The Irish Dimension


Two weeks ago the SNP held their annual conference in Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands. We, in Ireland were busy ripping each other to shreds over a Presidential election and it passed completely under the radar of our hapless media. At that conference, the party’s first since their landslide election win in May, Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader, told delegates: “No politician, and certainly no London politician, will determine the future of the Scottish nation. The people of Scotland – the sovereign people of Scotland – are now in the driving seat.” With support for Scottish independence now hovering around 50% and a referendum on independence due within five years, we in Ireland need to start to thinking about the constitutional implications of this event on our own country.

We all know that since Finn McCool’s day Ireland and Scotland have had a ‘special relationship’. Even still, my personal support for Scottish independence, in itself, doesn’t go much beyond the hazy hope that any country who wants to stand alone in the world should be supported over imperialism. My real interest in the matter and what is honestly of most interest to Irish nationalists and unionists alike is the upshot for the constitutional position NI. For me, as an Irish nationalist, I see the break-up of the United Kingdom as a weakening of the union still further and therefore would regard Scots independence as a good thing. Irish unionists obviously wish the opposite.

As outside factors overtake us in Ireland in a post-crash world, entrenched assumptions held across the political spectrum, like the need for the United Kingdom, are going to change, fast. Scottish independence might well not be all that far away and the fall-out might give us the window in Ireland to apply our own solution to our own interminable goal for independence.

I’ll admit that I have never understood fully the complex and often contradictory claims of identity that groups of Irish unionists have promoted. I’m sure though that ever since the creation of NI they have been paranoid, seeking comfort from the security blanket of Union Jacks and other such labels and paraphernalia (no different from southern nationalists they would argue, with a degree of plausibility). Recently, NI unionists have taken on an Ulster-Scots identity to differentiate from the ‘native’ Irish population and create a culture, and an independent Scotland would certainly erode that. Whether they have a genuine affinity with Scotland or are just using that identity for their own ends is an open question. Like everything else, it’s probably a bit of both. Either way, I also have no doubt that that contradiction and confusion would be deepened should Scotland gain independence. It would cause a crisis in identity for many ‘Ulster-Scots’ who link that (developing) identity with the Union.

Or is it the case that Irish unionists, who use their Scottish ancestry as the reason for supporting the union, would simply find another reason? Indeed one suspects that many would develop an Ulster-Klingon identity to avoid reunification or any meaningful constitutional relationship with Dublin.

Anyway, if the Scots broke away from the Union, it would be a knock to Ulster unionist morale and combined with the growing influence of Sinn Féin, north and south, unionists would feel like they were, “caught in a constitutional pincer movement pushing them inexorably out of the Union” (Henry McDonald, Belfast Telegraph, 18th October 2011, http://goo.gl/8a7GS).

I think it is safe to assume that in the event of Scotland declaring its independence, the situation in Northern Ireland would certainly be destabilised. The unionist attitude is one of identification with Britain and Britishness (its very raison d’être in fact) and the British state would have ceased to exist.

Much as desperate unionists will try to portray it, I certainly do not agree that it would be the same as when we (the south of Ireland) left the Union in 1922. We were not essential to the survival of the Union in Great Britain. But should Scotland declare independence, there is only a rump union of debatable viability. For a start, their flag, the Union Jack, would become obsolete.

Ideally in a post-Britain scenario Irish unionists would probably like to develop a union with Edinburgh. But, what I don’t think they fully get is that, if Scotland breaks away, NI is likely to become a matter of, at best, absolute indifference to pretty much everyone in the UK, barring perhaps parts of Glasgow. I think they also underestimate in a post-Scotland UK that Mummy England will care less and less about them, having more than enough to worry about herself.

In my opinion, there is no way Scotland would achieve her independence only to consider a re-union with NI post-break up of the UK. I know of no Scottish nationalist who would support such a move, despite their affection for Ireland, north and south. Suddenly, Northern Ireland is a constitutional Nobody’s Child.

No matter how some will spin it, the independence of Scotland would be the end of Britain and a not unlikely development is the break up of all its competent parts, with a rise in English nationalism leading to a desire to jettison parts of Britain that they see themselves paying for. I would be slow to underestimate English nationalism, particularly the nasty strain that attracts people to the BNP. But hey, that’s their problem! Let us remember that when the USSR broke up, Russia wasn’t the last to proclaim independence – it was little Belarus. If it comes down to a motley crew of English, Welsh and partitioned Irish, it may well be the English who will secede.

Here’s a hypothetical, what if Scotland were to declare independence – England and Wales would declare a two country UK renamed the United Kingdom of England and Wales. Northern Ireland would face a make-your-mind-up-time, independence or unification. At the moment, there is no push for an independent Northern Ireland, like in Scotland, while there most definitely is for a united Ireland (or something approaching that).

It’s conceivable that, to avoid limbo, when/if independence is ruled out, they insist on a regional assembly and an expansion of the powers and responsibilities of the British-Irish Council. They may also push for Ireland to join the British Commonwealth. At that point, it’ll be up to the rest of Ireland to decide.

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  1. robert boyd says:

    very interesting read this and it poses many questions for all us celts

  2. vronsky says:

    This is a exciting and worrying question. I’m a long time member of the SNP, but an Irish Catholic with impeccable Republican credentials (some of the family went to jail, one or two disappeared, grandad they never caught). I have citizenship and travel on an Irish passport. It would be a very just outcome if Ireland were reunited as a consequence of Scottish independence. As a harp player I have been a frequent visitor to Ireland and I’m just sensitive enough to be embarrassed by my Scottishness. Old sins cast long shadows – the Plantation, Partition, the Black and Tans – these disasters had a Scottish accent.

