Irish lessons for Scottish Independence

0
707

By Colm Ó Broin
 
Despite the many predictions made during the Scottish independence debate nobody really knows what the future holds if there’s a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th.
 
Both sides have argued their cases resolutely. However, a useful rule of thumb in judging each side in a debate are the number of ludicrous claims they resort to – generally the more ridiculous the claims the weaker the underlying argument is.

By Colm Ó Broin
 
Despite the many predictions made during the Scottish independence debate nobody really knows what the future holds if there’s a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th.
 
Both sides have argued their cases resolutely. However, a useful rule of thumb in judging each side in a debate are the number of ludicrous claims they resort to – generally the more ridiculous the claims the weaker the underlying argument is.

In this particular measurement the No side is winning hands down.

Better Together and others have made dire predictions about a Yes win and many have raised concerns about the ‘unanswered questions’ regarding a Scottish exit from the United Kingdom.

Another unanswered question of course is how any of the world’s non-UK nations manage to function at all, to run economies, postal services, health services, pension systems, national defence, academic research, or in general not to collapse into Mad Max-style failed states?

Borders, foreigners and the BBC

Some of the stranger claims from the No side can be examined by looking at the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Britain.

Regarding fears of passport checks between Scotland and England, it’s worth pointing out that there are no border controls between the Republic and the UK.  When driving to Northern Ireland (generally keeping to the left side of the road) the only way you know you’re in the UK are the signs telling you road distances are in miles not kilometres.

You don’t need a passport to travel between Ireland and Britain due to the 90-year old Common Travel Area.  Not only that but Irish and UK citizens can vote in each other’s General Elections – residency is the only requirement.

Another claim is that after independence people in Scotland will consider their relatives in England to be foreigners.  As it happens there are a few people in the Republic of Ireland who have relatives in Britain, and when I say a few I mean practically every family.

I have cousins born and bred in Birmingham, oddly enough I don’t think of them as ‘foreigners’, I think of them as my cousins, and I imagine that’s how most people think of relatives from other countries.  As many have already noted, this particular argument is inherently racist as it implies that being ‘foreign’ is by definition a bad thing.

Could Scotland lose the BBC? That’s unlikely given Ireland’s experience.

We get UK channels on TV in the Republic – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, TLC, Dave, the Comedy Channel, Discovery etc, etc – more or less everything you can get in Britain.  People in the Republic watch Coronation Street, Eastenders, The X Factor, Come Dine With Me, Downton Abbey, Dispatches – some of us even watch Newsnight.

The Republic’s relationship with British TV is different from people in the UK however.  For example, if you’re interested in current affairs you might tune into the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 news for their foreign coverage or if they’re reporting on issues in the UK that can apply in Ireland too, like health privitization, public transport or the environment.

We also have our own TV stations, RTÉ, TV3 and TG4, which provide a mix of mainly Irish, British and US shows.

In terms of football the Republic is probably more Anglicised than Scotland. The English Premiership has a massive following on this side of the Irish Sea, much bigger than the League of Ireland.

When clubs like Manchester Utd or Liverpool play friendlies against Irish teams the vast majority of supporters cheer for the English teams against the Irish ones.

Loss of global influence

It’s said that Scotland won’t have the UK’s influence on world affairs if the Yes side wins. What this argument doesn’t mention is that ‘global influence’ can be negative as well as positive.

Irish soldiers have a proud tradition of serving with the United Nations and many have been killed while performing this duty. An independent Scotland could also contribute to international peace-keeping missions, instead of partaking in the various war-making missions carried out by the UK military.

The Irish Cringe

Ireland and Scotland share other attributes that derive from our relationship with England.

You’ve probably heard of Riverdance, you might be aware of the strength of traditional Irish music or the huge popularity of Gaelic football and hurling.

It may therefore surprise you to hear that Ireland has not completely rid itself of its cultural cringe. Among some sections of Irish society traditional music is referred to as ‘diddly-eye music’, Gaelic football is ‘bogball’, hurling is ‘stickball’ and the Irish language is ‘dead’ and ‘useless’. 

While our methods of entry into the United Kingdom were different, Ireland and Scotland both ended up under de-facto English rule – in an unequal union that fostered a cultural cringe in what were now ‘peripheral’ nations.

So if Scotland does become independent that doesn’t mean any lingering inferiority complex will disappear overnight – although like Ireland it will undoubtedly decline.

No Guarantees

There is no guarantee that Scotland will be better off as an independent country – just like there are no guarantees for most things in life. The future will depend on the choices an independent Scotland makes, and that’s the whole point of being independent – making your ain decisions, as they say.
 
On a final note I will admit that people in Ireland have our own reasons for hoping that Scotland becomes independent – our spectacular fall from grace in the Eurovision Song Contest. At this stage a voting block comprised of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales (and Cornwall?) is about the only chance we have of winning the damn thing again.

Colm Ó Broin is an Irish journalist who has written for thejournal.ie, meoneile.ie and the newspapers Lá and Gaelscéal.