Scottish referendum could pose issues for Stormont


After visting Edinburgh last June, I speculated that Alex Salmond would introduce a third option of fiscal autonomy into his independence referendum in order to guarantee the SNP a victory of some kind.

David Cameron's Conservatives are now considering cutting that option off, by dictating the timing of the poll and insisting it should be a straight choice between staying in or leaving the UK.

Mr Cameron has repeatedly declared himself to be a "passionate unionist".

The question mark over his latest gamble is whether it will hamper the SNP's project or stir Scottish resentment at perceived English interference.

During the DUP conference, Nigel Dodds made an impassioned plea to the Scottish people to stay within the UK.

But Northern Ireland unionists will play an extremely marginal role as the debate plays out north of Hadrian's Wall.

Back in May, after the SNP won an overall majority, Gerry Adams told me he thought developments in Scotland could have seismic implications for Northern Ireland. He may yet be proved right.

Expect a lot of attention on opinion in Scotland in the run up to whatever referendum is eventually held.

But if the vote goes against the UK, it would be the sentiment of the English and the Welsh which might prove more important.

Would the rump of the UK continue to be happy paying a multi-billion pound subvention to Northern Ireland, estimated by one economist at around £5,300 per head of the population.

Of course the Good Friday Agreement contains a provision for a local border poll.

The power to trigger such a referendum doesn't reside with the Stormont parties, but the Secretary of State.

Given the parlous state of the Irish economy and the balance of voting power demonstrated at the Assembly elections, it's safe to assume that any poll in the short term would not alter the status quo.

But in last week's Irish Times, Gerry Moriarty drew attention to the latest trends regarding the number of children in Northern Ireland's schools, and their potential implications for the future.

Question marks about the future of the Justice department notwithstanding, the current settlement at Stormont feels relatively stable.

But it remains a complex compromise, far from immune from developments elsewhere or shifts in demography closer to home.

More prosaically, even if the Scottish people don't opt to break up the union, this debate could still impinge on Stormont's priorities.

Will local ministers be able to isolate their arguments about devolving local corporation tax from the tug of war between London and Edinburgh over the notion of fiscal autonomy?

Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland people keep close eye on Scottish Independence poll

Friday 19 September promises to be a highly significant date not just for Scotland but for Northern Ireland.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    chris - I am not pro or anti unification, however basic economics means that this is not on the cards for a number of years"

    ... and corruption and nepotism and the decimation of the protestant population from 10% to 3% means it is not on the cards ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I think many people in Scotland are living in a dream world. So what's the plan? To become an independent country using the Euro that is a nuclear armed officially "neutral" state with troops in battle areas all over the world? Will London give up their only supply of oil and gas not to mention their military bases? Absolutely not! Too tied at the hip for independence unfortunately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Perhaps we could discuss our looming property crash. Prices are still falling and look to continue to do so especially when you look at the portfolio that NAMA have and who will have to dispose of over the comming months and years. A population of just over 1.5 million and NAMA have over 4 billion worth of property to dispose of. We have yet to feel the cold breath of the recession here in NI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I wonder how many Scots will vote for independence when it is pointed out that there would no more British NHS in Scotland and they'd have to pay each time they went to see their GP? Or if this is not palatable, there would be the prospect of big tax rises to subsidise "free" healthcare for low earners. Anyway, if that's what they want then good luck to them...

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    it does,nt matter to us in the north,as if we had a national vote like in 1918,they would still make sure it would be a unionist outcome


Comments 5 of 85



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.