    I mentioned worrying, because there is evidence of British unionism placing ever more of its hope in sectarianism, just as it did in Ireland. The steady ostinato from Jack MacConnell (‘SNP soft on sectarianism’) occasional outbursts from wotsisname the composer, and new contributions from McBride QC suggest that Plan A is to sectarianise the debate. I hope it all blows up in their stupid faces, and we get Scottish independence and Irish reunification at one throw.

    1. Tocasaid says:

      Good points. Its ironic that some Scots of ‘some’ Irish descent are as Unionist as any ‘hun’ or Tory. It is interesting that the likes of McBride and James MacMillan (yon composer/ poser) are very much middle-class Unionist establishment figures and despite this like to cry ‘sectarianism’ at every opportunity. I too have Irish ‘blood’ from both sides of the Christian divide but reject both sects and see the likes of McBride, MacMillan and their working class barra-boy Mac Giolla Bhain as sectarian and bigoted as any Paisley. Certainly more bigoted than 95% of Scots.

      Maybe its worth remembering that we share the stories of Fionn MacCumhaill, Cu Chulainn, Deirde, Diarmaid et al with the Irish as our Scottish folklore and placenames testify. The clàrsach (‘harp’) was also once our national instrument.

      Saor Alba agus aonaich Eirinn.

      Maybe ists worth remembering that

    2. Dave Coull says:

      “I’m just sensitive enough to be embarrassed by my Scottishness” – well, I’m not; and I think most of the population of Scotland is in the process of shedding embarrassment about their Scottishness. As for sectarianism, no doubt some Unionists will try to play this card, but there are good reasons for thnking that, in Scotland, unlike in Ireland, they will get nowhere with this. Here’s just some of these reasons. The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent country for around a thousand years. Although it became united with England in 1707, that Union was as a result of negotiations which ensured it was, in two important ways, never an incoroprating Union. These two ways were religion and Law. The Church of Scotland remained completely separate from (and very different from) the Church of England. (And, since education was largely run by the church, this meant the Scottish Education System remained separate from that of England.) So far as Law was concerned, Scottish law continued to apply in Scotland. There were 3 possible verdicts in criminal trials, not 2; Juries consisted of 15 jurors, not 12 as in England; and, of course, you could get married at 16 without parental consent, which led to the phenomenon of English teenagers “running away to Gretna Green” (the nearest place just across the Scottish border). Whether the differences were “good” things or not is beside the point; the point is, Scotland always remained different. Comparing with Ireland, because of the massive influence of the Roman Catholic Church in most of the country, it was possible, in Ireland, for Unionists to carve out a statelet dominated by the protestants who were a minority in Ireland as a whole. But protestants have no need to fear domination by the Catholic church in an independent Scotland – and, even if some do, they have no geographical base. There’s no “Six Counties”, nor 5, nor 4, nor 3, nor 2, nor even one, where a Unionist enclave could be carved out of Scotland. Scotland is going to be both independent and united long before Ireland will.

  3. Morag Lennie says:

    Without Scotland there IS no United Kingdom, it being comprised of 2 kongdoms, Scotland and England, 1 Principality – Wales, and a Province – Northern Ireland. Hence no United KINGDOM.
    P.S. can’t come soon enough. INDEPENDENCE, NOTHING LESS.

    1. vronsky says:

      There is some evidence that the triangular or celtic harp was invented in Scotland – certainly that’s where the earliest depiction of it is found, on a Pictish stone. Read ‘The Tree of Strings’ by Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird. And today there are more harpers in Scotland than in Ireland – an Irish harper told me that.

    2. Hugh Jordan says:

      Wales is not, in fact, a principality. There is no prince involved in its governance.https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2011/11/03/the-irish-dimension/#comment-form-guest

  4. John Coulter says:

    Stoops must merge with the Shinners

    The Shinners and Stoops should merge to form a single Northern nationalist party.

    Win or lose, Sinn Féin’s Marty McGuinness is certainly the main talking point of this month’s Southern Presidential poll.

    His Aras result will overshadow the race to become the new SDLP leader. No matter who succeeds wee Maggie Ritchie as Stoop supremo, he will have to merge the SDLP with someone to ensure the party’s long-term survival.

    It’s just a pity Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan lost his Assembly seat this year as he could have been a worthy champion for nationalist unity.

    Mind you, when he did propose the idea, he must have thought he’d fallen into a political hell given the nonsensical reaction from the then SDLP head buck cats when they suspended him.

    While Sinn Féin still contains a lot of people who were in the ‘RA at some point, the number of ‘draft dodgers’ emerging in the republican movement is steadily rising.

    These are people who have begun their republican activity purely in Sinn Féin without previously serving an apprenticeship in the Provos.

    With McGuinness and Gerry Adams well on their way to becoming Provo pensioners, a new Sinn Féin leadership must take over which has no links to the IRA wing of the republican family.

    Sinn Féin has achieved its primary goal of becoming the top nationalist party in the North. But the brig crown is to defeat a heavily split and apathetic Unionist family into becoming the biggest party at Stormont.

    While the SDLP lingers on, the Stoops will snatch enough seats to prevent this happening. The answer is simple – combine the SDLP and Sinn Féin and re-create the vision of the former Irish Nationalist Party at Stormont.

    Sinn Féin has become the lead nationalist party, not by the number of police officers, soldiers, Unionists and Protestants the IRA murdered, but because the Shinners have nicked the middle class Catholic turf normally held by the Stoops.

    Believe them or not, in reality, the Shinners have successfully rebranded themselves as a respectable middle class, moderate nationalist movement. So why do we need an SDLP?

    Maybe Sinn Féin’s military wing has spilt too much Irish blood for the SDLP to merge with the republican movement.

    In that case, should the SDLP merge with one of the established Southern parties – the trendy socialists of Irish Labour, the Fine Gael Blueshirts, or rescue Fianna Fáil from complete meltdown?

    If McGuinness’ past prevents him from becoming President, then he should concentrate on his role as a Westminster MP and persuade Sinn Féin to take its Commons seats rather than returning to his job as deputy First Minister in the Assembly.

