Vote on independence in Scotland

Christine Kinealy

Christine Kinealy, a history professor and author of the book, "A Disunited Kingdom. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 1800-1949," is available to discuss today's referendum in Scotland, where voters will be asked, "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The answer to this question will determine whether Scotland should remain as part of the United Kingdom - a political union established in 1800, although parliamentary union with Scotland had already taken place in 1707.

"It may be a simple question, but it is a complicated answer and the debate over the last few weeks has grown both more intense and more polarized as referendum day approached. Moreover, it has captured international attention," said Kinealy, who also is founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac.

"If the vote is 'yes', the Union flag, the passport and possibly the currency, will change - and who knows what else?" Kinealy said. "There remain a number of undecided issues. But if the answer is 'no', things will never be the same again, as more devolution has been promised (somewhat in haste by politicians in London) if this proves to be the case. But, perhaps more interestingly, this debate, which concerns a nation of only five million people, is being watched throughout the world - from China to Canada."

Kinealy said within Ireland, there is particular interest in the outcome of the referendum, both for historic and pragmatic reasons. In the early 20th century when Irish nationalists struggled for 'Home Rule', that is, parliamentary independence from Britain, the same arguments were deployed by those who opposed it. Resistance to Irish Home Rule was to lead to years of war and the partition of Ireland in 1921.

"The significance today is, if Scotland is allowed to vote on independence, why should Northern Ireland (and Wales) not be given the same voting rights?" Kinealy said. "Inevitably, Unionists in Northern Ireland have thrown themselves behind the yes vote - the Orange Order even marching on the streets of Edinburgh last weekend in a gesture of solidarity. But if the United Kingdom does eventually break up, suddenly England - once the center of the vast British Empire - looks very small.

"Whatever the outcome of the referendum on Thursday, Scotland, the United Kingdom, and even the rest of the world, will never be the same again," Kinealy said. "Independence movements in Quebec, Catalan, Tibet and elsewhere are getting renewed energy from what is happening in Scotland. But perhaps the most positive take-away from the Scottish referendum is that, in a world that is witnessing daily violence in so many locations, political change can be achieved through debate and by constitutional and peaceful means. Whatever the outcome, that lesson should not be lost."

To schedule an interview with Kinealy, please contact John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, at 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).

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