Internationalists are voting Yes. No wonder. Independence is an expression of the desire to join the world as an equal partner. The nature of independent internationalism says a great deal of the identity and solidarity Scotland aspires to.
The Nordic countries are a given. Their consistent economic success, more equal distribution of wealth and progressive international campaigns are rightly envied. Yet, on the back of the EU elections, has the Yes campaign missed out on drawing upon comparisons with our nearest independent neighbour, the Celtic cousins of Ireland?
It was the financial crash that – at least till now – put pay to comparisons. After the Dublin financial district took a hit the UK press boasted of the collapse of the ‘Irish Tiger’ economy. London papers let out cat-calls suggesting that Ireland’s system of governance had failed. There was, somehow, room for schadenfreude not far from the City of London.
Despite financial failings from Edinburgh to London to Washington, the dirt stuck on the Irish example. Today it’s rare to see Irish self-governance referenced in Scotland without a cynic throwing back tired cliches.
One opinionated street interviewee on independence said, “We’ll fucking go like Dublin mate. Take your camera to Ireland. See every **** in Ireland they’re fucking living on the streets. Because they’re fucking skint.”
This is the result of the ups and downs of recent history, exaggerated for shallow politics effect. Despite the assumptions, Ireland remains a far more successful political and economic model than the UK.
Prosperity remains higher. Inequality remains lower. Even its borrowing costs are now better than the UK’s.
This is not to say that Ireland is worth emulating. Simply, it is worth considering in greater depth than it is often respected.
Ireland negotiated Home Rule then independence from Westminster within far more strenuous circumstances than Scotland has ever faced; and has developed a close partnership with the UK since then. Within the United Nations, Ireland has contributed to countless peacekeeping missions to support stability in Africa and the Middle East. And, perhaps most importantly given the recent EU vote, Ireland has placed itself at the heart of the European Union project.
That final fact was the strongest lasting impression from a series of recent interviews carried out in Dublin. Ireland’s place in the world and economic transition has been interwoven within the European fabric. The politicians, the media, academics spoke up for Europe as a positive force. It was a refreshing change from home.
As Scotland considers its relationship within Europe (while forced in a eurosceptic direction of Westminster’s choosing) it’s worth reflecting on Ireland as the independence campaign’s blind spot. To reaffirm Scotland’s internationalism, it’s worth looking through emerald eyes.
Photography by Aileen McKay