LAST week, Ruth Davidson told BBC Good Morning Scotland that she hopes never to see another constitutional referendum in her lifetime. Given the relative youth of the Scottish Tory leader, that could be another 40 or 50 years. So that’s us been telt. You’ve had your referendum. Come back in 2060 and maybe we’ll think about it.

The Tory Party has never been strong on democracy. In the nineteenth century, it fought against every widening of the franchise and argued that only the property-owning elite should have the right to vote. In the 20th century it opposed the suffragettes. It staunchly defended the British empire and believed that it was perfectly natural that a quarter of the world’s territory should be controlled from London. In more recent years, it fought to the bitter end against the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. So, in her distaste for referendums, Ruth stands in the proud Tory tradition of rule by the elite.

Her more specific objection is that referendums are divisive. Well, so are general elections. So too is religion. And sport. Maybe we should ban these for the next 50 years too.

Divisions in society can’t be magically erased by clamping down on democracy. The apartheid regime that ruled South Africa for generations thought they could do that. So too did the Stalinist rulers of the Soviet Union. And General Franco, together with a multitude of other fascist dictators across the globe.

And on the other side, the electorate of the Republic of Ireland have voted in 18 state-wide constitutional referendums in the past 20 years. Over the same timescale, there have been two UK-wide referendums, plus two in Scotland. So, with all due respect to Ruth, I think we’re robust enough and mature enough to manage a few more ourselves without a civil war.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon told Andrew Marr that, come the autumn, when the terms of Brexit deal are likely to be clear, she will weigh up whether to proceed towards a second independence referendum. For the editorial writers of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express such treasonous talk merits Scotland’s First Minister being banished to the Tower of London. And it won’t please some in the independence movement either who have demanded a new ballot by September 2018.

This is a time for boldness, but also for strong nerves. Better in my opinion to hold a referendum when the issues are crystal clear rather than jump the gun and risk defeat. If that means no seamless continuation of EU membership, then so be it. Better to be negotiating with the EU as an independent state rather than be locked into an isolationist UK for a decade and more to come.

Separately, there is a growing clamour for a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, driven mainly by the Liberal Democrats and supported last week by Tony Blair. Nicola Sturgeon too has suggested that the argument for a public vote on the terms of the UK’s separation from the EU “may become irresistible”. Even Nigel Farage waded in for a time, claiming that a second vote would deliver an even bigger Leave majority.

I don’t know about that, because I don’t know how England would vote. What I do know is that the last referendum was fundamentally undemocratic because it treated the United Kingdom as a unitary and uniform state. It is not. The SNP rightly opposed the first referendum because there was no “quadruple lock” to ensure that Brexit could only take place with the consent of all four component parts of the UK.

That principle was rejected not by the Tories, but also by Labour and the LibDems, who united to deliver an overwhelming 544 to 53 Westminster majority for the final reading of the European Union Referendum Act 2015. Only the SNP voted against the legislation.

The validity of that position has since been vindicated by the crisis over the Irish border and the political fallout in Scotland. If it had not been for the arrogant assumption that English MPs and English voters were entitled to railroad the whole of the UK out of the European Union, then perhaps there would not be the same urgency for a second independence referendum. By denying Scotland the right, as a country, to a say over the European Union, the three London-based parties have accelerated the move to a second referendum.

So, if there is a second referendum on Brexit it must have a quadruple lock if it is to have any authority.

Finally, I do want just to mention the position of Jim Sillars and Alex Neil as quoted in the press this weekend. I can sympathise with some of their criticisms of the European Union as it stands. I voted Remain not with any great enthusiasm but because I support the free movement of people, and because I believed — rightly as it turned out — that Brexit would lead to a carnival of xenophobic British nationalism.

But a fundamental principle of Scottish sovereignty is the right to determine our own relationships with the outside world. Based on the evidence of the 2016 EU referendum, Scotland wants to be part of the European Union, by a majority of two to one. Yes, the First Minister must respect the views of the 38 per cent of the Scottish electorate people who voted Leave. But first and foremost, she has to stand up, in the name of democracy, for the 62 per cent who voted Remain.