Scotland on Sunday reports that the SNP is increasingly focusing on its stronghold in the north-east of Scotland rather than hoping for a breakthrough in the central belt.
One question which has always fascinated me is why the SNP has never been able to capitalise on support for Irish nationalism among Scottish Catholics.
I’ve met several active Irish nationalists from Scotland recently and they were all sympathetic to the SNP’s aims.
Yet Scottish Catholics appear to vote overwhelmingly for Labour, a unionist party. Indeed, they have even produced a Northern Ireland Secretary, Dr John Reid.
Part of the reason for this may be an issue that has undermined nationalism even more in Ireland than in Scotland – sectarianism.
Indeed a paper presented to a 1997 conference on the Irish in Britain argued that resentment at Irish immigration contributed to some elements of early Scottish nationalism.
Another issue, of course is the SNP’s unwillingness to draw a parallel which might be used to associate it with political violence. (Although it is worth recalling that it was unionism that resorted to the threat of force against the constitutional movement for Irish Home Rule in 1912, and indeed to the use of violence against the Civil Rights Movement in 1969.)
On the other hand, Alex Salmond is known to be friendly with the SDLP, and the economy of the Irish Republic, which was once a net minus for the SNP’s argument is now a definite plus.
Hopefully, the issues that divide Scottish and Irish Nationalists will recede even further, if the IRA stands down in the near future, while the arguments to make common cause will only grow.