Is Scotland’s constitutional divide taking Scotland in the same deadlocked direction as Northern Ireland? Stormont’s Justice Minister, Naomi Long, has warned Scots about the dangers of the constitution dominating politics and creating a cleavage in society that doesn’t benefit citizens.

Obviously, politicians like Ms Long endure the constant threat of physical attack, and her warning should be treated with respect. The fact it appears in the Scottish press attests to the close links between NI and Scotland. So do the thousands of Scots like myself, whose accents speak of childhoods spent on both sides of the Sheugh.

But that experience also gives some perspective.

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There’s no dispute that family and historical links across the Irish Sea have been strong. The architect of the Titanic was a Presbyterian of Scots descent and the Glaswegian Sir William Arrol built the ill-fated vessel’s giant gantry. Scotland and Northern Ireland shared experience of the textile and flax industries and Scots’ settlers helped create the historic (but now evaporated) protestant majority of Northern Ireland.

But these connections have long obscured greater differences.

Northern Ireland is an artificial statelet of precisely 100 years standing. Todaymarks a century since the Government of Ireland Act drew a border on the island of Ireland for the first time. But muted "celebrations" are testimony to the continuing and existential questions about a "province" that cannot correctly be called Ulster. When there’s no agreement on place names – is it Londonderry or Derry – irreconcilable division clearly lurks beneath.

Scotland has had none of this.

Historians may argue about Scotland’s precise date of birth in the 9th century – but no-one argues about its land border, integrity as a constitutional unit or status as an independent state with its own parliament till 1707. Scotland entered the Union not as a subjugated vassal but as a nation in its own right with all institutions intact. Thus, even in the worst years of Tory domination, Scotland’s education, legal and religious systems continued relatively undisturbed while "reforms" were imposed by direct rule on Northern Ireland and Wales. As a Joseph Rowntree report recently observed, Scotland’s far greater reliance on social housing in the 20th century – itself a function of the powerful Labour movement established here – is the main reason poverty rates are still lower in Scotland than in the rest of Britain.

Scotland’s collectivist traditions have created some massive, enduring differences in the civic development of both countries. Scots rightly bemoan the enduring power of feudal power in our country. But the Scottish Parliament has seen not a fraction of the backward-looking, social conservatism that stalks Stormont. In 2015, the majority of Holyrood party leaders were openly gay. Across the Sheugh, by contrast, Arlene Foster’s refusal to endorse gay conversion therapy has been the last straw in her "moderate" leadership of the DUP. Edwin Poots, the man tipped to take over, once said of Foster that her most important job was not First Minister but "wife, mother and daughter". He also thinks the Earth was created in 4000 BC. A former environment minister doesn’t believe in climate change and a health minister has opposed abortion even in cases of rape.

These commonplace and reality-defying views of the religious right – which find absolutely no reflection in Scotland –have contributed massively to the obstacles facing Stormont. Sworn political enemies did work together briefly but could not survive the end of the personality-driven consensus achieved by the Chuckle Brothers – Paisley and McGuinness – and Northern Ireland simply closed down for three years when cross-party tension grew unbearable.

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The fragile nature of Stormont’s power-sharing assembly owes something to its origins. Lengthy cross-party talks involving the Irish and British governments produced a careful, proportional system that forces sworn enemies to work together – demanding Herculean and perhaps unsustainable levels of trust and co-operation.

Meanwhile the Scottish Parliament has grown and developed more organically, moving seamlessly from Labour to SNP administrations and possessing more credibility today than in 1999.

Big question marks also hang over Northern Ireland’s economic viability. It has no oil or gas reserves and relatively little hydro or wind energy, while its industrial base has been badly damaged by decades of conflict. That’s why constitutional debate in the province is not about independence but simply which neighbouring island state to join.

Scotland, with roughly three times its neighbours’ population and land area, is no economic basket-case. Not during centuries past – and not now.

Finally, and most obviously, the history of modern nationalism in Scotland has been entirely peaceful. A few eggs thrown at Jim Murphy during the 2014 Indyref doth not an angry confrontation make.

Indeed, the generally moderate nature of Scots debate has only recently succumbed to "No Surrender" rhetoric as Messrs Johnson, Ross and Rennie refuse to even discuss a lawful second Indyref.

Why does this matter?

Unreflective parallels made between Scotland and Northern Ireland woefully ignore vital differences, even though the three Celtic nations have more distinguishing characteristics, histories, cultures and unique languages than the single political tradition of exclusion that binds them. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are too often dismissed as peas in a pod, roughly identical to one another and only marginally and unimportantly different from the British default. Like "hint of a tint" colours stacked in tester-sized pots beside the most popular brand of Brilliant White and just as makey-uppey.

This matters hugely in the current constitutional debate where the baked-in difficulties, the tendency to extremism and the consequent hopelessness of Northern Ireland’s politics are directly and unfairly projected on to Scotland.

Of course, pride comes before a fall and Scots should always resist any temptation to crow.

A far better model of mutual respect lies to our east, where four independent Nordic states sit together on the Nordic Council, understanding that only fierce co-operation allows the constitutional, currency and political differences of each state to survive.

Scotland is not Northern Ireland writ large.

It is its own unique self.

So as Scots go to the polls this week without physical threat or calamity – it’s worth remembering.

A little false parallel can be a dangerous thing.

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