    The temporary post holder – John O’Dowd from Upper Bann – is a republican Unionists can do business with.

    What would be so wrong with a new Irish Nationalist Party led by O’Dowd with the SDLP’s Big Al McDonnell or Patsy McGlone as his deputy?

    Whatever you Stoop delegates do, DON’T put in Alex Attwood or Conall McDevitt as your next boss.

    The latter two are capable constituency MLAs, but don’t have the political balls to lead the Stoops into a merger with the Shinners.

    If the nationalist and republican families had listened to Dekki O’Loan when he urged unity, the INP would be running Stormont and expertly poised for both a coalition role in the Dáil with Marty on his way to the Aras.

    Maybe some day nationalists will see sense. Just ask Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond!

    1. I don’t think there’s any merger on the horizon for SF and the SDLP so debating the merits of such a move is probably a waste of time. That’s just the politics of it at the moment.

  5. James Davidson says:

    We in Scotland are currently in the situation of having to ask,very nicely,of Westminster
    permission to run our own affairs as far as housekeeping is concerned (and in some
    views perhaps more).
    The response so far has been totally negative from London.
    The problem they have and probably the Unionists in NI also is that of sharing Sovereignty
    which in our case is between the people of Scotland and an English parliament.
    Not an easy thing to do (at least for some).
    It should be clear to most people living in the modern world that we are all interconnected
    and that the old ideas of control by dictate from a particular centre are over and done with.
    Information now flows across borders and so it has become more difficult for people to be manipulated by vested interests (at least in theory).
    There is no doubt that the Irish and Scottish peoples share an ancient and common DNA
    and as such should be united in our quest for equality and justice.
    Justice is earned …. not given.

    1. Dave Coull says:

      Saying “the Irish and Scottish peoples share an ancient and common DNA” is pseudo-science.with just a hint of racism. King Robert the Bruce used this line about common ancestry (well, except for the bit about DNA,) when he was trying to get Irish support for his brother Edward being King of Ireland, and maybe it had a bit more resonance in the 14th Century, But the fact is, Irish populations, Scottish populations, and yes English populations, are all very mixed. Apart from anything else, a couple of million folk in England are descended from 19th Century Irish immigrants. The case for independence for Scotland doesn’t depend on race, and Scotland isn’t going to become independent from England just in order to form a new Union with Ireland based on ancient myths. Incidentally, I think your statement “We in Scotland are currently in the situation of having to ask,very nicely,of Westminster permission to run our own affairs” is a distortion of current reality. The cause of independence is in a much stronger position, and independence is much nearer, than you appear to think. You are making the mistake of confusing politeness with subservience.

      1. Ard Righ says:

        Celtic Scholars have been placing the case that Celtic cultures of these isles has never in 7000 years been about race, that is exactly why we have contributed significantly to so many epochal advancements through the millennia. Besides, the Scots and Irish are the same feckin people and have been going back an forth in boats as long as there have been seas, common culture and language.

      2. Tocasaid says:

        Are the Albannaich and Eirinnich not of the same seed? Surely we’re both homo sapien…

        😉

  6. Dave Coull says:

    Both this article and some of the comments on it show folks in Ireland really need to learn more about Scotland. OF COURSE there is not the slightest question of an independent Scotland “adopting” Northern Ireland. If anybody in Ireland imagines for one second this could happen, I’ve got a crock of gold gifted to me by a leprechaun I could sell them. Neither the SNP nor any other organisation seeking independence for Scotland wants that, and neither the SNP nor any other organisation seeking independence for Scotland is likely to have a change of mind about that. The territory for which we are seeking independence is the territory where Scottish law has ALWAYS applied; there are not territorial claims outside of that. We are seeking independence not just from England but from the UK, and that includes NI. We’re going to have a referendum. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind the result of that referendum will be a decisive “Yes!” to independence from every part of Scotland. There will be no “Six Counties” where Scotland is concerned, nor 5, nor 4, nor 3, nor 2, nor even 1. There will be no part of Scotland wanting to “break away”, or to stay with the rumpUK. And since, for Scots, even unionist Scots, being Scots comes first, even those who had voted against will accept the result because they want to stay part of the Scottish nation. Remember, we’re talking about a predominantly protestant nation. In Scotland, only about one person in seven, just around 14 percent of the population, is Catholic. And yes, despite not actually attending church, most of the rest do identify themselves as, in some sense, protestant. I was quite impressed when Enda Kenny made a speech in the Dail denouncing the grip which the Roman Catholic church has on the Republic, but, let’s face it, it only took about NINETY YEARS for a prominent politician in the Republic to get around to doing that. But there will be no such problem of the Church having too much power in an independent Scotland. And without that, there will be no basis for any kind of unionist breakaway. So what happens after the referendum? Negotiations, that’s what. In EVERY case where a country has cast off London rule there were negotiations sooner or later, yes, even in cases where there was a period of military conflict such as the USA or Ireland. The Scottish Parliament will appoint a negotiating team to sort out the details with the British government. I don’t think Alex Salmond will want to be part of the negotiating team, I think it will be led by Nichola Sturgeon and John Swinney. These negotiations will ONLY be about independence for Scotland: I think the Scottish negotiating team will insist that all attempts, either by the British government, or by various other celtic nationalists, to say “what about Cornwall, what about Wales, what about Northern Ireland” are a time-wasting distraction from the point. Will our independence have implications for Northern Ireland, and for Wales? Of course it will. But that’s for THEM to sort out. It’s not our problem.

    1. I know and you know that Scotland aren’t gonna win independence and throw it away again immediately with a union with NI! But it’s amazing, trawling through some of the forums online, how many people entertain this idea.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      I would really doubt very much that ‘most of the rest identify themselves as protestant’. This is a secular society. Religious denomination is irrelevant to Scotland’s political future.

