From the excellent Belfast News Letter 18/2/2012

Proposals for an independent Scotland are poorly thought out, but unionism must offer a positive alternative, says PETER ROBINSON –

THE history of the relationship between Northern Ireland and Scotland is a never-ending story of interaction between the two countries.

The Union binds all its four constituent parts together but the relationship across the North Channel has always been a special one.

Now, as the Scots embark on a debate about whether they shall remain within our United Kingdom, it is of particularly keen interest to us.

We know enough about our Scottish friends to know that dire threats will not be the way to unionist success.

We also know that it will be their decision and not ours. However, what we can do is leave them in no shadow of doubt that we want them in our Union.

For the past and present show us the way to the best future – that we are better together.

As the story of the Union has unfolded, each part contributed much to its politics, its economy, its culture and to its defence.

Through the common project of the empire we gave our values and learning to the world – technical innovation, parliamentary democracy, belief in the rule of law and fundamental,  freedoms, philosophy, literature and sport.

After securing democracy from the Nazi onslaught, we set about creating a new Union building national institutions like the NHS.

Our unity meant that as the empire faded the UK retained a place in the world politically and economically that schism would have frittered away.

This has never been truer than now. The UK is not immune from the global winds of recession but we can see from the experiences of Greece and the Republic of Ireland how much more vulnerable small nations are.

As to the future, our prime minister has made it clear the Union is happy to evolve.

With the Union, the Scots know what it has delivered, does deliver and will deliver. What of the alternative future?

Even in these early stages of the debate, it has become clear no one has a real vision for an independent Scotland.

On questions about basic issues like the economy, currency and defence the plans appear as if they have been drafted up on the back of a beaten bookies’ docket.

So let us not fear this debate but welcome it. For I believe it will not only secure Scotland’s place in the Union for years to come but re-energise the idea of the Union throughout our country.

Together, we have achieved so much. Together, we are stronger. Together, we will have the best future.

■ Peter Robinson is First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP

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Scottish independence: Wales and Northern Ireland make unity plea

…….In his strong plea for Scotland to remain in the UK, Robinson made clear that Northern Ireland unionists would lose their closest relatives in the UK if Scotland left. The Northern Ireland first minister said: “If what we have seen over the last few days is a trailer of things to come then unless we like seeing the sight of our own blood we might want to stand back somewhat. While we recognise that clearly this must be a decision for the people of Scotland to take on their own it has clear implications for the rest of the UK.

“I speak as a unionist but also as an Ulster Scot. Clearly I have a massive interest in what happens and what decision the people of Scotland will take. They do need to know that there are many people throughout the UK that feel they have a very valuable contribution to make to the UK as a whole who want to see them continue to do that.”

In a reference to the Scots who travelled across the Irish Sea during the Ulster Plantation, Robinson said: “We cherish the relationship that we have. Nowhere else in the UK would the bonds be more tightly drawn between any other part of the UK from NI’s point of view than with Scotland.

“Our peoples have moved from one side of that small stretch of water to the other and back again many times over the centuries. So we have a massive interest and I don’t think we can sit idly by and simply indicate that it is a matter for Scotland alone. It will have implications for us all. We hope that Scotland knows just how much we want them to remain within the UK.”………

12:48 GMT, Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Video at the link: British Irish Council

The first minister said he very much hoped Scotland would remain an “integral part of the United Kingdom”, on 17 January 2012.
In his statement on the recent meeting of the British Irish Council (BIC), Peter Robinson said the subject of Scotland’s independence had gained media attention due to the presence of Scotland First Minister, Alex Salmond, even though it was not discussed.
Delegates at the meeting included the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.
With the inclusion of members outside the UK, Mr Robinson said that Scotland could remain part of the council even if it gained independence.
“Even if Scotland was to take the decision, which all, I’m sure, in this house would unanimously agree that we would not want them to take, it would not stop them being a member of the BIC,” he said.
Mr Robinson also said it was ironic, “that the moment when there seems a real possibility of some form of break-up of the United Kingdom that Northern Ireland was not the cause of it”.

Unionists can use Salmond`s ideas, says businessman

A SCOTTISH business-man with strong links to Northern Ireland has urged the province’s politicians to work with Scotland for the benefit of both regions.
Iain McGill, who runs an employment business between Scotland and Northern Ireland, said that unionists should em¬brace some of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s ideas – but use them to strengthen the case for the Union.
Mr McGill, whose father is Scottish and mother is from Larne, singled out Mr Salmond’s call for Scotland to lead the world in creating renewable energy from its rugged landscape.
The businessman who was brought up in Scotland and has stood for the Conservatives in Edinburgh – told the News Letter: “The potential for Northern Ireland and Scotland to work to¬gether on tidal energy in the North Sea between Scotland and Northern Ireland is enormous; it could be a massive eneregy producer for the whole of Europe.
“It’s not a Scottish North Sea, it’s not a Northern Irish North Sea it’s a big natural asset that we share.
“I see Alex Salmond running ahead on that and I think the guys in Northern Ireland – on both sides of the unionist- nationalist debate – are missing a trick with that.
“They should be saying: Here’s an asset we have; Alex Salmond trumpets that Scotland’s going to be the renewables leader in the world; Scotland’s going to provide power for Europe.
“He’s presenting a posi-tive vision for how he sees it running. But actually we would be more powerful together because that sea is not entirely Scotland’s.
“If that- vision is right then actually Scotland, Northern Ireland and UK PLC should be saying: ‘We’ve got this North Sea between us, let’s maximise that and make it the world leader in tidal power’.
“I see his vision of an independent Scotland being a world leader in re-newable energy actually being stronger if we have both coasts of the North Sea, not just one coast of the North Sea.”
Mr McGill, a strongly pro-Union voice in the Scottish independence debate, said that he did not believe Scots would vote for independence.
“We’re in a better position to be taking risks together and sharing the rewards together.
“From a Scottish side, when you look at the banks collapsing we would not, as a small nation, have been able to bail them out and help the economy by sustaining them.”