Scotland holds the key to the future of the United Kingdom on May 6 when its citizens vote to elect a new parliament.  Their decision will weigh heavily on the united Ireland debate.

Current polls show the Scottish Nationalist Party with a whopping 20-point lead over their combined rivals, the Conservatives and the Labour Party.

A huge victory for the Scottish Nationalists will immediately intensify the drumbeat for a new vote on Scottish independence. The party’s leader Nicola Sturgeon says she will call for that poll by the end of 2023.

A yes to independence vote would change everything forever.

The situation is anything but static.  Indeed, the tectonic plates have shifted like no time since Ireland was partitioned a century ago.

Scotland voted by a whopping 62 percent to stay part of the European Union in the 2016 Brexit vote.  Their wishes were ignored by London which caused the inevitable backlash in Scotland.

Current polling in Scotland shows 53 percent in favor of independence if European Union membership is part of the package.  The anti-Brexit mood in Scotland shows no sign of abating. 

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

How big a leap is it from there to independence? That is the question.

It is clear that membership of the EU is also currently sought but denied to a majority in Northern Ireland.

In the 2016 Brexit vote, 56 percent of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union with 44 percent voting to support Brexit.  Clearly, as many as 10 percent of unionists voted against Brexit and for the European Union.

Those who believe unionism is a monolith need to understand the Brexit vote shows that is not so.

The big pro-European Union vote clearly shows there is a persuadable middle ground in the North who may well be convinced that EU membership within a united and independent Ireland freely voted for is the best option.

Unionism knows that current demographics show nationalist numbers in Northern Ireland rising rapidly and forming a larger and larger voting block at future elections.

Will Scotland move one step closer to independence?

Will Scotland move one step closer to independence?

The unanswered question is how to deal with unionism, a party and philosophy that refuses to recognize that reality. There are only bad scenarios for unionism, which once ruled with imperious power.

But what if the worst scenario of all, if the very foundation stone of what they seek, continued membership in the United Kingdom, is about to shatter because Scotland could well vote to leave? 

What the results of the Brexit vote in Northern Ireland does show for unionism, however, is that there is a persuadable middle ground of about 10 percent who, moderate in outlook, are capable of being appealed to in a non-threatening, inclusive manner.

The middle ground can see the reality that if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom and rejoin the EU as an independent country, then Northern Ireland would no longer have a United Kingdom to fight for inclusion in.

In such circumstances, the moderate middle ground would surely prefer unity with EU membership rather than becoming part of a truncated empire that is utterly dominated by England which clearly holds unionism in the North in utter contempt.

These uncomfortable realities are about to surface after the May 6 Scottish election. The unionists can't just shout "stop" or "no" anymore.  Scottish nationalists are about to bring that message home. 

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