The Dalry Road Question

Apropos of nothing, a thought about Scottish Independence:

In the event of independence for Scotland (presumably following a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum, in the wake of an SNP victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections), what would be the criteria for citizenship of the new country?

Now, I am registered to vote in Scotland (I even own a flat in Edinburgh, off Dalry Road). I would presumably become a citizen of the Independent Republic of Scotland, if it came into existence. However, I am at present a citizen of the United Kingdom, a country that will persist (albeit in a leaner form) should Scotland choose Independence. In that event, will I be stripped of that UK citizenship? Any mechanism to do so would, I think, be an odd an illiberal thing. In any case, having been born in London to British parents, I would be an unassailable candidate for dual citizenship, even if I did have to actively apply for it.

I imagine the reverse case would be true for the Scottish diaspora elsewhere in the world. They are citizens of other countries, but would be eligible for Scottish citizenship too. Personally, I don’t have a problem with a high proportion of the population having dual citizenship (I am, after all, a dangerous multiculturalist). But surely such a situation would be undesirable for the Nationalists. Gaining independence from the English, only to see hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people applying for dual citizenship, would seem to be a hollow victory.

What are the lessons from other partitions and secessions? The Scottish Nationalists claim to be ‘different’ from the English, and yet there are no clashes of religion, ethnicity, or language. Therefore the choice over which side of the border to stand is less obvious. And the reasons for drawing a border in the first place are less clear.

  1. Jonn said:

    The SNP line is, I believe, that anyone UK citizen resident in Scotland will be eligible for citizenship: they’ve been taking pains lately to ensure they can’t be accused of stirring up anti-English feeling.

    As to the diaspora… If they’re included at all there’ll presumably be some line about needing to prove a certain degree of Scottish parentage (eg 50%+), or to show that your family left within two generations or something. I can’t see it resulting in hundreds of thousands of non-UK citizens wanting to become Scottish citizens anyway.

  2. “What are the lessons from other partitions and secessions? “

    A very sound question. What could we learn from one of the most recent and apparently most amiable partition, that of Czechoslovakia?

    To what degree were the Czechs and Slovaks a) different and b) physically/geographically separate whilst still part of one nation?

    I suggest we ask Lemuel, assuming of course that we do it before he deletes himself.


  3. Robert said:

    I can’t see it resulting in hundreds of thousands of non-UK citizens wanting to become Scottish citizens anyway.

    When I speak of the ‘diaspora’, I would crucially include residents of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who were born and/or grew up in Scotland. Since Scotland’s population has been falling recently (1% or two 2% a year, I think). That’s a lot of people.

  4. lemuel said:

    You rang?

    Well Czechs and Slovaks are pretty much separate nations (meaning ethnicities) with many similarities but also quite a few differences (which do tend to get rather emphasized when divorce comes along) in language and in culture as well. Geographical separation was easy as well, the border with Czech lands was probably the one “most historically established” for Slovakia.

    As far as the practical matter of citizenship, there weren’t any problems with this in the Czechoslovak case, I don’t even remember the particulars, I think everyone was granted the citizenship of the state he was a permanent resident of, unless he specifically asked for the other one. Dual citizenship was also a possibility for quite some time, I believe. Of course this differs from the Case of UK vs Scottish citizenship in the regard that in the Czechoslovak case there were only two new state entities, both claiming a de iure continuity with the old state. In your case however UK would (I hope) remain in existence which raises your fair question whether one could be stripped of his citizenship. I presume the sane thing here would be to apply for Scottish citizenship while leaving ones UK citizenship intact.

    I won’t pretend I understand the question of Scottish independence though, what are they going to base their nationhood on? Their accents? Quilts? What?

  5. I think it highly unlikely that our quilts would come into it. There’s *just* a chance, though, that our kilts (or, in the vernacular, “skirts”) might have a role…

  6. lemuel said:


  7. Phil Hunt said:

    People in the EU genrrally have the right to reside in each others countries, so would this really be a big deal? I don’t think so.

  8. I’ll let you off. The only thing I know how to ask for in Slovak is a beer.

  9. chris y said:

    Surely the precedents for this situation were set last time a substantial chunk of the United Kingdom decided to walk away. In practice, both the the Republic of Ireland and the residual UK are extremely relaxed about dual nationality and, pace Republican claims about jurisdiction in the six counties (which are more about politics than settled law), the only case I can think of where it mattered much was the decision of the British to hang Lord Haw-haw.

    I would imagine that in the case of Scottish independence, both parties would take pains to minimise the initial impact on everybody, not least by rushing through Scottish membership of the EU, after which formal citizenship would become almost a non-issue.

  10. Chris Y is quite right. This is a non-issue. I’d take issue with a seperate part of your piece though. You say:

    “The Scottish Nationalists claim to be ‘different’ from the English, and yet there are no clashes of religion, ethnicity, or language.” Well perhaps inside the anglo-sphere of Edinburgh there are no no clashes of language, but not elsewhere in Scotland. Also, in terms of religion, the ongoing disgrace that a catholic cannot become monarch is shameful, (not that I subscribe to either affliction).

  11. Robert said:


    This is nothing to do with being stuck inside the Anglo-sphere! Are the Scots Gaelic speakers are comparable to, say, the Quebecois? That is certainly not the SNP’s belief, otherwise the borders of a proposed Independent Scotland would be in a very different place.

    Likewise with religion – It is not like the Irish case, where the difference in religion between the rest of the UK, was a crucial argument for self-determination.

    With regards to the suggestion that this is a non-issue: From an administration point of view, that may be the case. I’m just asking wether the ideological ideas of ‘national identity’ and ‘self-determination’ (which are used to justify independence) do not require a certain pro-activity, even zeal, on the part of potential citizens? To then let in, on administration grounds, any old Englishman who happens to work in the ‘Anglosphere’, seems to rather undermine the rhetoric of nation building.