Martin Hannan: So who decides our nationality?

Andy Murray, pictured in Davis Cup action, takes great delight in representing Great Britain while being a proud Scot. Picture: PA
Andy Murray, pictured in Davis Cup action, takes great delight in representing Great Britain while being a proud Scot. Picture: PA
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ONE of the refrains from the Better Together campaign before the referendum was that people did not want their British identity removed from them. It’s a point I understood, and still do.

I even heard one person in Edinburgh argue that it was his human right to be British, and despite all the logical arguments against that point of view – the best was actually by No voters who vehemently argued that you can be Scottish AND British – he was adamant that Britishness was his born right and couldn’t be taken away from him.

When it was put to him that an entire nation had been deprived of its Scottish nationality with the sweep of a monarch’s pen back in 1707, the True Brit didn’t even blink – “We didn’t have human rights back then,” was his position. Factually correct, of course, but somewhat missing the point.

Every person on this planet has the right to a nationality and shall not be arbitrarily deprived of that right, according to article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet as many, many war and border disputes over the centuries have shown, no single person has the right to determine their own nationality. By custom and convention, that is the prerogative of the state.

I was actually amazed that the Better Together campaign did not make more of this nationality issue. I couldn’t fathom why they didn’t create a fuss about people being deprived of their British nationality and having it replaced by a sole Scottish nationality.

That surely had to be a vote winner among certain classes of people – English people living in Edinburgh and members of the Orange Order in, say, Larkhall, would have been strange bedfellows, but the principle would have been the same. A Yes vote inevitably would have meant people stopped being British and Scottish and became Scottish alone.

Or would it? I have been fascinated for some time by this question of nationality, not least because, as someone with an Irish-born grandmother, I could have played football or rugby for Ireland or Scotland. Except that I was only good enough for Lismore’s 2nd XV, though thanks to that kenspeckle figure Magnus Moodie, I did actually play international rugby – against Andorra for an Edinburgh Academy FPs invitation side. And that wasn’t yesterday.

I did a modicum of research and found the reason why I think the Unionists largely laid off the nationality issue. Under the European Convention on Nationality, it is perfectly permissible for states to legislate for their citizens to hold dual nationality, just as Scots and French people were dual nationals in bygone centuries.

Basically, the convention says it is a matter for discussion and agreement between a state and a successor state – i.e. in the event of a Yes vote in any future referendum, it will be up to rest of the UK and Scotland to agree on nationality issues, and as I read the convention, there would nothing to stop Scots becoming dual nationals of Scotland and a revised UK.

It’s a major argument for full federalism – something we must seriously consider in Britain now, with even right-wing Tories accepting that it is up for debate.

Except for one problem – the United Kingdom has refused to sign or ratify the 1997 convention. I wonder why.

A sad loss – but Evelyn certainly made her mark

I WAS very sad to hear of the death of Dr Evelyn Gillan, whose life will be celebrated this morning at the Mansfield Traquair Centre.

I will not be able to be there, so let me add my personal tribute to Evelyn who I first met when she joined the Women’s Unit at Edinburgh District Council and became instrumental in setting up the ground-breaking Zero Tolerance campaign that really has changed so many lives for the better.

She was feisty without being a virago, passionately committed to the cause of justice and fairness for all, and if Zero Tolerance was all she had done, Evelyn would deserve all our thanks. But her work as chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland was also visionary and inspiring, and will also have a long-lasting impact.

Evelyn has been taken far too early, and will be very much missed.