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Matters relevant to the Scottish referendum

05 September 2014


From the Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Sir, - Paul Vallely (Comment, 29 August) makes important points about the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, two things seem set to continue. Whether independent or not, the Scottish government will continue to acquire more powers. The Calman Commission of 2009 made clear the appetite of the Scottish population for more devolution. But, whether independent or not, Scotland will also continue to be a member of the close-knit community of nations of the British Isles.

Mr Vallely is correct in suggesting that the independence debate does not do justice to the sublety of those tensions and balances. Remarkably little is heard about the institutions that will need to be put in place to manage those continuing relationships. One person's self-determination can indeed become another's self-absorption.

I cannot with Pope Francis say that "All division worries me," and I think that the Scots are entitled to test their distinctiveness. But my experience in Ireland leaves me ever cautious about the concept that any of us has purity of identity. It is better, I think, to honour the subtleties by defining one's identity in dual terms. Hence I regard my identity as Irish-British - which is, of course, different from British-Irish.

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