The Scottish people will vote on independence before 2014 in a deal in Edinburgh arranged by Scottish leader Alex Salmond and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
It is a brave step by the Scottish, who will have the first opportunity since 1707 to break up the union. One can imagine a few shivers down the spines of Northern Irish Unionists at this development.
During a recent visit to the U.S., Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams called for a similar referendum in Northern Ireland to what has now been agreed in Scotland. There is no reason to think it will not occur as it is written into the Good Friday Agreement.
The smart money would have been on the Irish to have the first opportunity but it has, indeed, fallen to the Scots.
It is a measure of how old friendships and alliances have fractured in this modern world.
The Scots have long felt disenfranchised from Westminster. Of the 59 Members of Parliament from Scotland, only one is from the ruling Tory Party. The Scottish National Party is now the largest in Scotland and controls the devolved Parliament there.
Opinion polls show that only 35 percent of Scots currently want to leave the United Kingdom, but Alex Salmond has up to two years to swing the nation behind him.
The question will be a straight up or down yes or no on independence for Scotland. Given the disaffection from the London leadership it is no sure run thing for Cameron that it will fail.
Yet he knows he leads a deeply unpopular government and the chances may never be better for the Scots to strike for their own independence.
Salmond rightfully casts the referendum question as the most important facing Scotland since that 1707 decision. Salmond said the deal paved the way for the most important political decision Scotland had made in several hundred years.
He added, "It is in that sense a historic day for Scotland and I think a major step forward in Scotland's home rule journey.
"The Edinburgh Agreement means that we will have a referendum in two years' time which will be built and made in the Scottish Parliament on behalf of the Scottish people. I think that is a substantial and important step forward.
“I believe we will win it by setting out a positive vision for a better future for our country, both economically and, crucially, also socially.
"It is that vision of a prosperous and compassionate society, a confident society moving forward in Scotland, which will carry the day."
Interestingly, some of the people he will have to convince the most are Scottish Catholics who have long feared a sectarian Scottish leadership, not unlike the Northern Irish Unionists of old.
Scottish Catholics tend to vote for the Labor Party and to favor the tie with England as a result. They are not supporters of the local Conservatives, however, whose full name is the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
The Scottish decision adds an intriguing new possibility to the future make up of the British island. If Scotland votes to part ways the United Kingdom will be no more and the Queen’s writ will no longer run north of the border.
That would be one for the history books and will beg the question, is Northern Ireland next? It will be fascinating to watch.
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