Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Ties that bind Northern Ireland and Scotland go way back and will survive the referendum

Mike Nesbitt MLA is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Mike Nesbitt MLA is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

By Mike Nesbitt

I was dismayed at the weekend to hear a leading advocate of Scottish independence criticise the Better Together campaign for patronising the Scots. After all, he argued, didn't we, the Scots, bring the world the scientific and intellectual liberation called the Enlightenment?

A half-truth is a dangerous thing, because the man who inspired the Scottish Enlightenment was not a Scot. He was Francis Hutcheson, from Saintfield, Co Down.

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Born in 1694 to a family of Scottish-Irish decent, he was a man of immeasurable influence, counting among his students Adam Smith, author of the iconoclastic Wealth of Nations, and David Hume, who famously argued that desire, rather than reason, governed human nature.

This takes us to the heart of the rationale for tomorrow's vote.

The Yes campaign plays on desire – the desire for independence from London. Reason, on the other hand, makes the case to stick together.

The latter makes sense at every level, not just economic. Francis Hutcheson makes a case regarding ties that are rooted in that most important of commodities, blood.

Scots came to Ireland, becoming the Ulster-Scots. They moved west, to become what Americans call the Scots-Irish, providing no fewer than 17 of the USA's 44 Presidents (for countries the size of postage stamps on the world stage, Northern Ireland and Scotland together punch well above their weights).

The ties that bind Northern Ireland and Scotland go back way beyond the formation of the United Kingdom and will survive the referendum, whatever the decision.

I still believe the people of Scotland will vote to stay in the UK and that in itself will bring on a constitutional debate that we in Northern Ireland must ensure brings benefit to our people and produces an even better Union for all our people in the 21st century.

Let's build an even greater nation and let's do it together.

Mike Nesbitt MLA is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

Belfast Telegraph


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