationalists are watching Scotland with great interest.  The rise of the SNP and their desire for independence has the potential to embroil all four quarters of the United Kingdom in a constitutional conundrum.

Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, thriving on a renewed and increasing sense of Scottish patriotism, have been more confrontational with the British Government than ever in the last week.  The significance of him choosing to accuse the Prime Minister of “bullying and hectoring” in Dublin will not have been lost on many.  Salmond has always been keen to use the Republic as an example of how an independent Scotland is achievable.

From an economic viewpoint Scottish independence could have a detrimental effect on Northern Ireland’s economy.  A Scotland outside the Union begs the question of whether Scotland would retain Sterling or join the eurozone (should they remain within the European Union). Given our close economic ties with Scotland, the damage caused to our recovering economy by such uncertainty would be immeasurable.

I am concerned however that the elevation of Scottish nationalism could have a negative impact in other parts of the United Kingdom.  It could come as a boost for radicals like the English Defence League and aggravate tensions within our country.

Alex Salmond has so far exploited the anti-English sentiment in parts of Scotland.  While it is largely benign and mainly banter between two neighbouring countries, the SNP could quell a more serious sense of Scottish elitism.  The desire of the Scottish National Party to hold the referendum close to the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn could have more serious implications that are more damaging than thousands of Scots inspired by their forbearers turning out to vote yes to independence.  A perfect example is the sensitivities around anniversaries in Northern Ireland, such as the Battle of the Boyne or the Easter Rising, such celebrations can turn into days of civil unrest.

Once the scale tips it will be extremely hard to switch off the radical nationalists on both sides of the border.  Look at our own relationship with the Republic of Ireland, while it is improving there is still a bitterness expressed by many on each side of the border – feelings that may be accentuated as the row over Scottish independence rumbles on.

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