      1. Dave Coull says:

        Yes, this is a secular society. Yet, despite that, and despite the dwindling numbers of church-goers, surveys have been done which show that most people in Scotland do indeed self-idenitfy as, in some sense, “protestant”. Not in a drum-banging, sash-wearing, flag-waving, sort of way, but protestant nevertheless. Two important points arise from that. (1) Football matches between “The Old Firm” can give a false impression of more or less equal balance. An equal balance of bigotry, perhaps, but there is no equal balance between protestants and catholics. This is an overwhelmingly protestant country. (2) at Irish independence, it was possible for Unionists to carve out a largely protestant and unionist enclave precisely because most of the country WAS so much under the thumb of the Catholic church, and for most of the history of the Republic that continued to be the case. No such problem could possibly arise in the case of Scotland.

    3. I think religion is on the wane right across Europe. I think the issue of sectarianism will become less and less pronounced in both countries with time.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Dave have you got a reference or link to these surveys? I think for most people (and the CoEs hopeless hapless response to the Occupy scenario proves this) identify the church as a failed out of date force for conservatism that has little relevance today. I can’t imagine anything like a majority of people in Scotland aligning themselves with being a Protestant, whatever that means.

      2. @bella

        If I recall correctly the last census had about 40% identifying as Church of Scotland. Not a majority, but certainly a substantial proportion (and add the various flavours of Free Kirk, Piscies, Methodists, Baptists etc.)

  7. Vincent McCarthy says:

    Fair play Shane, Well written. My own two cents on the matter is that Southerners always associate unification with economics and moreso in the current climate, any referendum on the issue might actually lead to a highly embarrassing scenario whereby the Irish themselves without british interference reject unification.

    Secondly your looking at a situation of Northern Ireland being a failed state. Its essentially not economically viable. It cannot cover its own running expenses. Independence would not be an option.

    Thirdly, the British themselves have never given an express with in recent times for Northern Ireland to remain part of the Union. In the past this was something which was never up for negotiation.

    We can look at the only other re-unification to happen in Europe in Germany. There is sentiment and anomosity between both Germanys and the cost incurred by West Germans to enable the East to Catch up.

    The national question was one which is redundant as a politically devisie issue in Southern Irish Politics. Specifically I mean to vote for the Shinners or any other party, the national issue I imagine is not one which plays a huge role in Southern Irish politics.

  8. Dave Coull says:

    Regarding an “Ulster-Scots” identity, this amounts to something – and yet to nothing very much. There has been to-ing and fro-ing across the narrow sea between Scotland and Ireland since prehistoric times. In fact, in ancient times, it was actually easier to travel across that sea than it was to travel by land in either country. Just getting from the location of present-day Edinburgh to the location of present-day Glasgow would have taken several days because of all the bogs in between, but the sea could be crossed in a couple of hours on a good day. Nevertheless, the fact is, a Kingdom of Scotland did emerge, and it was quite distinct from both Ireland and England. When Robert the Bruce’s brother, Edward, tried to set himself up (with King Robert’s support) as High King of Ireland, he appealed to the “kinship” of the Scots and Irish. But although he did get some Irish support, even then, most Irish folk saw this as propaganda. Still, there were “Ulster-Scots” long before King James the Sixth encouraged settlement there. The MacDonnells of Antrim, for instance, a branch of Clan MacDonald. But the crucial point is that these were Scots settling in ANOTHER COUNTRY. At no time did Scotland ever assert a claim to Ulster. Edward Bruce’s claim to be High King of Ireland was based on an Ulster claimant renouncing his own claim in Edward’s favour, but even the Bruce brothers didn’t claim Ireland and Scotland were the same country. So far as “Ulster-Scots” are concerned, they may live nearer to Scotland, but nevertheless they are still in much the same position as Scots-Canadians, or Scots-Americans: folk of some Scottish descent living in another country.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      “…nevertheless they are still in much the same position as Scots-Canadians, or Scots-Americans: folk of some Scottish descent living in another country.”

      Indeed they are a wee bit closer to home than Canada or USA – and potential implications of any possible joint Loyalist resistance to Scottish independence and/or Irish unity.

      Article on Ulster-Scots here –
      http://www.redflag.org.uk/frontline/14/14ulsterscots.html

      1. Dave Coull says:

        When the USA was in the process of becoming independent from Britain, Catholics in all of the 13 colonies/states tended to be Loyalists who supported continued Union. This was because they feared the militant protestantism of many American “patriots”, and felt they needed the protection of the Crown. Also, Canada had only recently been conquered from the French, and it was still almost entirely Catholic and French-speaking, yet the Canadiens stayed “loyal” diuring the War of Independence because they feared the militantly protestant (and expansionist) New Englanders. In Ireland, it was the other way round. It was mostly protestants, not Catholics, who were Loyalist, because they feared being part of a Catholic Ireland. And, considering just how dominated by the Catholic Church the Irish Republic has actually been for most of its existence, they did have a point. However, in the case of Scotland, although the Catholic Church often acts far too big for its boots, we in the majority population can always prevent it from having too great a role in Scottish life. Because of this, I know quite a few Rangers supporters who vote SNP. They may wave the union jack at Old Firm games, and they may make rude remarks about the Pope, but they will vote for independence when we have our referendum. After all – why not? And since folk of protestant or anti-popery views have nothing to fear from an independent Scotland, there simply won’t be the same sectarian base for Loyalism as you got in Ireland. Of course some diehard Unionists are likely to try. But for the reasons given, their attempts will fail. So far as any sort of alliance between nationalists in Scotland and in northern Ireland is concerned, this would be a bad idea. It’s completely un-necessary, so far as we in Scotland are concerned; and in fact it could give the Unionists an excuse. It’s better just to dismiss them as the irrelevance they are.

