With the September 18 date of the Scottish independence referendum drawing nearer, many who love the United Kingdom will be quietly hopeful that the result will maintain the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Polls have been encouraging for the pro-Union campaigners, yet the number of undecided voters or those who do not feel strongly about their current inclination to support the Union means that the result is far from sure.
For all the constitutional uncertainty which it has engendered, the referendum has caused many to consider the benefits of the Union.
As Foreign Secretary William Hague set out yesterday, the UK’s constituent nations are stronger together, standing with greater “clout” on the international stage. And for those not concerned with international diplomacy, he set out the very practical benefits to travellers and business people of a network of 267 embassies and other foreign offices.
Mr Hague, along with other senior London politicians, is doing his part to argue for the Union. It is natural that some of our local unionist politicians will want to set out their passionate belief – particularly given the deep ties between Ulster and Scotland – that we should remain constitutionally united.
First Minister Peter Robinson has on several occasions in recent years spoken of his heartfelt desire for a No vote and others will no doubt make similar appeals in coming months.
But unionists in Northern Ireland, who know all too well that damage to the unionist cause has often been self-inflicted, need to be wise. As Professor James Mitchell says in today’s News Letter, interventions by Ulster unionists are unlikely to convince Scotland’s unionists to vote No as they are likely to do so anyway, but run the risk of alienating some of those who do not share an affinity with Britain.
Unionists need to use their heads as well as their hearts: No one should damage the Union through careless words.