THERE has been some pretty silly hyberbole from both sides of our great Scottish divide on independence.

Angry cybernats have called Unionists “Quislings” online; an overexcited rightist columnist has compared a Nicola Sturgeon speech to a Nuremberg rally; and a former Nato general secretary – in my view, surrendering any last shred of statesmanship – has warned of the “Balkanisation of Britain”.

Scotland’s shriller voices never seem to tire of making vacuous comparisons between this country – and its peaceful and democratic political process – and either totalitarian regimes or what they see as war-torn hell-holes.

The latest daft analogy: Northern Ireland. There has long been been some undergraduate-level banter about the “Ulsterisation of Scottish politics”. The theory? Scotland – like Northern Ireland – is now dominated by constitutional issues, rather than the classic tug-of-war between left and right or bread-and-butter concerns over jobs, homes, schools and hospitals.

Picture: Mural in Northern Ireland

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The reality? Well, the reality, I think, is that the word “Ulsterisation” will not conjure up images of constitutional debate in the minds of most Scots. 
No, they will think of guns, bombs, men in balaclavas and centuries of ethnic violence.

Herald columnist David Torrance yesterday gave the clumsy term its first serious airing as he described – rightly, I think – how last week’s elections meant Holyrood politics was now all about independence. David, astute as ever, certainly was not suggesting Scotland can expect its own Troubles.

But I still wish he had not mentioned the “Ulsterisation of Scotland”. Why? Well, I feel this expression both fails to understand Northern Ireland and to explain what is happening in Scotland. 

Picture: The main street in Claudy. County Derry, after three car bombs killed nine in 1972

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Scottish politics is defined by the aftermath of a referendum on independence that, at worst, led to a few scuffles, pub arguments and some people, mostly men, being rude to each other on Twitter. 

Northern Ireland politics is defined by the aftermath of a 30-year war that left 3,500 people dead. 

The stand-out factor about Ulster is not that its politics are “constitutional”. They may well be. But so are those of Quebec, the Faroes, Belgium and Catalonia to name but a few. 

No, the big thing about Northern Ireland is it is post-conflict society. Its politics reflect two sides of a brutal civil war. Its government is based on power-sharing between those sides, the result of an internationally-brokered peace treaty involving two sovereign states. That – surely – is nothing like Scotland.

Picture: A petrol bomb lands near a police officer in BelfastHeraldScotland: A petrol bomb lands close to a police officer in east Belfast (AP)

Northern Ireland, like Scotland, has Unionists and Nationalists. But in Ulster, these are the political markers of what are ethnic groups, whether you call them Republicans and Loyalists, Catholics and Protestants or, sometimes, Irish and British. Here most Unionists and Nationalists would describe themselves as Scots. People in Northern Ireland don’t agree on who they are. People in Scotland do.

Scots may have different views about the primacy of their British and Scottish identity. But, despite an electorally significant English-born minority, our politics is not very ethnic. “Ulsterisation of Scottish politics”? Scotland says No.

Picture: Northern Ireland's Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness meet Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond

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