  9. Davy Marzella says:

    Loyalists and Republicans in both Scotland & Ireland have some shared , if opposing , aims.
    Loyalists in supporting the Union of GB & NI under the Crown ; Republicans in opposing that Union.

    Is it not possible that both might make common cause……….against each other ?

    1. Dave Coull says:

      Davy, Catholics in what is now the USA were more likely than protestants to be “Loyalist” during the American War of Independence, for the simple reason the American “patriots” were aggressively protestant. Also, at that time, the folk of Quebec/Canada stayed Loyalist, despite that French colony having only very recently been acquired through conquest by the British, because they were scared of the aggressively expansionist protestants of New England. In Ireland, it was the protestants, rather than the Catholics, who were scared of ending up as a despised and persecuted minority. In both cases, being “Loyalist” wasn’t so much about devotion to the British Crown as such; it was about avoiding a worse fate.

      Nobody has given a reason why protestants in Scotland should be fearful of the future, and, without that fear, there is no real basis for Loyalism. All you’re doing is seeking to transfer the Irish experience to Scotland. But it doesn’t work.

      1. Davy Marzella says:

        Dave – I’m not too sure why you keep referring to religion.

        How I see it is that there are conflicting ideologies that some people are aligned with – eg. Loyalists – ie. Loyalty to the Union & Crown
        and Republicans who want independent republics.

        If I could try and make some sort of comparison – some people are prepared to kill and die on behalf of their “race” in fear of the “other” – maybe irrational as “races” don’t exist in any meaningful way – but unfortunately the consequences can be only too real in some circumstances.

  10. David McCann says:

    Another interesting question will be how much will the rump UK want an independent Scotland to contribute to subsidising NI, as part of the independence negotiatons?

    1. Dave Coull says:

      David, when the USA was in the process of becoming independent from Britain, the negotiations lasted for nearly 3 years after a cease-fire was declared, because there were some tricky questions to be sorted out. But “Should the USA contribute towards a continuing subsidy for Canada” played no part whatsoever in those tricky negotiations. You are raising a non-issue, a complete non-question.

  11. Ard Righ says:

    Fantastic, we need more Irish perspectives in articles on Bella Caledonia , same tongue, same culture really good to read.
    Again that wee reminder, it was 1927 not 1922 : http://www.irishdemocrat.co.uk/features/the-challenge-to-the-uk-state/
    As for the horror of the Black an Tans, this was orchestrated by colonial English chiefs of staff who paid the highest mercenary wage in Europe at the time to the most violent and deranged offenders in Glasgow prisons, who were given the option, would you like to go kill or stay here? little did they know they were set to kill their own, hardly Scottish intentions.

    The whole Ulbster Scots/ Unionists phenomena is some of the most fxxxxd up propaganda I have ever experienced, even once you understand Belfast and Derry it still takes an even bigger leap to comprehend how anyone could fall for this racial unionist Scots primacy nonsense.
    On the unification of Ireland, then we can be brothers in arms again and no Bloody Sundays. The tricolour can fly over a unified and independent Eire.
    Scots and Irish have been going back an forth in boats as long as there have been seas, common culture, language and music. I look forward to promoting an Independent Erie and Alba with the close but loose Celtic confederacy of ancient times.

    The craic’ll be almighty!

    1. Scottish republic says:

      Agree, the Irish perspective is interesting.

  12. Dave Coull says:

    Davy, it should be obvious why I mention religious identity. I have now, twice, pointed out the historical examples of Catholic Loyalism (in North America) and protestant Loyalism (in northern Ireland). What these two religious identity Loyalisms have in common is that, in both cases, the REASON for Loyalism was the fear of being in an outcaste minority in a newly independent nation dominated by bigots of the opposite variety. And that basis for a significant Loyalist movement simply wouldn’t exist in an independent Scotland. That’s my point, and neither you nor anybody else has even attemoted to disprove it.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      Dave – there might be no basis for a significant Loyalist movement in Scotland – but given the posibility of desperate measures some supporters of the Union might go to – I don’t think them provoking any residual loyalist sentiment in Scotland in opposition to Independence can be totally discounted.

      Identities based on ideological associations are not always reasonable & rational.

      1. Davy Marzella says:

        ps – Why are SNP loyal to British Crown ?

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Tic tacs

          1. Morag Lennie says:

            Because Mr. Salmond hasn’t asked the membership what they think.

      2. Dave Coull says:

        The point is, BECAUSE there will be no basis for a significant Loyalist movement in an independent Scotland, if any nutters do resort to desperate measures, they are likely to be isolated. Scotland is a country where supporters of Rangers can and do vote for the SNP, it’s a country where folk who make rude remarks about the Pope will be voting for independence in our referendum. We may not be able to do much about a few isolated nutters, but what we CAN do is to ensure they remain isolated. Resisting all attempts, whether “orange” or “green”, to create some sort of linkage between an independent Scotland and the loony-tunes politics of Northern Ireland, is a way of keeping the nutters isolated.

  13. Ard Righ says:

    Now, the monarchy……..

    1. Dave Coull says:

      Wrong. The question of the monarchy won’t be settled “now”. The question which will be put in the referendum probably won’t even mention the monarchy. That’s not to say the question won’t come up in the future, of course. There could be a future referendum on whether Scotland should become a republic, like India, and Pakistan, or remain a monarchy, like Australia and Canada. AFTER independence.

      1. Ard Righ says:

        I think you picked up the wrong end of the stick due to some unfortunate timing of posts. I was meaning “now” as the next subject from my previous post. Yet I agree, though there is more than enough room for the sovereign right of the individual to be broached, it is after all very very related.

  14. Scottish republic says:

    Shane, don’t suppose you could have a word with the Irish and get them to tell the Irish Nationalist Scots in Scotland, who are Brit nats and frustrating the heck out of the Scottish nationalists, to support Scottish independence?

