The government has this week threatened to withdraw an independent Scotland’s right to use the English language. The announcement is the clearest sign yet that, in the event of a pro-independence vote, the remainder of the UK could hesitate to allow a ‘linguistic union’ with the new Scottish nation.
Insiders at the anti-independence Better Together campaign are reportedly confident of the gambit’s strategic effectiveness. One consultant pointed out to our reporter, even in the event of a vote for independence, the withdrawal of English would leave Scottish delegates at a ‘very significant’ disadvantage in subsequent negotiations over the actual terms of the separation.
The announcement has proved controversial, with many pro-independence figures accusing the government of ‘bullying’ Scottish voters. Many have opined that, in the event of a Yes vote, the UK government would be forced to concede when faced with the prospect of losing such icons as Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi. The Yes campaign has, nonetheless, come under pressure for its repeated failure to offer a ‘Plan B’ on which language to use post-independence, as early suggestions of Flemish or Latin have been quickly quashed by Belgian and Vatican City authorities.
Another area of debate has concerned those countries around the world which already use English as an official language. Supporters of Scottish independence have been quick to foreground the United States and Canada, which are both long-standing members of this category. Unionist representatives, however, have struck back against this argument, asserting that these experiments in linguistic overlap have been ‘unsuccessful at best’.