A large number of people in Scotland want out of the United Kingdom – the four composites of which include Northern Ireland.
Many people in the North have inter-personal, cultural, and emotional links with their Caledonian cousins – and if the Scots leave, the political and social fallout would be hefty.
The Republic of Ireland’s minimal and sporadic attention to Scotland since independence is no longer sustainable. We have to wake up to what is happening there.
What happens in the coming years, a matter of miles from the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim, will impact upon this island – north and south.
The UK supreme court ruling that London government permission is required for another Scottish independence referendum will only stoke new activism in Scotland, with big implications on both sides of the Irish Border.
The UK judges’ verdict was no surprise – but the current Edinburgh administration, which is driving the independence initiative – felt the legal route was something they had to get out of the way.
In most western jurisdictions, law courts can never give enduring answers to what are at their heart political questions. So Scottish First Minister and National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon was not fazed by this predictable verdict.
She promptly said her party will find another way to achieve independence.
Ms Sturgeon said the next general election in Scotland will be for Scottish purposes a “de facto” referendum on that country’s independence.
It is important to emphasise that the UK’s highest court’s ruling did not address the principle of Scottish independence, nor the prospect of a repeat of the referendum in September 2014 which gave a 55pc to 45pc outcome in favour of staying in the UK.
The supreme court judges ruled that – since the principle of splitting from the United Kingdom would impact the four jurisdictions which comprise that political entity – permission from the central parliament in London was required to run another referendum.
Ms Sturgeon responded by saying the Scottish National Party is not abandoning the independence route, insisting: “Westminster is blocking it.” She stressed that her government will find a new way to hold a referendum.
“In my view, that can only be an election,” she said.
“The next national election scheduled for Scotland is, of course, the UK general election. Making that both the first and the most obvious opportunity to seek what I described as a ‘de facto’ referendum,” she added.
Unsurprisingly, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the judges’ ruling, dubbing it “clear and definitive”.
But Ms Sturgeon said that a special conference of her party will be held in 2023 to determine how to take the campaign on the referendum for independence forward.
Predictably, some English politicians, who advocate the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, urged the Scottish nationalists to drop their so-called “obsession” with independence.
The former ill-starred UK leader Theresa May was among those yesterday.
“Scotland is a proud nation with a unique heritage. It is a valued member of our family of nations. A union of people bound through the generation by our shared interests,” she said.
Ms May said the UK supreme court’s verdict gave the SNP “the opportunity for once to put the people of Scotland first, and end its obsession with breaking us apart.”
But this ignores the political reality – that in the last Scottish independence referendum in 2014, union with the UK was sold on a ‘Better Together’ slogan which also embraced a common EU membership.
In the June 2016 Brexit referendum, more than six out of 10 Scottish voters opted to stay in the EU.
The likes of Charles Stewart Parnell and PH Pearse would have liked Ms Sturgeon’s addendum that the UK supreme court ruling itself actually helps the case for Scottish independence.
“A law that doesn’t allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster consent exposes as myth any notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership and makes a case for independence. Scottish democracy will not be denied,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon again stressed persistence.
She said: “I’m well aware that there will be a real sense of frustration today, in both the SNP and in the wider movement. I share that. My message though is this: while that is understandable, it must be short-lived – and I believe it will be.”