Forget poppies and union jack car decals. Those who want Scotland and Northern Ireland to stay in the union should be making space for more, not less, diversity of identityby Siobhán Fenton / August 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
In Britain, fears that the United Kingdom could unravel have become the subject of increasingly urgent discussion. Unionists have begun to wake up to the fact that the ‘union’ as they know it could be on the verge of collapse, as a united Ireland and an independent Scotland—once dismissed by many as fantasies—now appear to be distinct possibilities within the next few decades.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a grave warning last weekend, as he cautioned that the union is “sleepwalking into oblivion” due to “destructive nationalist ideology”, concluding that “we are, at best, only a precariously United Kingdom”.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum saw 45 per cent of voters back Scotland becoming an independent country, while 55 per cent backed remaining in the UK. Although a defeat for Scottish nationalists, the referendum made apparent the depth of feeling and precariousness of Scotland’s future within the UK.
Since the Brexit referendum, many Scottish nationalists have felt their cause has been further buoyed by the fact that Scotland voted to Remain but now faces being “dragged out” of the EU on the insistence of England and Wales.
In Northern Ireland, the question of whether to remain in the UK is much more complex, as the topic is defined by ethno-national lines and bears the legacy of the recent Troubles conflict. However, for many there, Brexit has reopened the thorny issue of Irish reunification.
Polling has suggested that 56 per cent of people in Northern Ireland would back a united Ireland if a hard border is erected on the island of Ireland. Many in the region, which like Scotland voted to Remain, feel a bitterness that they are being “forced” out of the EU.
Added to this, many in the Catholic/nationalist community feel that the DUP’s increasingly hard-line approach to elements of Irish identity such as the Irish language has reiterated to them that their identity can never been fully respected while Northern Ireland remains in the UK.
As discussions around the future of the UK continue, those who wish for Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in “the union” have perhaps a few more years to articulate why—before it is too late. However, this relies on political unionism having enough…