This weekend saw a YouGov poll that indicated that 51% of Scottish people support leaving the union that has formed the United Kingdom since 1707. This has proven a shock for some, and proven an encouragement from others. It’s been interesting to see the reaction of the Tories, Labour and the others in Westminster, and the Scots themselves, but it has also been interesting to see how Irish people have been responding to the news that Scotland too might split from the United Kingdom as they did all those years ago.
From seeing general comment online it seemed that the comments of Irish people mostly presumed that independence was automatically a good thing, or that leaving Britain in this case would simply be automatically good for Scotland. I’m not quite so sure. Does it always follow that if independence was a good thing in Ireland that it logically follows that the same is true for Scotland despite its unique circumstances? Does it follow that a country that has shared so much history with it’s English and Scottish neighbours would be automatically better off without them?
Given concerns about the Scottish economy from within and without, and given a lack of clarity from Alex Salmond about whether or not Scotland can continue using the pound, whether or not it can join the European Union (Brussels seems to imply that this is a strong no), or how it is going to manage to keep public services such as the NHS (which has been a major point of contention in this debate) afloat with the absence of a subsidy from the rest of the UK to do this. Given that there are so many unanswered questions is it really wise to support Scottish independence? Personally, I don’t, but then again I’m an Irishman living in Britain, and my country has been an independent republic since 1949, but it is important to remember that that wasn’t the case immediately or overnight. Ireland suffered decades of poverty before it was able to achieve stability and that’s without considering other challenges such as the Irish Civil War and things that followed from the establishment of the 1922 Free State. Perhaps both Alex Salmond and others who wish to use the Irish example to bolster the case for Scottish independence should consider that thoroughly.
Was Irish independence worth it? From my point of view absolutely. As for whether or not it was the best option with immediate effect and consideration, probably not on the face of it, but it turned out for the better in hindsight. This is the realistic situation of what it costs. It is up to the Scottish people to decide that it is worth it. However to say compare Irish independence with Scottish independence is a fallacy that fails to take into account radically differing circumstances before declaring something to be better or worse for Scotland. To see the true outcome we will need to wait in expectation until the people of Scotland decide on September 19th with eager expectation.