Northern Ireland news

Scottish independence is 'winnable' says consultant who worked for unionist Better Together campaign in 2014

Public affairs specialist Quintin Oliver

THE man who led the campaign urging voters in Northern Ireland to say 'Yes' to the Good Friday Agreement and subsequently worked for the 'No' camp in Scotland's independence referendum believes a second vote on Scottish self-rule is "winnable" for nationalists.

Belfast-based public affairs consultant Quintin Oliver, who in 2014 worked as an adviser for the cross-party, pro-union Better Together campaign, said the "emotional vote" in favour of Scottish independence had been energised by Brexit and Tory austerity.

He also believes that an independent Scotland would have a "cataclysmic effect" on politics in Northern Ireland.

The former head of Belfast public affairs firm Stratagem spearheaded the 1998 campaign seeking public endorsement of the freshly-brokered Good Friday Agreement, which ultimately secured 71 per cent support from the Northern Ireland electorate.

Mr Oliver has since worked on referendum campaigns in Cyprus, South Sudan and Sweden.

In Scotland, his specialist knowledge was employed to co-ordinate political parties who were ordinarily adversaries.

He said Brexit was the "material change in circumstances" which the SNP believes should trigger a second referendum.

"If the SNP get a second referendum it is certainly winnable," he told The Irish News.

"I never thought they'd win it in 2014 and believed there'd be a 60-40 per cent victory for the unionists but I now believe they can win."

Mr Oliver said Scottish public opinion had shifted because "London has become so unattractive, economically and politically".

"Whereas once the Scots regarded the Edinburgh parliament as a parish council and Westminster as the heavyweight, they now see that the mother of all parliaments is hopelessly divided and making short-term, irrational decisions," he said.

"In contrast Scotland appears much more certain – things have flipped compared to five years ago."

The public affairs specialist argues that Scottish independence would have a huge impact on Northern Ireland politics, particularly among those historically loyal to the union.

"It would be cataclysmic because for Northern Ireland's unionist/protestant population Scotland is the mother ship – they do not cleave to Westminster and England," he said.

He said a Yes vote in a Scottish independence referendum would intensify the arguments around the north's middle ground, which has traditionally been soft unionist.

"Those small 'U' unionists look at the southern economy, increased secularisation and being part of the EU and they are starting to question where their best future lies," he said.

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