Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

London Notebook: Scots show Independence poll questions are not easily answered

Ian Paisley Jnr warned of dark forces at work.

The debate about Scotland's future is distinctly one-sided at Westminster. The Scottish Nationalists have six MPs. Pretty much everyone else is vociferously opposed to independence.

Any discussion of Scotland in the Commons highlights how different politics is north of the border. The Conservatives are the largest party in the Commons, with 303 MPs, yet only one of them represents Scotland's 59 constituencies. Labour dominates at Westminster, with 41 MPs, yet the SNP is in government in Edinburgh.

The DUP agrees with the three main parties about Scottish independence and has been characteristically blunt about expressing its views.

During a recent bad-tempered debate on the future of the pound in Scotland, Nigel Dodds had nothing but contempt for Alex Salmond's currency union plan.

He asked: "Is not the bottom line the fact that there is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Yes campaign?

"That, on one hand, the SNP and the Yes campaign want national sovereignty to be transferred to Edinburgh. But, on the other hand, they want to give it away almost immediately in a currency union?"

Ian Paisley Jnr warned of dark forces at work. When Scottish Labour MP Michael McCann remarked that at least one SNP spokeswoman "wants Annie Lennox to be the head of state in Scotland", Ian Jnr intervened: "The unintended consequences the Honourable Gentleman raised were touched upon last week in a speech by the leader of Sinn Fein, when he said that the United Kingdom hangs by a string.

"Is that not a very worrying statement that shows how important the referendum is for everyone in the United Kingdom?"

The handful of SNP MPs present for the debate barracked and heckled as Scottish Labour and English Tory MPs lined up to denounce their plans for a currency union as "a wish-list, at best, wrapped up and qualified with ifs, buts and maybes".

Nationalist Stewart Hosie said: "If a Tory toff chancellor goes to Scotland to bully and to scaremonger, it will be looked on very badly indeed by the Scottish people."

The debate, while being more heat than light on all sides, was useful in one respect for people in Northern Ireland.

The man Ian Paisley Jnr warned about – Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams – wants his own independence referendum.

He has repeatedly called for a border poll, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in the next term of the Assembly.

Indeed, Adams has described such a poll as "inevitable" and "only a matter of timing". If that is the case, there are some interesting lessons to be learnt already from Scotland.

In this campaign, the advocates of independence have lacked answers, such as a Plan B if the UK rejects a currency union with an independent Scotland, and have been contradicted over key issues, like remaining in the EU.

In Northern Ireland, a border poll would raise more questions than Irish nationalists can answer. Perhaps Paisley Jnr and other unionists should be a bit more relaxed about a future referendum in Northern Ireland.

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