    It’s been a long time coming the end of the British Empire – nothing would give me greater pleasure than to end it.

    1. Ard Righ says:

      “It’s been a long time coming the end of the British Empire – nothing would give me greater pleasure than to end it.”

      Ooooooo yeah

      I would feel that the persecution that I and many others in modern Scotland have endured and my ancestors experienced would be vindicated with a fully independent Scotland.

  15. Morag Lennie says:

    It has long been a source of utter bewilderment to me that so many people of Irish descent living in Scotland are so totally opposed to Scots Independence. I have in mind things like Dick Gaughan’s” Both Sides The Tweed,” Brian Cox, and many other not famous people that one meets in the normal course of socialising. Why was it so laudable that Ireland should become independent, all but the six counties, and that was as fine a piece of political chicanery as you could ever see, and yet Scotland is expected to remain thirled to the very institution that they got rid of? Eh dinna ken.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      Morag wrote : I have in mind things like Dick Gaughan’s” Both Sides The Tweed,”

      I’m not aware Dick Gaughan is totally oposed to Independence – I thought the opposite.

      Because his song promotes friendship to flourish on both sides the tweed ?

      The Tweed making part of an arbitary man-made border , demarking “Scot-land” from “Angle-land”

      I’m in favour of Independence as a means of dismantling the imperial UK state……….on the way to an eventual world without any borders.

      1. Morag Lennie says:

        You might change your mind, had you been at the concert I was, donkey’s years ago, and heard the comments with which he prefaced this particular ditty.

    2. Dick Gaughan says:

      So “Both Sides the Tweed” means I must be opposed to Scots Independence? Ah yes, that’ll be why I’ve been actively campaigning for it for the past 25 years.

      If the writer had troubled herself to read/hear/attempt to understand more of “Both Sides the Tweed” than merely kneejerking to a total misinterpretation of the last line of the chorus, she’d have avoided making herself look a bit of a.clown.

      Dick Gaughan

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        A definitive correction from Mr Gaughan. Thank you.

      2. Morag Lennie says:

        Mr. Gaughan, I know what I heard when I walked out of one of your concerts many years ago, and would also point out that when i invited you to take part in a Scotland United event in 1992, you didn’t even trouble yourself to reply. As to looking a bit of a clown, who cares?

  16. A most insightful piece – the constitutional ramifications of an independent Scotland for these islands as well as mainland Europe are – potentially – akin to a major tectonic plates shift and re-alignment with, for example, immediate implications for Spain (Galicia et al) as well as the Basques of both France and Spain and the Bretons (over and above those for cousin Ireland).

    Interesting times all round and interesting quotes from our very own Taoiseach – FM – Alex Salmond in his conference address when he referred to Charles Stuart Parnell on matters of national sovereignty and the people’s – commonweal’s – inalienable right to self-determination without outside interference.

    Globally, the anti-imperialist struggles of the post-Second World War period, having seemed to be somnolent recently, have re-ignited in their various Springs; and these islands may yet be no different as we usher in our own variation.

  17. Dick Gaughan says:

    Davy Marzella wrote;
    “I’m not aware Dick Gaughan is totally oposed to Independence – I thought the opposite.”

    You are quite correct. Before this gets acrimonious, let me put the record straight.

    I joined the SNP in 1966. I left after a year when it became clear that the type of Independent Scotland most SNP members wanted at that time was light years away from the Socialist Republic I wanted and I regarded them as a Scots equivalent of Fine Gael.

    After the Chilean coup of 1973 it was crystal clear that an Independent Socialist Scotland would have a life expectancy measurable in minutes – at the height of the Cold War we were a vital component of NATO strategy. I could not campaign for something which would result in what happened in Chile being done in Scotland. In the second half of the 80s NATO’s strategic priorities shifted, making the survival prospects of an Independent Scotland less bleak.

    I have never rejoined the SNP, nor would I, I have too many disagreements with too many of their policies. But I will continue to argue for Independence and am happy to work together with anyone on that single question, regardless of whatever other disagreements we may have.

    Believing in and fighting for Independence does not make one a “Nationalist” and not being a “Nationalist” does not make one a Unionist.

    Dick Gaughan

    1. Dave Coull says:

      “Believing in and fighting for Independence does not make one a “Nationalist” and not being a “Nationalist” does not make one a Unionist” – absolutely right, Dick. I don’t consider myself a Nationalist, and as it happens I didn’t even vote for the SNP at the 2011 election, but I have campaigned, for quite a few years, for a non-party-political referendum on independence to be held without delay, with the intention of campaigning for independence in that referendum, and in the confident expectation that the people of every part of Scotland will in fact vote decisively for independence in that referendum. But I have campaigned as somebody who has never been a member of any political party. The idea that everybody who is not a “Nationalist” must be a “Unionist” is an example of a kind oif straightjacketed thinking emanating from Northern Ireland which we could do without in Scotland. Another example of this straightjacketed thinking is the equation of “Catholic” with “republican” and “protestant” with “monarchist”. The historical reality is that, throughout history, the Catholic church has always preferred monarchy, providing the monarchy is Catholic. The Catholic church condemned the French Revolution, mourned the collapse of the catholic monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, and welcomed the restoration of the Spanish monarchy in 1978. Only in the peculiar loony-tunes atmosphere of Irish politics can such odd equations survive, and we certainly shouldn’t import them into Scotland.

    2. Ard Righ says:

      I believe that an a-political stance allows further clarity of observation for all issues on independency. I don’t believe we need to be involved with the fiscal EU or the British version of our usurped monarchy. Yet, this up and coming referendum will provoke me to vote for independence as I see no serious contenders to the SNP in a push for independence. I may well vote for the SNP to assist in independence, after such an event, serious changes to politics in Scotland would be inevitable, declare neutrality!

