Bill Clinton asked earlier this week: ‘Can you be Scottish and British?’, as he gently attacked what he called ‘identity politics’. I don’t know if a question can be rhetorical when it has such a blindingly obvious answer (Yes, in this case) but perhaps he was just partly telling his London audience what they wanted to hear. How else could a former President make the rookie mistake of not realising that being Scottish and British are forever intertwined?
Many Brits outside of Scotland are very much set against the idea of Scottish independence. There are good reasons of course for holding this position, although there may be a nagging fear eating away at some Brits that they may not have even realised yet, though Clinton may have helped jogged these thoughts on, as they did for me this week….
After independence, what nationality will everyone on these islands be?
Scots will be Scottish, of course, and the Irish will continue to be Irish (in a strictly passport context at least) but what about those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Will they be British? How can they be, when Scots are also British? They won’t be English, Welsh or Northern Irish either for obvious reasons. Those in Northern Ireland can currently hold an Irish or a British passport (or even both) but with Scottish independence are we forcing them down the Irish route?
I guess the problem is that ‘British’, as we are lablled currently on our passports, has been a misnomer for decades. Perhaps even centuries. There is no country called Britain, it is a geographical term. Even Great Britain is just the largest island of the British Isles (so excludes Northern Ireland). We really should be ‘UKers’ or ‘United Kingdomish’. They both sound silly so it’s little wonder that some bright spark back in the day decided to just go with British and put the problem off for another day.
Well, that other day might be in a couple of years’ time and, as far as I’m aware, there doesn’t seem to be any answer to the following question.
What nationality will those who are currently British in England, Wales and Northern Ireland be if they can no longer be British and aren’t Scottish?
Maybe Bill was right after all, it’s British or Scottish after 2014 if it’s a Yes vote, at least from a passport perspective in any case.