HAS George Osborne’s so-called summer Budget brought Scottish independence back on to the agenda? Since Wednesday I’ve heard many folk – at Westminster and in Scotland, and of all persuasions – ponder out loud that the political landscape has suddenly altered beyond recognition. That we could see independence within years rather than decades. I think they could be right.

The Tories are the architects of this new timetable. David Cameron and George Osborne woke up on Friday 9 May to discover they had a (modest) voting majority at Westminster. This was a surprise. For months the polls had been predicting a hung parliament so Cameron was expecting to do another deal with the rump of the LibDems, while manoeuvring hard to stop a possible Labour government by scaring English voters with the prospect of Ed Miliband being at the mercy of the Jocks.

But reality proved very different. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls went on defending their austerity-lite agenda, driving millions of English voters into the arms of Ukip. Thus Cameron got his unexpected Tory majority – the first in two decades. Even better as far as the Conservatives were concerned, as a result the two Eds were consigned to the dustbin of history, leaving the Labour Party leaderless and rudderless for months to come. The door was open for a Tory constitutional coup – with only the equally unexpected arrival of 56 SNP members at Westminster to act as any political brake on Cameron and Osborne.

I use the phrase “constitutional coup” advisedly. Cameron’s agenda includes using a procedural manoeuvre to create an instant parliament within a parliament at Westminster, summarily excluding Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs from voting on any matter deemed to be exclusively “English”. It includes repealing the Human Rights Act and substituting a new “Bill of Rights” written by the Lord High Chancellor, one Michael Gove, perhaps the most ideologically right-wing Cabinet member.

Above all, Cameron’s agenda includes a blanket refusal to grant Scotland the Home Rule promised by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband on the eve of the referendum vote. Plus a systematic use of the Tory parliamentary majority to veto any and all amendments to the new Scotland Bill proposed by the SNP, which actually came to Westminster with a mandate for these changes, backed by a majority vote of the Scottish people. Even respected Tory backbenchers have pointed out the ultimate futility of denying Scotland the powers she is asking for, because it will only create more dissension north of the Border. But Cameron is undaunted. With Labour hors de combat for the foreseeable future, the Tories want to recast the British state according to their own image while they have the chance.

Which brings us to the true politics of last week’s Budget. Yes, it cut corporation tax for big business. Yes, it increased defence spending. Yes, it cut welfare benefits for most of the low-paid and poor. But this was far more than a standard Tory Budget. In fact, it involved a mild fiscal tightening rather than a classic Thatcherite giveaway. George Osborne – that most political of Tory Chancellors – had bigger fish to fry. He wants to complete the job of ideologically undermining and ultimately destroying the modern Labour Party, the better to leave the Tories as the hegemonic force in England.

To do this, Osborne is prepared to take risks. Remember, back when Cameron and Osborne seized the Tory leadership in tandem, it was our George who advised that the Tory brand had to be de-toxified if they were to win over Labour voters. Hence the early dalliance with green issues: Cameron had his photo taken riding a bike and running with huskies. Surprise, surprise: the last few weeks have seen George Osborne completely dismantle the subsidy system designed to promote green electricity – another part of the constitutional coup.

WEDNESDAY’S Budget was a master stroke in destabilising Labour. When the Chancellor announced he was imposing a new and much higher minimum wage – there’s nothing “living” about it – the Labour benches were literally gobsmacked. What the Chancellor has done is rob Labour of its key progressive demand. Meanwhile, the contenders for the Labour leadership – left-winger Jeremy Corbyn excepted – are actually vying to shift the party to the “aspirational” right. But George Osborne just got there before them by raising tax thresholds and upping inheritance limits. The Chancellor even had the temerity to relax his timetable for fiscal consolidation by a year, knowing the Labour leadership hopefuls are busy signing up to more austerity to prove their respectability. But do they – or anyone else – think this will win them the next election? Or the one after that?

Which brings us back to Scotland. We are now trapped in this Tory political cage, largely thanks to the way the previous Labour leadership frightened older voters, and many on benefits, into sticking with the Union. I have news for you: those incomes are now at risk. It will only take the US to start raising interest rates next year and George Osborne’s carefully contrived Budget will fall apart. Mr Osborne has spent the past five years playing politics rather than sorting the fundamentals of the economy. Productivity is still dire. Our trade imbalance is getting worse. And lack of industrial capacity means that inflation is ready to bite real incomes, especially for those on the new “living” wage.

How will English Labour respond to this dire economic situation? A semi-permanent Tory majority in a contrived English parliament-within-a-parliament means the death of Labour, unless it can find a new way of appealing to working-class and progressive voters south of the Border. Which means the Labour left must not continue to cede ideological ground to the Blairites and semi-Blairites. Rather than pick a fight with its natural progressive allies in Scotland, the English Labour left would be better to form a common front with the SNP – to oppose austerity and the Tory constitutional coup.

At Westminster, feelers are starting to be made between the SNP and the Labour left. One fruit of this was an Early Day Motion in solidarity with the Greek struggle against imposed austerity, signed by 22 MPs, including myself, Tommy Shepard, and Margaret Ferrier, from the SNP; Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell from the traditional Labour left; Richard Burgon and Clive Lewis from the new Labour intake; Caroline Lucas of the Greens; and Hywel Williams from the Welsh nationalists. I have been invited to speak at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference, organised by the left-wing Compass think tank. This opens the possibility that resistance to the Tories at Westminster will be less gentlemanly in future.

Meanwhile, I detect the mood in Scotland has hardened in favour of independence since the new Tory strategy became evident. If this leads to a sweeping victory for the SNP at next year’s Holyrood Election, the scene is set for a constitutional confrontation, especially if the Tories buttress their English “parliament” inside Westminster with hundreds of new Tory peers in the Lords. Expect the SNP conference to fizz with the question of putting a mandate for independence into the 2016 manifesto.