A THOUSAND PhDs will be written about the political events of the last few days. Pick your metaphor for change: we’ve stepped over a line in the sand, crossed the Rubicon, found ourselves in uncharted territory. Or, to turn to a rather apt master of language: all has changed, changed utterly. WB Yeats, the poet of Irish revolution, is being quoted across the island of Ireland now as Sinn Fein ends 101 years of unionist domination in the north.

Yet nothing is as simple as it seems. Yeats, despite being one of the most beautiful writers of the 20th century and a Nobel laureate, was a man who flirted with anti-democratic authoritarianism. So be careful who you quote. Likewise, it’s still too early – just about – to write the obituary of the Union. For sure, the Union is dying, but it’s not yet quite dead. It’s wounded and expiring. Untended, it’ll die soon, it just doesn’t have the wit to either lie down and expire with grace, or find some cure for its fatal illness.

The SNP is an unstoppable political force in Scotland. With the humiliation of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party – a vanity vehicle for weirdos if ever there was one – and the success of the Green Party, at last week’s council elections, one of the many PhDs to be written in coming years will tell how May 2022 solidified the notion that independence is a left of centre, socially liberal movement.

To the north and west, in Scotland and Ulster, unionism has become an ideology which must defend itself, prove itself, better itself. It’s no longer the status quo. Unionism is on life support beyond the borders of England, where the concept of unionism is barely discussed, and therein lies the poison in the breast of our entire dysfunctional body politic.

Read more: The five key truths we now know about Scotland and the Union

Of course, the political mathematics from the Scottish local elections, and the vote in Northern Ireland for the Stormont Parliament, don’t yet show national majorities for either independence or Irish unity, but power is held by parties which reject the Union and want to end it. Common sense predicts that momentum can only build, not ebb.

And yet as the edifice crumbles, England dreams. The English media worry over questions about Labour in London, and the new Tory strongholds in the "Red Wall". It’s like fussing over interior design while the kitchen is on fire. Westminster has treated the Union with a disdain which goes beyond negligence. England – Westminster – barely thinks about union.

Westminster’s bovine sense of supremacy will be the Union’s undoing. Not now, not tomorrow, maybe not in even five or perhaps 10 years. But the actions of Westminster, and the Tories and Labour specifically, have killed off the very treasure they claim to love so much. Theirs is a love which lets its object rot – and something rotten must be buried sooner or later.

Tory Cabinet ministers even claim they’re feeling "chipper" after the elections. Their minds stretch no further than the highways of England. Boris Johnson didn’t preside over utter defeat – just an almighty kicking – and so everything’s rosy in Toryland. Yet all the while, Scotland and Northern Ireland slip further and further away emotionally, politically and psychologically.

This half-way house stage which we’re now inhabiting when it comes to the existence of the Union in Scotland and the north of Ireland may be briefer than imagined, however. Let’s look to Belfast first. DUP politicians are terrified of taking up their seats in Stormont. They cannot abide the idea of being led by Michelle O’Neill, a republican woman, as Sinn Fein First Minister. So they hide behind their objections to the Northern Ireland Protocol, refusing to take their seats until the mess they created by supporting the hardest of hard Brexits is fixed. All the DUP has left is the word "No". It’s a pitiful wreck of a party.

If the UK and Irish governments, along with the European Union, can find a way forward so Stormont sits as a parliament, then the DUP will be walking its way to the gallows as a political force. Sinn Fein has taken a softly-softly approach to any new border poll, keen not to scare the moderates the party depends upon now. The transformation within Sinn Fein from the men of violence to the women of government is yet another of the many PhDs yet to be written. Sinn Fein has also thrown everything it’s got behind bread and butter issues, putting the cost of living crisis front and centre.

Read more: Indyref2 refusal will sign the death warrant of the Union

Here we get to the crux of what kills or cures the Union: money. More than two million adults in Britain cannot afford to eat every day. The answer from Mr Johnson’s Etonian Government is that the poor should buy supermarket brands in order not to starve. Such Marie Antionettism will lead the Union to the guillotine.

The SNP – regardless of its many failings, and its long tenure in power which has done little to improve the lives of ordinary Scots – will beat this drum just as loudly as Sinn Fein. The cost of living crisis is only set to worsen. The Tories will be viewed across these islands as the destroyers of millions of lives. In England, that will benefit Labour. In Scotland and Ulster, that will euthanise the Union.

It’s the greatest political cliché of all time, but it really is all about the economy, stupid. All unionism has left is threats, insults and fearmongering. Already, fake images are doing the rounds on social media of Nicola Sturgeon posing for selfies with members of the IRA. Watch as the unionist press tries to link Scottish independence with Irish republicanism. It won’t work though – neither the Ulster nor Scottish electorate is stupid, and the power of the right-wing press has already been shown to be imaginary: all the screaming about Scottish Greens as "Marxist eco-zealots" and "trans extremists" did nothing; in fact, it probably helped bring the party’s liberal message to more people and so increase votes.

While politicians and the press in England sleep, the people in Scotland and Northern Ireland are wide awake. It’s a new day on these islands.

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