THE need for Scotland to escape the dysfunctional mess that is the UK is becoming more pressing by the day. A weekend opinion poll put Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in first place across the UK as a whole.

If carried forward to the next Westminster General Election, that would mean we could see the one thing worse than Boris Johnson as Prime Minister – and that would be Nigel Farage as Prime Minister. Seat calculations based on this poll would put Farage’s party just 20 seats short of forming a majority, with the devastated Tories reduced to a rump of 26.

Normally, discovering that the Tories are facing an electoral wipeout would be a cause for street parties, bunting, and the kind of balloons that are full of helium to celebrate the demise of the kind of balloons that get elected for the Tories. But these are not normal times. British politics just now is so volatile that no-one can realistically predict what’s going to happen next week, never mind at a General Election to be held at some unknown date in the future.

However, either Nigel Farage makes his own bid for Prime Minister, or the Tory Party will shape itself in his image. Either

way he wins, and Remain-voting Scotland loses. We’re getting rid of the devil we know, but are facing a devil that’s far worse. The only difference between a Nigel Farage rally and the far right is that the floor is littered with mint imperial wrappers instead of beer cans. Remember when Better Together told Scotland to vote against independence as it was the only way that Scotland could ensure it was safe from political extremism and was the only guarantee of stability? That’s another of their promises that has been trashed.

The dire opinion polls have the Conservatives panicking, and as they do so they move to increasingly extreme positions as leadership contenders vie for the attention of the only electors who now matter. In Scotland, that’s first and foremost the 13 Tory MPs, and then secondly the couple of thousand Scottish Conservative members. So we’ve seen a series of leadership wannabes line up to assert that they won’t allow Scotland to have another independence referendum.

They’re either doing so in a blatantly crass manner, like Sajid Javid, or they’re being somewhat more polite about it, like Rory Stewart. It doesn’t really matter in the long run whether Scottish democracy is beaten over the head by someone who tells us they despise us, or it’s drowned in a vat of treacle by some very nice people who insist they’re doing it for our own good. The net effect is still the same.

However, what is really concerning is that the vast majority of the media in Scotland are not calling out the Conservative leadership contenders, or the Scottish Conservatives, for the casual way in which they are traducing Scottish democracy and ripping up the core understanding of Scottish Unionism – that Scotland is a willing partner in the UK, and that it remains so because

it consents.

The SNP have a clear mandate for another referendum. A majority in Holyrood has already voted in favour. It’s not those who want another referendum who need to explain themselves, it’s those who think they can refuse it. When the Tories are saying it doesn’t matter that there’s a mandate in Holyrood for another independence referendum and that the British Prime Minister has an effective veto on whether Scotland gets to ask itself about its position within the UK, that represents a fundamental shift in Scottish understanding of the nature of the UK. It means that we can no longer say that Scotland is a part of the UK by consent, because that consent cannot be tested.

You might think that a Scottish media which tell us that they are proud to hold power to account might be seeking to hold the Conservative Party to account for this unilateral shift which effectively changes Scotland’s place within the UK from a free partner to a silenced province. But instead they prefer to report on it as a bland news story, like some bad weather that we can do nothing about. In fact what we’re witnessing is an effective coup by Conservative politicians, who have taken it upon themselves to change the nature of Scotland’s place within the UK without even the pretence of consulting with the people

of Scotland.

The same marked reluctance to challenge the Conservatives and the other anti-independence parties is seen in reporting on another Scottish independence referendum. We are regularly informed that a referendum without a Section 30 order would be illegal as though this is an established point of law.

This is not true. It is a political opinion, not a legal fact. There are, as Andrew Tickell has pointed out in the pages of this newspaper, legal arguments both for and against an independence referendum authorised by Holyrood without a Section 30 order from Westminster. Since the matter has never been tested in the courts, the only fact is that no-one knows for definite whether such a referendum would be illegal, and no-one will be able to make that definitive statement until the matter is tested in a court.

However, the great majority of the Scottish press are quite happy to take the assertions of the anti-independence parties at face value. In doing so they are doing all of us a great disservice. It seems that in Scotland the only power that needs to be held to account is the power of an SNP Government.

If Scotland had a media which was truly representative of the range of Scottish opinion, we’d be independent already. Unfortunately we don’t. The mere existence of this newspaper is regarded as an outrage by opponents of independence who for far too long have enjoyed an unchallenged domination of the Scottish media narrative.

But things are changing. This newspaper does exist, and more than that there’s a healthy, combative, and increasingly diverse range of online media and new media which promote the cause of independence. The days of British nationalism having everything its own way are at an end. This newspaper didn’t exist during the last independence referendum campaign, but it will be prominent in the next. The new digital media was in its infancy during the last independence referendum campaign, but is now more mature and more established.

Most importantly of all, we have a diverse, seasoned and confident grassroots campaign which is experienced in canvassing, in getting out our message, and in asserting the case for independence. Opponents of independence will not be able to dominate the narrative next time in the same way that they did in 2014. Scotland has learned how to speak for itself.