Posted By: September 08, 2014

tom Kelly. Irish News ( Belfast), Monday, September 8, 2014

UNTIL now I have resisted the temptation to write about the Scottish referendum on

After all, the issue is for the Scottish people alone. That said, the fallout
whether it be yea or nay, will be felt well beyond the Scottish Borders.

Firstly, despite having some Scottish roots through the Hanna side of my family, I
am blissfully nonplussed on the matter. The contrarian within me wants the Yes
campaign to win for no other reason than to see an English prime minister called
Cameron[ a historic Scottish name] choke on his porridge.

The pragmatist in me wants the status quo to remain for fear of the unknown. My
actual knowledge of Scotland is confined to Rabbie Burns, William Wallace, Robert
the Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Black Friars Bobbie, Gleneagles, whisky, haggis,
Iron Bru, Rod Stewart, Murrayfield and Celtic and, of course, Brigadoon.

Scottish politics looks tough - a Gaelic version of Boston's Tammany Hall. Of
course, Scotland also has a lorry load of historical baggage not dissimilar to our
own, plunder, plantation, sectarianism, roaring reverends and papists. That the
referendum is taking place at all is due to the tenacity and shrewdness of First
Minister Alex Salmond. He is a pugilistic politician with more lives than a cat.

This referendum is likely to be his last significant roll of the dice. Despite the
polls showing a narrowing divide between the two campaigns, its likely that Mr
Salmond will lose the referendum but in doing so he may actually win the argument as
referenda on nationhood will remain on the Scottish electoral calendar in the

Salmond has been blessed in this electoral tussle. Firstly he benefited from a
bloodied and divided Scottish Labour Party and secondly by the good fortune of
having two Tory toffs residing in Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street. This meant the
Better Together campaign was hampered from the start. It was a campaign that at
times was lacklustre and negative and when it did have bite, it was of the bullying
kind, a political whip from Flashman aka Cameron. Alistair Darling, former
chancellor and No campaign front man, may have many talents but he has a canny
ability to keep them well hidden under those bushes of eyebrows. When Darling
shadow-boxed with Salmond, the No campaign needed a bruiser with a sense of
Glaswegian humour what it got was the optimism of an undertaker looking forward to a
pandemic but short of pall bearers.

On the plus side Billy Connolly is definitely on the side of the No campaign as Alex
Ferguson and JK Rowling. But the Yes campaign have their celebrities too, like
non-resident Sir Sean Connery, comedian Frankie Boyle and actor Brian Cox. Salmond
has outwitted the polls twice in 2007 and 2011 and when he resurrected his own
career after retiring the SNP leadership, he could do it again but it's unlikely.

Unionists in Northern Ireland are in a state of apoplexy over the prospect a Yes
win. The secession of Scotland from Great Britain causes an immediate crisis of
identity as most unionists are of Scottish stock but their allegiance is to the
Union. But what if there is no Union, only England and the appendage of Wales? Would
Northern Ireland's days be numbered? After all we were unceremoniously excluded from
inclusive Team GB branding during the Olympics despite unionist pleas at
Westminster. There would be no immediate threat to Northern Ireland's future within
the UK as it is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no change until
people decide if there is to be a change but what will be unstoppable will be the
demand to hold a referendum, more commonly known here as a border poll. Frankly,
based on the last election results in both the EU and local government elections in
Northern Ireland, it would be beaten easily - though it would be hard for any
secretary of state to deny the opportunity for such a poll.

The Better Together campaign has been lukewarm in its reception to the UUP, DUP or
Orange Order pro-union messages for fear of any sectarian baggage adding to local
sectarian tensions which may then drive many Catholics from their Scottish Labour
heartlands into the welcoming arms of Salmond's SNP and the Yes side. When the
referendum is over there will be more relief than joy if the No campaign wins.

Whatever the outcome, the hangover for Scotland will be of Rab C Nesbitt proportions.