Scottish independence: Ireland's economic success should inspire Scotland to quit the UK – Kenny MacAskill

I’ve never been a Tory and never will be. But I’ve friends who are and who despair at the lack of entrepreneurism and seek a more dynamic society.
Ireland's economy has the kind of dynamism that could transform Scotland (Picure: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)Ireland's economy has the kind of dynamism that could transform Scotland (Picure: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ireland's economy has the kind of dynamism that could transform Scotland (Picure: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

I’ve some sympathy for them as Scotland’s clearly underperforming and some aspects of the municipal socialism I was reared in were plan daft. The rules on council house door colours spring to mind.

But the lack of an alternative’s more a product of the Union than any imposition by Holyrood. An independent Scotland wouldn’t be an enlarged version of Nicola Sturgeon’s regime but a whole new ball game. Evidence for that comes from across the Irish Sea.

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In Scotland, the Scottish Tories are bleating ‘woe is us’ but the source of their anguish rests with Westminster. Brexit, Trussonomics, and spectacular ineptitude come from us being thirled to the City of London and that’s what’s causing the social and economic crisis we’re facing.

It ensures the understandable contempt for the Tories in Scotland and it’s their unionism which denies the opportunity for a right-of-centre political agenda. There’s no bottom line below which they won’t descend, if told by London. Brexit was initially opposed, support for membership of the single market then forgotten, all for a mantra chant of ‘independence bad, Union good’.

Yet the Irish Tories, because whatever Fine Gael may say they are the right-of-centre party, have seen Leo Varadkhar reinstalled as Taoiseach. Now Fine Gael aren’t where my sympathies lie in Irish politics. But I’ve respect for Varadkhar and his handling of the pandemic was superb.

He didn’t require a daily press conference, though his statement as lockdown came into place when we knew not what we faced was a masterclass. Our First Minister has been lauded for her Covid handling but the real comparisons aren’t with Boris Johnson but internationally. Scottish performance contrasted with Ireland’s tells quite another story as death figures show.

Varadkhar follows on from other Fine Gael leaders from its historical roots post-independence to Dr Garret Fitzgerald and Enda Kenny in more recent years. There’s no way any of them hold my views yet I respect what they’ve achieved. There’s no way they’d have accepted Irish removal from the EU simply because English nationalism wanted it. They’ve seen the necessity of the single market for the island of Ireland.

Most importantly, they’ve presided over a country that has surpassed Scotland and yet has had none of our advantages or blessings. They’ve created a dynamic economy. Last year the council showed me the new vehicles they’d acquired for recycling in East Lothian. I’d assumed they’d have been made in Germany or Japan but as I recall it was Tipperary. The Irish State Electricity Board has a major stake in offshore wind in the Forth. And listening to the BBC World Service, I heard how Primark, an Irish company, is seeking to break into the US market.

Ireland has flourished. It has had to overcome its own mistakes such as the crashing of the Celtic Tiger but who else would sort it? It shows what Scotland could be. It also shows that there’s a different future than a Holyrood writ large or even a country of my political hue. But it requires independence.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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