Saturday 18 January 2020

How UK election results bring Scottish independence and Irish unity to the fore

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon celebrates with supporters at the SEC Centre in Glasgow during counting for the 2019 General Election. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon celebrates with supporters at the SEC Centre in Glasgow during counting for the 2019 General Election. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Boris Johnson may have clinched the Tory majority he wished for, but results in Scotland and Northern Ireland bring the future of the Union back into focus.

The SNP made a series of gains in Scotland, with leader Nicola Sturgeon declaring that she has a "renewed, refreshed and strengthened" mandate for a second vote on Scottish independence.

And in Northern Ireland, the DUP - the party determined to keep Northern Ireland within the Union - had a disastrous result with deputy leader Nigel Dodds losing his seat in an unprecedented defeat to Sinn Fein's John Finucane.

The success of the SNP in Scotland, and nationalists and republicans in Northern Ireland, is likely to put the issue of Scottish independence and Irish unity near the top of the agenda.

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Scottish First Minister Ms Sturgeon said it had been an "exceptionally good night" for her party following a campaign based on stopping Brexit and pursuing a fresh independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon will write to the Prime Minister before Christmas to formally demand Holyrood be given the power to hold a second vote on independence.

While Mr Johnson has made it clear he will block such a ballot, Ms Sturgeon said the Tories must "reflect very carefully" on the result of the election.

She said: "Scotland can't be kept in the UK against its will. It can only do that by consent, therefore Scotland has to have the ability to decide that question.

"Then it is up to the people of Scotland what decision they make."

In Northern Ireland, the DUP lost two of the 10 MPs it entered the election with and, symbolically, there are now more nationalists and republican members of Parliament from Northern Ireland than unionists.

Mr Dodds' loss will represent the DUP's biggest wound, with the long-standing MP who led the party at Westminster falling in the most high-profile contest of the election.

Mr Finucane's solicitor father Pat was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds reacts after losing the Belfast North seat at the Titanic exhibition centre, Belfast, for the 2019 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The DUP's Nigel Dodds reacts after losing the Belfast North seat at the Titanic exhibition centre, Belfast, for the 2019 General Election. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at his home following Britain's general election in London, Britain, December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson
Liberal Democrats' Jo Swinson (L) shakes hands with Scottish National Party's Amy Callaghan after Swinson lost her seat to Callaghan in the East Dunbartonshire constituency, at a counting centre for Britain's general election in Bishopbriggs, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shakes hands with a man as he arrives at his home following Britain's general election in London, Britain, December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves the Labour Party's headquarters following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
SNP candidates and supporters celebrate at the end of the night at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, for the UK Parliamentary General Election. Lesley Martin/PA Wire
SNP candidate for Edinburgh South West Joanna Cherry retains her seat at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, for the UK Parliamentary General Election. Lesley Martin/PA Wire
SNP candidate for Edinburgh East, Tommy Sheppard retains his seat at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, for the UK Parliamentary General Election. Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Liberal Democrats candidate Jo Swinson speaks after losing her seat in East Dunbartonshire constituency, at a counting centre for Britain's general election in Bishopbriggs, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Independent candidate Count Binface stands with Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson as they wait for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency count declaration at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the Conservative Party's headquarters following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds arrive at the Conservative Party's headquarters following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's partner Carrie Symonds and dog Dilyn arriving for the count for the Uxbridge & Ruislip South constituency in the 2019 General Election. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds leave the Conservative Party's headquarters with their dog Dilyn following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds leave the Conservative Party's headquarters with their dog Dilyn following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds leave the Conservative Party's headquarters following the general election in London, Britain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
SNP candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith Deidre Brock retains her seat at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, for the UK Parliamentary General Election. Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Ian Paisley Jnr kisses his wife Fiona after his election at Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt Co Londonderry as counting begins Westminster election. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Liberal Democrat candidate Luciana Berger reacts as she loses the Finchley & Golders Green constituency in north London for the 2019 General Election. Jacob King/PA Wire
Liberal Democrats candidate for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine retains her seat at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, for the UK Parliamentary General Election count and gives an emotional speech at the disappointment of Jo Swinson losing her seat. Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Liberal Democrat candidate Luciana Berger reacts as she loses the Finchley & Golders Green constituency in north London for the 2019 General Election. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire
The DUP's Nigel Dodds is embraced by leader Arlene Foster after losing the Belfast North seat. Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The Tory majority at Westminster will also see the DUP lose its influential position as Westminster kingmaker.

Sinn Fein believes Brexit offers fresh opportunities for a United Ireland if Remain-supporting Northern Ireland is taken out of the EU against its will next year.

The Northern Ireland Secretary can call a border poll if he or she deems it likely that a majority in the region would vote to leave the UK and form a united Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland would then vote depending on the result of that referendum.

A poll in September showed there is a slight majority for Irish unification among people in Northern Ireland.

The survey asked voters for their preference "in the event of a referendum on whether or not Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom".

A total of 45pc told the Lord Ashcroft poll they would vote to stay in the UK and 46pc said they would choose to leave and join the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile a poll last week showed that support for independence in Scotland has fallen.

A total of 56pc of respondents to a YouGov survey for the Times said they would vote No in a future independence referendum, with 44pc voting Yes.

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