Andrew Willshire

Independence would spark a citizenship crisis in Scotland — and the UK

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In the great debate around Scottish independence, one word is never far away: identity. ‘Who am I?’ is elevated from mere navel-gazing to expressive political allegiance. On one side are those who feel that one can be both Scottish and British without fear of contradiction, while on the other are those who feel that one crushes the other. By casting off Britishness, one’s Scottishness could flower more fully, or so it is supposed.

Even so, it is something that, even in these times of performative politics, could remain between you, your God and your woad supplier. It certainly isn’t something to which an agency of the state would take much interest. Except that, if the Nationalists prevail, then at least three governments would be most interested in the legal expression of that identity – citizenship.

Let us assume that independence day is upon us and that somehow Scotland has been able to negotiate acceding to the EU without a decade in the wilderness. The time has come to decide who gets Scottish (and therefore EU) citizenship as a matter of right. Who passes the test?

The franchise for the independence referendum includes everyone legally resident in Scotland, regardless of nationality. It should surely be assumed that all of those people would be granted Scottish citizenship – if they weren’t, how could their votes be reasonably counted in the referendum? Such an expansive offer of citizenship would certainly fit with the SNP’s view of Scotland, even if it doesn’t chime with the view of most Scots.

They say that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Well, how many nationalists are there in a pension queue?

Next, would Scottish nationals resident elsewhere in the UK (such as myself and 750,000 others) be entitled to Scottish citizenship? We are currently denied a vote on whether we want it to exist at all, but it would surely be hard to refuse it.

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