Changing union: could Scotland end up like Northern Ireland?

Public Entrance Scottish Parliament

The situations in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different, but in some senses there are a few emerging parallels.

Northern Ireland is completely different, in terms of its politics, to the rest of the UK, a point emphasised by the DUP and others saying they would like to be included in the TV debates and the reaction to such suggestions. The north's political map has long been different, with parties divided strongly over the union - and Scotland could be on track for a similar future.

The rise of the SNP

Firstly, polls and growing membership across Scotland suggest that the SNP could be on its way to winning a majority of seats north of the border. England and Wales will be dominated by Labour and the Tories in May, whilst the SNP could hold a parliamentary monopoly on Scotland.

If the SNP are as successful as polls suggest, then Scotland will have a completely different parliamentary - and electoral - landscape to the rest of the country. This could further Scotland on a path diverging from the rest of the UK.

The de-centralisation of other parties

Labour, or rather Scottish Labour, has seen an increase in autonomy from ‘London Labour’. If this development is furthered then Jim Murphy’s party could end up independent of UK Labour and work with them in parliament, but disagree on many issues.

Furthermore, a few years ago when the Scottish Conservatives were electing a new leader, Murdo Fraser proposed disbanding the Scottish Conservative party and re-branding under a new pro-business, right of centre party to step away from the toxicity of Thatcher and the Tories north of the border. If Scotland continues to change and shift away from the rest of the UK - and Conservatives continue to fail in Scotland - then talk of such re-branding could resurface and push the country towards a completely different party system to the rUK.

Additionally, one party north of the party is completely separate from its sister English and Welsh party: the Scottish Greens. Patrick Harvie’s party is completely separate from Natalie Bennett’s. Whilst they agree on many key issues they are two completely separate organisations. Northern Ireland also has its own separate Green party.

A new Scotland?

If the SNP do get around 40% of the vote in Scotland in a Westminster general election, and manage to elect a majority of Scottish SNP MPs then this could be seen as a major shift towards a Northern Ireland style Scotland, especially if other parties north of the border demand more autonomy. The two countries within the UK are very different in many respects, but they could become a lot more similar (yet politically different) as Scotland diverges from the UK and the idea of the “union versus independence” ceases to subside


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