Scottish unionism might not be in such bad shape after all

Morning View

Morning View

Just when it seemed in recent months that Scotland’s position in the UK might be doomed in the aftermath of Brexit, perhaps all is not in fact loss.

The Scottish National Party under Nicola Sturgeon has been pushing for a second referendum due to the UK-wide decision to leave the EU.

Some polls had shown the margin between those who wanted Scottish independence and those who did not to be alarmingly tight, giving weight to such demands.

Scotland had after all voted 62% in favour of remaining within the European Union, so it would hardly be a big surprise if backing for a split from the rest of UK rose.

But it is far from clear that this is in fact happening.

The most recent polling has indicated that support for Scottish independence has in fact declined, and the pro Union position is far ahead. At the same time, there has been an unexpected swing to the Conservatives in Scotland.

The party had in recent years seemed all but finished in Scotland, and indeed in Northern Ireland. But under Ruth Davidson’s leadership, a significant number of Scottish voters are rallying round the Tories as the unionist party.

At their assembly elections last year the Conservatives outpolled Labour and took almost a quarter of the vote.

This all suggests that Ms Sturgeon has over-played her hand, as perhaps Sinn Fein has done here.

However, polls can over-state things. Whatever happens on June 8, the risk of Scotland leaving the UK within the next decade remains high.

That is a matter of the utmost importance to Northern Ireland, because if Scotland quits the Union then England will focus more carefully on the very concept of the UK.

NI is not without influence in Scotland for the simple reason that scores of thousands of Ulster people have close connections there and in a tight referendum every vote will matters. Anyone with such links who cares about the Union can make their feelings known across the North Channel.