Scottish result 'significant' for Irish unity drive, says Sinn Fein leader

Elections in Britain © Reuters/RUSSELL CHEYNE Elections in Britain

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A victory by pro-independence parties in Scottish elections is significant for the campaign for Irish unity and underlines that politics in the United Kingdom is undergoing fundamental change, the leader of Irish nationalists Sinn Fein said on Saturday.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which has vowed to hold an independence referendum if it returns to power, was headed for victory on Saturday in Scotland's parliament election but without an outright majority.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party, which jointly leads the devolved government in British-run Northern Ireland and is the main opposition party in Ireland, will be watching what happens next in Scotland "very closely".

"The result is significant... and I think it just echoes again that politics right across Britain and indeed in Ireland is undergoing a period of fundamental change," McDonald told Reuters in an interview.

"There will be a border poll (on Irish unity), be in no doubt. We're down to a question of timing now. (But) of course a referendum in Scotland, of course independence in Scotland changes the constitutional arrangements fundamentally across Britain and will have a very strong effect here in Ireland."

Mary Lou McDonald looking at the camera: Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a public meeting Liberty Hall in Dublin © Reuters/LORRAINE O'SULLIVAN Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a public meeting Liberty Hall in Dublin

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Scottish result 'significant' for Irish unity drive, says Sinn Fein leader