    3. bellacaledonia says:

      This is precisely what I was writing about last week – the need to get out of the ‘nat’ box. Redefining and reclaiming how we describe ourselves. For a republic.

      1. Davy Marzella says:

        The BIG issue , Bella – how to get out of the “nation-ist” box ?

        “The only nation is in the imagi-nation”……….. (Caribbean writer Derek Walcott…… & Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities )

        And Jeffrey Weeks writing on matters of same-sex relationships – “gay” identity as being a necessary fiction to combat and overcome homophobia – once that is achieved – identities based on sexual preferences will become redundant.

  18. Dick Gaughan says:

    Morag Lennie wrote:
    “Mr. Gaughan, I know what I heard when I walked out of one of your concerts many years ago, and would also point out that when i invited you to take part in a Scotland United event in 1992, you didn’t even trouble yourself to reply.”

    Let me make sure I’ve got this right. You walked out of one of my concerts because I said something which led you to believe I’m anti-Independence and then later on you tried to contact me to get me to take part in some pro-Independence event? I have a wee problem following the logic there.

    I have no idea who you are and I have never received any communication from you at any time requesting my participation in any event. I think it’s an abuse of the purpose of this place to continue debating me, my work or my political track record and, with sincere apologies to others for allowing myself to be goaded into doing so on this occasion, I will refrain from continuing it.

    1. Morag Lennie says:

      Like yourself this will be my last comment on this issue, however i will point out that I put same invitation into your hand in the lounge area of Dundee Rep, on the evening that you were sharing the bill with Hue and Cry. Being a Democrat, I did so, at the wish of the committee which was organising the Scotland United event.

      1. Tocasaid says:

        Should I burn my copies of Handful of Earth and other recordings then?

        Its obvious that had this information come to light earlier then Dick could have joined Fraser and Carlaw in contesting the Tory heig-heid-yin position in Scotland. I must also ask who the Gaughan impersonator was who played with Dougie Maclean at the pro-indepedence march about 4 years ago?

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I don’t think you’ve understood what Dick Gaughan has said

  19. Tom Stokes says:

    A very good piece. In the early 1990s I worked with Roy Johnston and a few others on a Northern Ireland policy committee of the Green Party in Dublin and developed a very progressive policy that fell at the last hurdle due to the tyranny of consensus. One of the key items in that policy was the Scottish link, since paradoxically both Irish republicanism and Ulster Unionism are tied in with Scotland. Irish republicanism is substantially the product of the Scottish Enlightenment, developed primarily in Ulster in the first instance by Ulster-Scot protestants and dissenters. The creation of the Orange Order in 1795 was the principle tactic of the English to split the non-catholics away from supporting the United Irishmen, and the founding of Maynooth Catholic seminary in the same year the mirror tactic aimed at splitting the catholic population from participating in ‘a brotherhood of affection, a community of rights, and a union of power among Irishmen of every religious persuasion; and thereby to obtain a complete reform in the legislature, founded on the principles of civil, political, and religious liberty’. An independent Scotland, linked to a true republic in Ireland is the best way to create the conditions for a brotherhood and sisterhood of affection between two nations inextricably linked through DNA, history, culture and (often subverted by the coloniser) politics.
    I am delighted that you have begun this part of the debate over Scottish nationalism and the resolution of the Ulster/Ireland issue. The election of a true United Irishman to the presidency here will, no doubt throw up great opportunities to engage with your ideas. Ar aghaidh leat! Adelante!

  20. George Mackin says:

    The relations between people from a Scottish protestant culture and an Irish Catholic culture has been at times fraught- they still are but markedly less. We would not choose to start here.

    Scottish Steel and Irish Fire “is a weapon of my desire” reflects our hopes for a better Scotland. We are not there, even if we share a strong cultural heritage. How do we get there: by talking through these issues, yet in Scotland we are not always great at having reasoned debate; as the visceral hatred between the SNP and Labour, (that erupts volcanically at times, indicates): a wee nation with big hatreds and beloved certainties, through years of ignorance and voluble assertions.

    This is a deeply emotive issue for Scots- Ireland is the mad sister that we have locked up in the attic and not discussed.

    Morag Lennie writes “It has long been a source of utter bewilderment to me that so many people of Irish descent living in Scotland are so totally opposed to Scots Independence. ” For me, why people of Irish descent have in past has been reluctant to vote SNP and have an antipathy to middle class nationalism, is understandable. Sectarianism and Anti Irish racism is not the issue that it once was but let’s not pretend that it has not left a residue of bitterness, resentment and mistrust, the modern Irish troubles have not helped either.

    We may be a secular society but who we are and how we think is conditioned by historical forces and shaped by our own backgrounds. Historically there was a marked difference between voting patterns when it came to voting the SNP between Catholics and Protestants.Not now.

    I want to see a break up of Britain however the Ewing refrain of “stop the world we want to get on” and “I’m proud of being Scottish”, on the whole leaves me cold. I am very wary of playing that patriot game.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      George Mackin wrote : “This is a deeply emotive issue for Scots – Ireland is the mad sister that we have locked up in the attic and not discussed.”

      Too true , George !

      1. George Mackin says:

        Cheers, Davy. Morag, I meant no offence.

        We do not live in other peoples shoes, so there is no monopoly of truth here. Yet our experiences of growing up in Scotland lend a sense of perspective to these debates. Anecdotal evidence is certainly valid but it lies stored not in books but is still fresh in people’s memories, so it comes out raw, savage and visceral at times. To some extent the Wagnerian bloated celebration of Irish Identity here, is due to the fact we live uneasily with hyphenated identities, in Bella Caledonia.

        I was born in Coatbridge and it was a cauldron of simmering hatred at times, which did spill over to ultra-violence- I have seen middle aged women beating shitless ‘cos they had the audacity to cross the road when the Orange walk.was on. Many of my family suffered active discrimination in the job market and the like

        For the majority of my adult years I have lived n Edinburgh, which in the Thirties had a neo-fascist/ orange organisation which garnered huge support in the city of the Scottish Enlightenment.

