WHERE stands Scotland , five years after the indyref? Jings, where to start?

As we sit on the verge of indyref2 (and no-one knows the width of the verge or the likely length of the wait), some issues look different and some exactly the same.

Arguments over borders, currencies, deficits and pensions have predictably commanded the airwaves this anniversary week, but they don’t pack the scary punch they once did. Obviously, that’s because Strong and Stable PLC has all but collapsed, forcing Scots to weigh the possibility of short-term, independence-related disruption against the certainty of indefinite, Union-related mayhem.

But far more significant, even, are the shifts happening spontaneously, privately and for a myriad of individual reasons across the Scottish electorate.

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Yes, you’d think the Brexit meltdown, the selection of Boris Johnson, the millions spent on No-Deal planning, the total lack of effort to negotiate a new deal till the judicial kick up the jacksy, the suspension of Parliament and the lying to the Queen would all be enough to make self-respecting No voters want a second crack at independence.

But it’s hard to undo a belief.

Yes voters haven’t believed in the bona fides of Britain for a very long time. But No voters have. It takes time to detach belief and the last straw can be quite an unpredictable and personalised thing.

For some it’s been Westminster’s callous treatment of families living on benefits, or EU citizens who’ve lived amongst us for decades. For others it’s the clear signals that Westminster intends to jettison environmental protections as soon as Brexit permits and the siren calls of Donald Trump, ushering a desperate and compliant Britain into a new trade relationship called “Life on your knees as the 51st state of America”.

Last straws are falling. Tin lids are closing. Scots are moving towards a big change.

But would we be here without Brexit – probably not.

During the indyref, there were warnings about an imminent EU referendum, but no-one, including David Cameron, thought it could possibly be lost. It was and Pandora’s Box duly opened, exposing the deep-seated, self-destructive mania of the Tory elite and the inability or unwillingness of most English voters to pin the tail on the right donkey. Every aspect of Britain’s decline is deep-rooted, power-related and homegrown – the unfairness, the grinding inequality, the lack of social mobility and total absence of dignity or empathy in Britain’s harsh welfare regime. But whilst the majority of English voters were content to blame the EU, most Scots (correctly) pinned the tail on Westminster.

Across the world, that distinction was noted.

Restrictions on trade, shared sovereignty and freedom of movement are not the most intractable problems faced by vainglorious Britain. No aspect of Britain’s relationship with Europe is anywhere near as destructive as our Divine Right of Boris unwritten constitution; our massive wealth gap; our long-hours, low-pay working culture or our infinitely slow, grudging transition towards a de-centralised, non-market dominated, fossil-fuel-free society.

These are the real challenges facing the British and Scottish Governments and their citizens. Yet the British Tory Party, and the majority of the English electorate, have opted to look away, displace wildly and make the EU a proxy for every homemade problem British “democracy” has proved itself unable and unwilling to fix.

Yessers always knew these deeper undercurrents were at work – that’s why we voted for independence in 2014. But folk abroad and the media here generally swallowed the official British line. A family squabble, a wee fight over nowt, nothing much to see – move on. How completely Brexit has changed all that.

Our European neighbours can see that Scots – fed the same lies, saturated with the same campaigns, and tormented with the same Daily Mail-driven neurosis as our southern neighbours – nonetheless responded quite differently. Like citizens of a different country.

A country with an instinct for international co-operation. A country without Empire-related grandiosity or any need to be special, aloof or alone in the world. Scots – most of us – reacted to the “opportunity” of Brexit with horror.

Proof positive of what many of us have been saying for years. Scotland is an outward-looking, northern social democracy trapped within a regressive, isolationist state. Confronted with the prospect of a reactionary Tory Brexit, Scots reacted like Europeans – not Brits.

Everyone noticed.

Brexit has put Scottish independence back on the international map. Senior EU politicians assure us Scotland would now be welcomed in. Indy-sceptic London-based commentators are now almost scolding us for not calling a referendum yesterday and setting up the new country and escape route they will soon need. This is a dramatically different media environment and it feeds into the awareness of already-changing No voters.

Of course, there is still Piers Morgan talking over the First Minister. Of course, there is still Question Time – where progressive Scotland morphs into a shouty, Tory, Brexit-supporting land no-one actually inhabits. And of course, even the most sympathetic network interviewer may revert when indyref2 actually begins. But look beyond the occasional bursts of bad weather and you’ll see evidence of climate change – good climate change – in the most unlikely places.

Take the Scotsman.

Last week, The paper pictured the three judges behind last week’s sensational Court of Session ruling with a bold headline: “Heroes of the People.” In its editorial the paper opined: “The proroguing of Parliament is a step towards dictatorship. [This judgement] is a brave decision that strikes a blow for truth, democracy and the rule of law,” in the face of Boris Johnson “sticking to the bare-faced lie that suspending Parliament is business as usual”.


This is strong stuff from a paper that has previously, doggedly supported the bona fides of the UK Government through thick and thin. I’m not saying The Scotsman has switched to supporting independence – not at all. But perhaps it has detached from an automatic belief in the virtues of the status quo.

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Take Herald on Sunday’s Political Editor Paul Hutcheon. When a petition emerged this week, demanding a new, higher majority for indyref2, he tweeted: “Requiring two thirds of voters to back independence is desperation. For some Unionists, blocking or rigging a referendum is more important than making positive arguments.”

Well, well.

Yesterday he responded to Scotland in Union’s finding that 59% of Scots would vote to “remain” in the UK, tweeting: “A cute headline-generator, but the chances of ‘Remain or Leave’ being the question in any second indyref are 0%.”

I’m absolutely not saying Paul has changed whatever his stance is on independence. Two tweets doth not a perspective reveal, and it’s important not to presume that anyone exercising a normal degree of scepticism towards old Unionist arguments is a born-again indy convert. Indeed, that is the beauty of the political moment we inhabit.

Folk are coming to their own decisions – detaching from automatic beliefs and default positions – and evidently feeling comfortable enough to voice criticisms of British governance with a vigour that was once the sole preserve of the “loony, nationalist” fringe. Such folk may not show up as independence supporters – not yet. And perhaps not ever. But then there is no active indyref2 campaign, or deadline to concentrate minds. Not yet.

It’s been five years of hard work by the SNP and Greens, rank-and-file independence supporters and this newspaper – and of course, five years backstage help from the Conservative and Labour parties on both sides of the Border.

But voters who were once supremely sceptical about independence are now overwhelmingly sceptical about the mainstays of the Union.

That’s quite a result.