Scotland’s Past and Futures Explored, 8 September 2014
On 18 September 2014, the electorate of Scotland voted no in response to the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?'
As a contribution to the debate on Scotland’s future and the likely impact of constitutional changes within Britain on Ireland, a conference was held in the Trinity Long Room Hub and Royal Irish Acdemy on September 8th 2014, ten days before the Scottish Referendum. Coming a day after the first opinion polls had suggested that a majority of Scottish voters favoured independence, the event occurred when Irish public interest in Scotland was fully ignited.
The conference brought together historians and political scientists from Scotland and Ireland with a particular expertise in Scottish political culture, Scottish-Irish parallels and Anglo-Irish relations.The first panel discussion, Two species? Comparing the history of Scottish and Irish nationalism was chaired by Prof Aileen Douglas (TCD) with speakers: Prof Graeme Morton (University of Dundee); Prof Vincent Comerford (NUI, Maynooth) and Prof Ewen Ameron (University of Edinburgh). The second session, Cui bono? The Referendum campaign and the implications of possible outcomes – for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic and the EU was chaired by Paul Gillespie (former Foreign Policy Editor, The Irish Times) with speakers: Prof Graham Walker (Queen’s University Belfast); Prof Jennifer Todd (University College Dublin) and Prof Bob Morris (University of Edinburgh). The evening concluded with the plenary lecture, ‘The Scottish Referendum - Different roads to the same place’ delivered by Prof. Michael Keating (University of Aberdeen) to a full house in the Royal Irish Academy.
Organized by the TCD Centre for Irish-Scottish and Comparative Studies and the Royal Irish Academy with the support of the Trinity Long Room Hub and ‘Making Ireland’, a Trinity College Research Theme, the event gave an opportunity to reflect both on the past and the possible futures of Scotland. It explored some of the long-term contrasts between Irish and Scottish ethno-politics and nationalist ideologies, and on the striking absence of historical reference in the current Scottish debate, in complete contrast to the centrality of history in the ideology of modern Irish nationalism.
A recurring theme were the links (not always explicit) between Anglo-Scottish politics since the 1970s and Anglo-Irish relations over the same period. Several speakers predicted that post-Referendum uncertainties in the constitutional structure of the United Kingdom (whichever way the vote went) could easily destabilize politics within Northern Ireland very seriously and test the undoubted strength of the Dublin/London axis.
Prof. Michael Keating (University of Aberdeen) in the plenary lecture suggested that Scotland now presents a case of ‘post-sovereignty’, state transformation and the erosion of the mystique of the nation-state having produced a political order in which multiple sovereignty claims co-exist and sovereignty is shared. Both sides in the referendum campaign have, he suggested, sought to get close to the middle ground where public opinion clusters, so that the choice on September 18 would in effect be between ‘independence-lite’ and ‘devolution-plus’. Neither official campaign has produced a thorough account of how Scotland could sustain economic prosperity and social cohesion in the new international order. But there has, he noted, been an extraordinary engagement of civil society, which has transformed Scotland as a political community.
‘Scotland’s National Conversation: The Next Steps’ An address given by the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, MSP in Trinity College on Wednesday, February 13th 2008. To watch the full address, please click here.
Keynote address by Donald Dewar, MSP, First Minister of Scotland, 1999 - 2000 in 'Ireland & Scotland - Nation, Region, Identity: Náisiún, Régiún, Céannacht: Náisean, Céarn Tire, Féineachd' - A record of the inter-disciplinary conference held in Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Film Centre 29 - 30 September 2000, edited by David Dickson, Séan Duffy, Cathal Ó Háinle, Ian Ross Campbell (The Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies Trinity College for The Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative Dublin 2001).