Friday, January 13, 2012

Scotland 2012

#alttext#Ulster 1912 was the setting for the Ulster Solemn League & Covenant, which was signed by over 470,000 people. Over 14,000 signed in Scotland, mainly in the west (through Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire) and along the central belt from Glasgow to Edinburgh, with a smattering in Fife and around Stirling. And Ireland was where the threat to the United Kingdom lay.

100 years on, the constitutional debate has shifted across the water to Scotland. Will the people of Scotland vote for independence from the rest of the UK? Will the terms of the referendum be fair and clear? I have friends in Scotland on both sides of the debate. I know some who vote SNP regularly (because they find the SNP to be a capable political party who get things done) but who wouldn't want independence.

Regardless of what happens politically, the historical connections between Ulster and Scotland will be unchanged and the cultural ties will still remain. Portpatrick will not float further away from Donaghadee. Kintyre will not drift further away from Antrim. We will continue to share a cultural inheritance across the narrow sea, a separation so small that it's often called The Sheugh (ie a field-drain) with the other side visible with the naked eye. In 1912 there were over 14,000 Ulster folk in Scotland who signed the Ulster Covenant. No doubt there were thousands more who didn't. But how many Ulster people live there today? Personally speaking, I would like to see the results of a future Scottish census which would ask the people there if their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were Ulster people, and/or Irish people. Now that's a statistic that would be really interesting.

(some readers will be interested in the story of the Scottish Covenant Association of the 1940s and 50s - click here for the Wikipedia entry)

(Ps - I will here admit to having a letter published in the News Letter when I was about 13, proposing that Northern Ireland and Scotland should get together and both go independent. I might have been mad... but maybe it just set a pattern which has stuck with me! If you are in the Newspaper Library in Belfast you'll find it if you scour through the letters pages covering the years 1985 - 1987)