A look at the significance to Ireland of the Scottish independence referendum by Colum Eastwood MLA of the SDLP.
It is a time of immense change and opportunity for the people of Scotland. We are beginning to see the biggest constitutional shake-up on these islands since partition, bringing with it a recasting of our relationship with the other neighbouring nations.
There is a deep fraternal bond between the people of Ireland and Scotland. That bond wasn’t created by an Act of Union and it won’t be diminished by a vote for independence. The strength of our relationship comes from a common ancestry and a deep, shared cultural heritage. That connection will continue to endure.
When the dust settles and the negotiations begin following the referendum, it’s important that Irish nationalism begins the job of learning from the Scottish example. Without firing one shot, the Scottish people have had a mature, rational and passionate debate about independence and their future.
We now need to set about the work of persuading those who identify with the Ulster-Scots and British traditions that their interests would be best served in a re-imagined, progressive and inclusive united Ireland. And more than that, we have to ensure that any discussion about a united Ireland sets out how those who may not consider themselves as Irish nationalists will play a full role in that society.
The SDLP has radical proposals to ensure a strong connection for those who identify as British would remain a part of our new society, just as our unshakable connection with Scotland would remain after a vote for independence.
All of us who would campaign confidently and passionately for a Yes vote in a future border poll must now commit ourselves to ambitiously putting a detailed public case forward for what health, education, the economy and all the other issues important to people’s everyday lives would look like in a united Ireland. The Scottish have done it, and it’s time we have that debate too.