Monday, 2 July 2012

Scottish Independence through Irish Eyes

In The Times recently Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole looked at the question of Scottish independence through Irish eyes. He was reminiscing about taking a play about the Easter Rising of 1916 on tour to Glasgow in 1991. He could see that many in the audience were moved to tears and assumed that they were émigré Irish. It turned out however that they were Scots who somehow felt jealous of the heroic path taken by Irish nationalism in the 20th century. However even then in the cold light of day it seemed clear that Scotland had followed a more profitable path within the union as measured by various social and economic statistics and the reality that lots of Irish had migrated to Scotland but few Scots went the other way.

It reminded me of a visit to the museum in Kinsale and understanding for the first time the plight of the Irish following the battle of Kinsale and later after the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne. Ireland was sorely brutalised, much more so than the Highlands of Scotland after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745-6. The Irish certainly had a stronger case that the Scots to be rid of their arrogant colonial masters.

 Coming to the present, the Celtic Tiger model that put wind in Alex Salmond’s sails has bit its own tail as the property bubble burst. Worse still the Irish are facing a major loss in sovereignty as their budgets are scrutinised in Berlin and Brussels, the fate of all weak members of the currency union that is the Euro. The position of an independent Scotland in the Euro or indeed in an extended currency union in Sterling with England would not be so different. Total independence would require a return to the Pound Scots, a currency that has disappeared completely from the debate.

It seems clear that Scotland has to make its own detailed case for independence, learning from the mistakes of the Irish and others. With the benefit of a little hindsight, the overwhelming case for the union in the first place was the opportunity to benefit fully from the Industrial Revolution and the vast potential of the British Empire. Scots and Scotland benefitted greatly from both, but that was long in the past. As a relatively small country Scotland could focus on its strengths and sort out the social problems that are a direct hangover from the Industrial Revolution.

 Independence is no guarantor of good government, but at least there will be nobody else to blame. Daft policies are already with us in the current Scottish Government’s plan that the country could be run 100% on renewable electricity. Not being able to trust them to keep the lights on is hardly a good start. And inflicting the current monarchy on us without constitutional consultation is high handed and patronising. My novel, The Stuart Agenda, is a metaphor for the choice that should be given to the Scottish people. This makes the point that nationalist politics are completely stunted by having only one nationalist party. We need other nationalist parties giving us competing visions for Scotland.

The final message to the Scots would be from the only Irishman in the world who would vote to re-join the union with Britain, if you could find him.

The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder, published by Willow Moon. e-book and paperback at all Amazon sites. See for reviews.


  1. As to the last point, Alan, I don't believe you will find him. But I do hope your lights stay on and wish the best and brightest future to Scotland.

  2. An interesting and thoughtful post, Alan. Your statement that 'Independence is no guarantor of good government, but at least there will be nobody else to blame' hits the nail on the head. The world is a rapidly changing place, and many are watching Scotland to see what happens. Best to you and your writing.

  3. Good point, Alan. I live in the USA...someone is always pointing their finger at someone else here too. And don't get me started on our government.
    Great post,