Scotland and Northern Ireland and the future of the UK… July 17, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
Here’s something that I suspect is only slowly beginning to register on the political horizon, the threat to the United Kingdom from the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party. The SBP reports that ‘a leading Scottish Organgemen’, Ian Wilson speaking in Antrim at the 12 Orange parade noted that although:
“Nationalists in Scotland are making a lot of noise, but there is very little substance behind it. The Scots are not fools, no more than you are. Independence is a dangerous delusion, and we will not fall for it,” …
[he] said that both Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness wanted to see “the destruction and break-up of the United Kingdom”.
It’s not that the rupture would be abrupt. Current polling indicates that the popularity of Salmond and the SNP far outruns their central political project. Interesting that, and oddly not dissimilar to the position of Sinn Féin. But these are formations in the game for the long term. It’s not so much a rapid exit from the UK that is problematic from a unionist position, as the way in which simply by existing and putting forward an oppositional viewpoint, albeit in a fairly moderate tone, it provides a pole of attraction and simultaneously legitimises the very concept of something beyond the union.
That this can in its own way be fairly nebulous is neither here nor there. Suddenly what was unthinkable achieves the status of a political option, however far in the future it may be exercised (or not at all). And it’s not as if that’s all there is to it. Of course simply by achieving a measure of executive authority the SNP (and SF to a lesser extent?) are in a position to influence structurally the environment they find themselves in. This can be minimal or maximal, but that is the nature of participatory politics.
And that too has further ramifications, further legitimising their projects.
Again, none of this means that Scottish independence or Irish unity are inevitable endpoints. In fact it’s easy to propose a series of alternatives, from something close to the current status quo to varying levels of devolutionary autonomy in both instances (devo max being only the latest and seemingly achievable goal for the SNP). And simply because the direction appears to point towards eventual total breaks with the UK doesn’t mean that it has to be so. But Wilson isn’t far wrong.
As interesting are a number of other comments he makes.
Mr Wilson, a well-respected figure both inside and outside Orange politics, has recently been appointed head of an internal strategy group to co-ordinate the Orange Lodge of Scotland’s response to the independence referendum. Whether the order will play an overt role in Better Together, the official No campaign supported by the Scottish Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, has yet to be agreed.
“The Lodge has to be careful not to queer the pitch. We do have our fans, but a lot of people don’t like us. We certainly don’t want to have a negative impact on the campaign,” Wilson told The Sunday Business Post in Edinburgh recently.
One would love to see something of that self-awareness on the part of the Orange Order in the North. But of course their respective societal weight is quite different. The article suggests that there are perhaps 50,000 members of Orange lodges in Scotland. And some might find this following heartening…
Contrasting the political situation in Scotland today with that ofIreland in 1912, Wilson warned Orangemen that there could be no question of resisting Scottish independence by force.
“Scotland in 2012 is very different from Ireland in 1912. There is no religious tension, no armed uprising, no open rebellion. It’s not a case of taking up arms to defend the union. It must be done by persuasion, by campaigning, and through the ballot box.”
Or perhaps not.
Just adding in a video from the ‘Better Together’ No Campaign mentioned above (IEL)