Former Irish foreign minister Gerry Collins backs Scottish independence

Most Irish politicians would support a Yes vote, says former Limerick West TD

Gerry Collins: ‘There is a natural sympathy for the Scots in Ireland.’ Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Former minister for foreign affairs Fianna Fáil's Gerry Collins has backed Scottish independence, saying small countries have "no baggage", are "amenable, honest, upright" and set their own priorities.

“I hope Scotland votes for independence. You’re striving for a better country,” Mr Collins told Michael Gray, a Scottish journalist writing for the pro-independence website National Collective, which hosts the views of the Scottish arts world on the referendum.

“I wish you well. If you feel you can handle yourselves, I see no reason why you can’t,” said the former Limerick West TD, who served in the European Parliament alongside the Scottish National Party’s Winnie Ewing.

‘Broadly supportive’

Though Irish political parties have officially stayed neutral during the referendum campaign, Mr Collins said he believed most would be “broadly supportive and sympathetic” to Scottish independence.

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“Of course they would be,” he added. “Fianna Fáil, certainly.

“There is a natural sympathy for the Scots in Ireland. If the people in Scotland are satisfied, the Irish people would want Scotland to make a success of it,” said Mr Collins, who said Scotland would be well capable of playing a full role in the European Union.

“I’d be certain that an independent Scotland would be good within a European context,” he told National Collective, saying it is important to realise that “being good Europeans is not in contradiction with being good for Scotland”.

Meanwhile, a policy paper from the Brussels-based European Policy Centre has said having Scotland outside the EU after a Yes vote in September would create “a legal nightmare”.

“No member state, particularly not the rest of the UK, would have an interest in creating such an anomaly,” the paper said, adding that EU leaders will finally decide, not lawyers.

Legal opinion divides on whether Scotland would have to use article 49 of the European Union treaty – but this could take years, if there was opposition from other EU states.

Others lawyers, said the policy centre, say Scotland could negotiate its memberships terms without ever formally being outside of the EU tent.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is Ireland and Britain Editor with The Irish Times