This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland, I now mostly watch developments there from afar – well just over 100 miles away in Glasgow.

But despite my present surroundings feeling like a world away from the turmoil of my birth place I still get a rather queasy feeling in my stomach every 12th July as I observe the build up to what is happening back "home".

On one "Twelfth" my mother, whose father had been an Orangeman in County Armagh, thought it would be a good idea to take me along to see the parades on the high street of our local town.

"It will be a fun day out," Mum declared as we headed out.

I wasn't convinced as we watched the bands from the side of the road. I must have been about five or six and I feared the red faced, sweating Lambeg drummer banging furiously on the large instrument strapped to his chest would fall down dead in front of me.

As the seventies wore on we stopped going to the marches and my father joined the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). He would come home from his rate collecting job, daub his face in what looked like black boot polish and jump into the back of a Landrover to head out to the Black Mountain overlooking west Belfast for military training.

"Don't tell anyone daddy's in the UDR" was now the hushed message from mum to me and my sister while our three older siblings escaped the Troubles to move to Dublin and overseas. It didn't need to be said that any loose talk could lead to my dearly beloved father becoming a Republican target.

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These are some of the moments that come to mind from my own childhood when I see the photographs of towering bonfires, built on protestant housing estates all over Northern Ireland and ready to be lit tonight.

Hammered onto these pyres are pictures of politicians, including NI First Minister designate Michelle O'Neill and Republic of Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, along with, for good measure, the Irish flag and images of the Good Friday Agreement.

A large part of me wishes the Police Service of Northern Ireland could just move in, take down the illegal constructions and arrest the people responsible for building them.

But of course they can't. To do so would prompt a riot and the violence would escalate putting even more people's lives in danger.

So we are stuck with these monstrosities of hate and, it would seem, just have to grimly tolerate them because the alternative course of action would be even worse.

How has it come to this, I ask? Well, Brexit and the Brexiteers for a start haven't helped.

No thought was given by those who campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union about what it would mean for the fragile peace process in Northern Ireland.

If they did contemplate the risks and any need for new border or trading arrangements on the island, they probably calculated that they would be far away anyway from any resultant trouble in Belfast, Derry or Armagh and it wouldn't affect them. 

'How many voters care about Northern Ireland anyway?', they would have thought.

And into the instability, which inevitably did come, stepped the Democratic Unionist Party ready to exploit the fears among some in their community that Dublin rule was just years away.

Where more thoughtful and responsible unionist politicians could have offered words of calm and reassurance, it was easier for hardliners to stoke further alarm and more division.

As a result every year since Brexit, the bonfires on the 12th July seem to get bigger and in turn Sinn Fein has experienced a surge in support over the more moderate nationalist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

The Herald:

To be fair to Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill she has made efforts to be First Minister for all of Northern Ireland. Remarkably she attended King Charles's coronation in May, a big step for any Irish Republican, and a move suggesting a readiness to understand the sympathies and sense of identity of unionists.

But the overriding picture of Northern Ireland at the moment is of growing political entrenchment and polarisation which appeared to be waning ahead of the Brexit vote six years ago.

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And what's this all to do with Scotland? This may seem surprising but I see signs of hope in Scottish politics at the moment.

Yes Scots are divided on the constitution with voters split roughly evenly on support for independence and the Union.

But I think it's reassuring that in a spate of recent polls the constitution is not most people's top priority, even those who have firm Yes or No views.

Voters are saying what's far more important are issues such as the cost of living, the economy and the state of the NHS.

While it may be depressing for the SNP that some supporters of independence seem ready to vote Labour in a bid to oust the Conservatives from power in Westminster, for someone so saddened by the state of politics back home, it's refreshing to see people willing to change party allegiances, showing a readiness among voters to break away from habits in which it is all too easy to become stuck.

As Northern Ireland braces itself for another night of disorder and for the polarisation of views to deepen even further, the sense that Scotland is still able to alter political direction and chart a new course is something to be admired.

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