The DUP does not want to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom. Not only would it be bad for Northern Ireland, but bad for Scotland and for the UK as a whole. Without Scotland, we will be a smaller nation, with a smaller population and a smaller economy. Our standing in the world will be diminished and with it a loss of influence and power. Our voice will carry less weight in the EU and in the UN and more questions will be asked about our permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
The loss of power and influence will be felt along with a severe financial cost. The division of a nation brings with it its own expense. However it also raises many questions. Who has access to North Sea oil and how will it divide? Will Scotland keep sterling? If they adopt the Euro, how will this affect the cost of doing business with Scotland?
A major issue of contention will of course be defence. The SNP have stated their intention will be to create their own Scottish Defence Force. But what about those Scots who currently serve in the British Army – will they be allowed to continue to serve? Will Scotland be able to keep air and naval bases? What will be even more contentious is what to do with our nuclear weapons which are currently based at Faslane near Glasgow. The cost of moving that base to somewhere else in the UK would be a multi billion pound operation.
Voters in Scotland may give little attention to the effect that their decision will have on Northern Ireland. What is important however is that any campaign against independence must not only focus on the negative impact of independence but the positive benefits that come from being part of the UK.
The Union between England and Wales and Scotland in 1707 and between Britain and Ireland in 1800 was established with the belief that these countries were stronger together than they were apart. The Empire that grew and strengthened over the period following these Acts of Union was not an English Empire, but a British Empire. Its economy was the largest in the world, its strength at that time was unparalleled. It is doubtful that this would have happened had we been separate and not together as one nation. Each country played its part in the development of the nation and in the increase of its prosperity and in its defence. People from Wales contributed to our economic power, people from Scotland were inventors, innovators and engineers and we in Ulster have of course played our role in defending the union, whether it is on the streets of Northern Ireland in or trenches in France. We have all contributed to the United Kingdom and importantly we have all benefited from belonging to it as well.
To many, history will not be enough to persuade them to keep the union together. But the future should. There is no doubt in my mind that the countries of the United Kingdom will be stronger together than we ever could be apart.
So far, the questions that have been posed have been about the nature and timing of the referendum. I have no doubt that when the real debate begins the people of Scotland will realise that it is in their best interests, and in the best interests of the rest of the country, to remain in the Union.