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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Intriguing parallels of Scots poll
Mark Devenport
By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

Scottish nationalist at polling station dressed as character from Braveheart
The SNP has promised a referendum on independence
Voters in Scotland go to the polls on Thursday to choose a new devolved government.

Most of the opinion polls put the Scottish National party in the lead.

Labour, led by its First Minister Jack McConnell and backed by celebrities like Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, is trying to claw its way back.

The general consensus is that the SNP is benefiting from an anti-Labour protest vote.

The polls suggest only around 25% of the Scottish people favour independence.

If Scotland was to break from Britain, where would that leave Northern Ireland?
But if it gains power, the SNP has promised a referendum near the end of its four-year term in office.

The SNP has taken inspiration from the Irish Republic's Celtic Tiger economy, and cites the Irish experience as proof that a small country can be successful in 21st century Europe.

But if Scotland was to break from Britain, where would that leave Northern Ireland?

Twenty years ago, the DUP's Gregory Campbell appeared in the controversial BBC programme At the Edge of the Union which profiled both him and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

During an interview for Radio Ulster's Inside Politics, I suggested to the East Londonderry MP that, if Scotland were to choose independence, that could leave him and his fellow unionists falling off the edge of that union.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell
Gregory Campbell believes most Scots value their Britishness
Gregory Campbell doesn't seem too concerned. He believes that, even if the SNP gain power, most Scottish people value their Britishness and won't opt for independence.

However he also adds that, were Scotland to go it alone, Ulster people would still retain their special Ulster-Scots connection with their Scottish cousins.

Although he prefers maintaining the union, the DUP MP hints that, in the very long term, maybe an independent Ulster could take its place in a future Europe of small nations.

Whilst Sinn Fein is campaigning for the unification of the western island in this archipelago, the SNP is lobbying for the partition of the eastern isle.

But the Sinn Fein MLA for North Antrim, Daithi McKay, isn't going to let that stop him cheering on those he views as his fellow nationalists.

Daithi McKay argues that the Scottish people should control their own oil and other natural resources and should be able to decide whether their soldiers fight in conflicts like the Iraq war.

Daithi McKay
Daithi McKay sees the SNP as a fellow nationalist party
He believes devolution inevitably leads local politicians to demand more powers and local people to demand more accountability.

Gregory Campbell begs to differ. He doesn't believe that, by supporting devolution, his party has opened a separatist Pandora's box.

However, the DUP MP acknowledges the Scottish political situation is complicating the new Executive's pursuit of a peace dividend, which he thinks is unlikely to be satisfactorily resolved this side of the Scottish election.

During the St Andrews negotiations, the DUP demanded, amongst other things, an enhanced British-Irish Council to bolster east-west links.

For unionists, this is an important symbolic counterweight to the north-south institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement.

It's too early to say whether the council will be any more dynamic than it has been previously.

But the combination of Scottish nationalism on the march and the English beginning to assert their slumbering sense of identity means that, in the future, unionists may have to come to terms with some changing political realities across these isles.




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