Neale Richmond: Events in Scotland could have a profound effect in Ireland

A border poll being called by the Secretary of State is no longer a remote possibility and another referendum in Scotland could well be the catalyst

10th May, 2021
Neale Richmond: Events in Scotland could have a profound effect in Ireland
'Nicola Sturgeon's rhetoric in recent days has been telling, saying it is a matter of when and not if another referendum is called.' Picture: Getty

We in Ireland have much in common with our Celtic cousins in Scotland and this past weekend’s elections to the Scottish Parliament could easily have implications for the whole of Ireland.

With the last votes counted between the constituency and list allocations, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party has recorded a big victory though is slightly short of what they had been hoping for as she will not lead an overall majority.

This is still a remarkable result for a party that has been in power for more than 14 years. Like any governing party, the SNP has had mixed fortunes but it has also had some notable successes that we in Ireland are in the process of adopting such as efforts to reduce knife crime, target alcohol abuse and introduce the baby box.

Scotland took a much different approach to the rest of the UK on Brexit, an emphatic 64 per cent voted remain, such approval for the European project will resonate with many in Ireland.

Scottish economic focus on areas such as financial services, tourism, higher education, digital technology, agri food and life sciences has been lucrative and runs a parallel to many Irish initiatives.

Politically, instead of an overall majority the SNP will be again propped up by a Green Party that won additional seats in this election and in doing so ensures the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, has a sizeable majority in favour of Scottish Independence.

Will this result bring about a second independence referendum any time soon? Most likely not, such a call must be made by the UK Prime Minister and Boris Johnson has been unequivocal in his opposition to holding another referendum.

That’s not to say such an eventuality is an impossibility, Johnson’s unpredictability means he could just as easily call a referendum sometime in the future.

Equally for Nicola Sturgeon, the failure to secure an overall majority, despite a very impressive showing, will bring its own pressures as many of her party colleagues would say she has not been firm enough in demanding another referendum in the immediate future. Her rhetoric in recent days has been telling, saying it is a matter of when not if for another referendum.

The knock of effect for Ireland of these discussions will be focussed mainly on Stormont as, depending on the results, the Assembly elections in Northern Ireland next year could also provide the same test to the UK’s Secretary for State for Northern Ireland when it comes to referenda on self-determination.

Political unionism in Northern Ireland currently finds itself in a state of flux with the two main unionist parties in the process of changing leaders as the worrying events on the streets of recent weeks are providing a challenge to all political leaders.

A border poll being called by the Secretary of State is no longer a remote possibility and another referendum in Scotland could easily be the catalyst for one being called and for having a huge impact on any possible vote, especially in Northern Ireland. The cultural, political and historical ties between Ireland and Scotland are deep but particularly among Ulster and Scotland as many of us are proud of our Ulster Scots heritage.

The fortunes of Scotland’s independence movement will be followed very closely in Northern Ireland but they should also be followed closely across the island as what happens in Scotland in the coming years, even months, could have a profound impact on all of us.

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