THE UK Government has been called out for its “double standards” on Scottish independence – after a Tory minister’s revealing “admission” about Irish reunification.

Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker told ITV on Monday night there would be a border poll in Ireland if opinion polls showed an appetite for reunification, per the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

It comes after devolved government was restored to Stormont after nearly two years of paralysis but the appointment of nationalist Michelle O'Neill as First Minister has sparked speculation a Border poll could be on the cards soon. 

The National: Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O'Neill

But he has been accused of letting “the cat out of the bag” by suggesting opinion polls – many of which have recently shown majority support for independence – should determine constitutional questions.

Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Baker said: “There is no evidence to suggest that there is a majority for a united Ireland in Northern Ireland, actually quite the reverse.

“So I checked the polling before I came in and amongst those people who expressed a view, there was two to one support almost for the Union in Northern Ireland. So at the moment we seem to be very far from the conditions for a Border poll and there’s no sign of that changing.”

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s Scotland spokesperson, said the minister’s admission showed the need for Scotland to have a formal mechanism to decide its membership of the Union as Northern Ireland has.

READ MORE: New Scottish independence poll gives Yes four-point lead over Union

A key but contentious part of the Good Friday Agreement outlines that the existence of the province is contingent on the “agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.

There is no such mechanism for self-determination set out in the Scotland Act and the 2014 referendum was granted by Westminster by the one-off transfer of power to hold a constitutional poll from London to Edinburgh.

Sheppard said: “If you live in Northern Ireland, there is a constitutional means called the Good Friday Agreement by which you can reconsider that in the future. There is no such mechanism in Scotland.

“The Government really has to say by what means is it possible for people in Scotland to chose a different constitutional future, if that’s what they want to do.”

Steven Bonnar (below), the SNP MP for Coatbridge, said: “This admission from Baker should once again serve to inform the people of Scotland that we are not equal partners in a voluntary union.

The National: Steven Bonnar

“If polling will be a determining factor on a vote being held on Irish reunification then why should the same standard not apply to Scots living in the same union?

“With polling on Scottish independence consistently now at 50% or above it is clear that the Government is content to maintain their stance of persistent double standards when it comes to the constitution."

Alba’s Westminster leader Neale Hanvey said: “Steve Baker has inadvertently let the cat out of the bag on what evidence is necessary to qualify for constitutional change in the UK – clear public support. If that’s the evidence that matters, then Scotland has provided all the evidence we need.”

READ MORE: Support for Scottish independence at 54 per cent, new poll finds

Recent polls have shown support for independence has risen since the 2014 referendum, with a number of recent surveys showing Yes in the lead.

But the UK Government remains steadfast in its opposition to another constitutional poll.

The National: Alister Jack

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (above) was grilled during a Westminster committee meeting on when the UK Government might allow a future independence referendum.

Speaking in 2022, Jack said: “There would have to be that sustained majority for there to be another referendum.”

He dubbed the process for deciding “the duck test”, adding: “If it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it waddles like a duck then it’s probably a duck. People know when they’ve reached that point.

“They knew back then [in 2014] that they’d reached it. We don’t believe we’ve reached it now.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them, like growing our economy, seeing inflation drop further and improving public services. 

“We want to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges because that is what families and businesses in Scotland expect.

"This is not the time to be talking about distracting constitutional change.”