The “demand” by certain N.Irish political and “community” leaders that they be included in the Scottish Referendum debate has been met with thinly disguised sectarian bigotry from the usual sources and with a much more rational response and reasonable request by a pro-Union Scot:
Ulster unionists wishing to be regarded as serious participants in the debate first need to recognise that the likely parameters of the referendum mean they aren’t stakeholders equal to those living here because they will not be able vote and ultimately decide the constitutional future of Scotland. They also need to do more to explain precisely why they feel like stakeholders and why they feel this debate matters to them.
Alastair does have a point.
Why do we feel like stakeholders and the reasons why the debate over Scotland’s future matters to the Northern Irish generally?:
Due to ceaseless population movement between the two countries, many N. Irish people have close family or relatives living in Scotland.
2. Political and constitutional
Despite devolution, we, along with the Scots and Welsh belong to a greater parliamentary whole. The Scots leaving that greater whole would change the dynamics of the remaining parliament and political system. It may also affect Northern Ireland’s place within that system.
Scotland’s departure would change the overall economic status of the United Kingdom and by extension Northern Ireland’s for better or for worse.
Although the SNP’s grants policy has prevented some N.Irish students who would have otherwise done so, from attending Scottish universities, many still study there and will intend to do so in the future. How might their status and rights change?
The Plantation of NE Ulster was carried out mainly (although not entirely) by smallholders from the Lowlands of Scotland. Many of their descendents still feel a close historical link with the land of their forebearers. Since the 17th century, there has much movement between the two parts of the nation and that has not been confined to those who would today define themselves as Ulster Scots.
6. The United Kingdom’s future role and status in the world
Our nation tends to punch above its weight within international bodies and organisations- how might that influence change in event of Scotland leaving the greater United Kingdom?
Due to the family and historical reasons mentioned above, Northern Ireland and Scotland enjoy a close cultural relationship in many areas- music, dance, sport to take but three examples. This relationship, as with the historical links is not confined to the pro-Union sector of the population.
I would agree with Alastair that, notwithstanding these reasons, the Scottish Referendum is in terms of voting rights solely a matter for the Scottish. I would also agree that the Ulster unionist intervention in the debate so far has been unhelpful for the wider Scottish pro-Union cause.
But as I believe I have proven above, we do have a stake in the future constitutional status of our fellow British in Scotland and I believe we do have a right to contribute to the debate.
That contribution, however, must be much more nuanced than previous attempts and should not project the air of arrogant entitlement to involvement.
It should focus more on how the Scots benefit from being a part of a greater British whole and how we (once the vote has been won for the Union), collectively, as Unionists can improve that greater whole, politically, economically and culturally.
We have received the following comment on the topic from the leader of the UUP, Mike Nesbitt:
“I see two aspects: the issue of who votes, and that of the implications of the vote. Clearly, as a unionist who supports the right of the people of NI to determine their own future, I apply the same to the people of Scotland, who have the sole right and responsibility to vote on Independence in 2014. However, the result of the vote may have implications for every nation and region of the United Kingdom, and it is perfectly proper for a political party that supports the Union to both promote the advantages to all, and ensure Northern Ireland’s interests do not fall by default during the debate over the next two years”Share on Facebook