THOSE of us who remember the days when TV broadcasting was still pretty unreliable may also recall the message that would appear regularly on our screens. "Do not adjust your set – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible".

That meant that there was no need to bang the telly with a heavy book, twiddle the knobs or fiddle with the wires. You just had to hang on until the picture reappeared. That once familiar phrase often pops back into my head when I read the political pages of the Scottish press, or scan social media networks. Scottish politics has become more vibrant than ever, engaging hundreds of thousands with the type of passion that was once the preserve of the football stadium. One downside is that the political picture has become a little bit distorted. And it will probably stay that way until Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK is finally sorted out once for all. Only, then, I suspect, will normal politics be resumed.

By normal politics I don’t mean a return to the days when some people would vote for a teddy bear providing it was wearing a red rosette, others for a chimpanzee with a blue rosette. I mean the normal politics of left versus right, public versus private, people versus profit, which have been relegated to a background role pending the next independence referendum.

That was brought home to me last week during the Budget debate at Holyrood, when the two independence parties said “aye” and the three Unionist parties said “naw”. The atmosphere surrounding the debate was vaguely surreal. Labour spin doctor Alan Roden, on social media after the vote, condemned the SNP and the Greens as “Scotland’s pro-austerity parties” because they refused to vote for major tax rises. Yes, that’s the same Alan Roden who until last year, as Scottish political editor of the Daily Mail, would regularly lambast the “radical left-wing Greens” and the “tax-and-spend SNP”.

Then we had the Murdo Fraser rant against “lentil-eating, sandal-wearing watermelons” (green on the outside and red inside) and the “left-wing student politics” of the Green Party. Murdo, it should be said, knows a thing or two about student politics, having back in the 1980s stolen a plaque of Nelson Mandela displayed in Aberdeen University Union.

We know much of the opposition to the Scottish Government’s budget was party political grandstanding, and that the three Unionist parties will do and say whatever is needed to damage the SNP and bolster their own support base.

But the negotiations did prompt me to ponder what I might have done if faced with the same dilemma as the Scottish Green Party.

I was the business manager of the six-strong Scottish Socialist Party group of MSPs between 2003 and 2007, and had to make weekly recommendations about what the group should support and oppose. Usually it was clear cut, but sometimes it involved a difficult judgment call. None so difficult as faced the Greens last week, however. First because we never held the balance of power. Second, because this was before the banking meltdown and the age of austerity. And third, there was no independence referendum even remotely on the horizon.

The Scottish Green Party were damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t cut a deal with the Scottish Government. They took flak – opportunistically from Labour, but more genuinely from people who made the point that they had voted Yes to oppose cuts and austerity.

But had the Greens voted down the Budget, the Scottish Government could have been plunged into disarray, perhaps even triggering an early election. Their decision would have been attacked from within the independence movement as purist, selfish posturing. They would have been fiercely denounced for damaging the Yes cause in pursuit of narrow party political advantage. These days I belong to no party and channel my political energies into Women for Independence. The great advantage of being an independent voice is that you can say what you really think. The great disadvantage is that you sometimes upset some of your closest friends. On balance, and without having been party to the detailed negotiations, I would have been inclined not to act in a way that might play into the hands of the Unionist opposition and perhaps even help bring the Scottish Government down.

Unlike the Greens I would probably have been less gung-ho about the outcome. Without the numbers, this was the best they could possibly have achieved. They could have walked away from negotiations, but it would have left public services in a weaker position. It wasn’t a victory, but a difficult compromise.

Which brings me back to the message on that blinking TV screen. Normal politics in Scotland is, for the time being, in a state of suspended animation. The next independence referendum may be just 18 months away and the stakes are sky-high. While that looms on the horizon, pro-Union forces will exploit any setback for the Scottish Government to undermine the cause of independence – and the Yes camp will respond by closing ranks and suppressing all criticism of the SNP.

In an independent nation, the strange alliances which bring the likes of Murdo Fraser and Neil Findlay together in opposition to the Scottish Government will dissolve. And for that matter, so too will the political coalition that puts me on the same side as Fergus Ewing. So, roll on the next independence referendum – and beyond that, the start of a new politics in which we can debate, openly and honestly, without inhibition, the future of our nation.