        I also support a team which had the audacity to fly the flag of the Irish Republic and was nearly kicked out of the league for having the temerity to do so. I could go on… Football and the passions it invokes does not help in this debate, so I shall I stop at the river on this one.

        A lot of what we think on this issue is not wholly rational and we have not the gift to see us as other see us, on this Issue. My sister-in-law who is Irish was so pleased when she moved to Surrey, to escape this most Scottish of diseases.

        I have tho’ found debating this bit dispiriting. It would be nice to see a decent TV series which fully explores this rather than the usual fluff that passes for TV journalism. Tom Devine’s chapter on New Scots, in his best selling hostory, is a good starting point but on the whole this has been a topic the Scottish Intellectuals have concerned themselves with apart from at the margins of academia

  21. Ard Righ says:

    “Ireland is the mad sister that we have locked up in the attic and not discussed.”
    Speak for your self. I don’t fancy your family life. Have you ever been to Ireland?

    The essence of the problem of occupied Northern Ireland is that the predominantly English court intended to split Irish and Scots via James the 6th/1st. Everything else since owes its deeply offensive rhetoric to this division with the imperial play of divide and rule held paramount by all consecutive British Governments, by any means possible.

  22. George Mackin says:

    Ard Righ, Scottish intellectuals and politicians have been reluctant to look at the the Modern Irish Troubles, especially the Scottish National Party, Secondly the relationship between Scottish Irish People( for want of a better phrase) and Scottish people have been less than harmonious at times. This is the substance of my observations and it is a pity you never concerned yourself with what I have stated.

    My friend, I do not reply to ad hominem attacks and you do a disservice to this much needed debate, by employing such shabby tactics.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      George – I think maybe your initial reference to Ireland as a “mad sister” could just have been mis-understood. I took it to mean a reference to the literary character ( Jane Eyre/ Jane Austen ?? ) of the “sister” who’s locked away in the attic and diagnosed as “mad” , because , for whatever reason , the “family” don’t want to deal with the issues and implications of what she represents TO them.

      1. George Mackin says:

        Yes, Precisely. It is a simile. Thanks, Davy. It was meant as no slur on our sister country.

  23. P Mac says:

    I think the author of this piece is showing his ignorance about the Ulster Scots identity in Northern Ireland (a common ignorance from people in southern Ireland who don’t share that identity).

    The Ulster Scots identity/ethnicity is not new nor is it something that is only a recent creation as implied. It goes back for millennia, and will continue to go on no matter the political circumstance.

    The reasons for being a Unionist in Ulster are different to those in Scotland, and in Ulster the link with Scotland does play a large part in that Unionism. To the Ulster Scot Unionist majority the issue of Scottish Independence is as much an enigma as NI politics is to those in Scotland. However, it would be foolish for both Scotland and Ulster people to not both be wary of the wider situation on either side. Personally I predict that a Scottish Independence which does not consider this wider implication more carefully could contribute to a new wave of bloodshed, particularly if it helps to unleash a new wave of Irish Republican zeal which hopes to exploit the situation (bloodshed which will go on and on because quite simply the IRA has ensured over the years that a United Ireland will never happen without being part of a wider entity as a safeguard. Given that the ball is firmly in Scotland’s court here, it would be extremely foolish and irresponsible for those in Scotland who are serious about independence not to come up with proposals which don’t factor in the wider consequences of their actions across the North Channel and within the archipelago as a whole. This is not just about the relationship between Scotland and England.

    1. Morag Lennie says:

      P Mac, Scotland’s future is a matter for the people of Scotland, just as the future of NI is a matter for the people thereof. I really don’t see how we can be held responsible for what happens elsewhere. i do hope you’re gloomy predictions NEVER come to pass, but certainly, my priority is the country to which I belong, and the future for my sons, and grandchildren..

  24. Davy Marzella says:

    I think that P Mac has a point that Scottish independence could have a knock-on effect in Ireland , particularly for those who identify themselves as coming from a Ulster-Scots background and look to Scotland as their ancestral homeland and an integral part of the Union of GB & NI.

    It could appear paradoxical of those in favour of Scottish independence supporting the establishment of a stronger established border ( between Scotland & England ) – while at the same time some would like to see the end of the border dividing Ireland.

  25. Dick Gaughan says:

    The implication that somehow Scots, before embarking on independence, have some kind of responsibility to take into account the views of those Irish people of Scots descent is curious. They’ve been there 400 years. They’re Irish, whatever label they or others might want to stick on them. There are more people of Scots descent in Canada than in Ireland but they have no problem being Canadians. How many generations are needed before people stop being immigrants?

    Some of the greatest patriots in the history of Irish Republicanism were “Ulster Scots”. To say that those Irish-of-Scots-descent are anything other than Irish and that the Loyalist/Nationalist conflict is anything other than an Irish phenomenon, generated and perpetuated by London for political expediency, is to provide spurious rationale to the handful of sectarian headbangers on both sides of that conflict – “you/we are not Irish, you/we are Scots”. Substitute “White/Black” for “Irish/Scots” and transfer to Brixton.

    There will be no settled harmony in Ireland until all Irish people are regarded – and regard themselves – as Irish, regardless of where their ancestors came from 400 years ago, and the historic conflicts as being part of Irish history requiring uniquely Irish solutions. Particularly when the 1000 year old ancestors of those 400 year old ancestors probably arrived in Scotland from Ulster in the first place.

    As a half-Irish Scot, I pledge my fullest support to the inalienable right of Irish people to discover those Irish solutions – but I’m not going to cast my vote in any Scottish referendum based on some possible impact it might have in Sandy Row or the Bogside – or in Corby or Nova Scotia.

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