A Scottish exit from UK would have major implications for NI

Morning View
Morning View

By proposing that an independent Scotland keep the pound and the Queen, Alex Salmond is appealing to moderate voters who might be tempted by non-radical options for leaving the UK, while staying close to it.

Scotland will decide its own fate next autumn, when the country goes to the polls in a referendum.

But people in Northern Ireland will be watching closely, both because of the close historic ties between Scotland and here, and because of the implications for the Province. Those implications will be profound if Scotland leaves the Union.

There is, indeed, an even more precarious scenario for Northern Ireland – that Scotland seeks to leave the UK, and then that later this decade enough English voters decide that the UK should quit the European Union.

The first of those two scenarios would be unwelcome to most unionists in Ulster, while the latter would be applauded by many, perhaps even most, of the pro-British population here.

But if the UK does quit Europe, it will enrage nationalists in Northern Ireland.

That will not be, and nor should it be, a factor in England, which will decide the EU debate (due to it having the great bulk of the UK population), but it won’t make things comfortable in the Province, and could strain English patience with the link.

A Scottish exit from a UK that was itself exiting Europe will put considerable pressure on the whole notion of unionism.

These are important debates for this part of the British Isles.

Net beneficiaries of Treasury largesse, of which Scotland and Northern Ireland are notable regions, should not forget that England would be a richer country if it stood alone. This makes the position of the Celtic fringe inherently vulnerable,

Mr Salmond disputes this and says his country has better finances than the UK as a whole, and could easily stand alone. This is a bold claim, which – even if it is true – certainly cannot be said of Northern Ireland.