NICOLA Sturgeon is writing to Boris Johnson with a formal request that his government should pass a Section 30 order through the new House of Commons, under which a legal second referendum on Scottish independence could be held. The request stands, of course, no chance whatsoever of being granted, so long as Boris is at Number 10 Downing Street. But this does not exhaust the First Minister’s options.

It is in any case widely surmised she does not really want indyref2 till she can be certain of winning it. In the past, she has reckoned polling returns with 60% of Yes votes will give her an ideal margin of safety. It is a stiff condition, but in my opinion, it is also a wise one. There is in fact no purpose at all in an indyref2 held as a gesture of patriotic fervour, as many of her followers appear to wish. If it were lost, the results would be catastrophic – the end of her political career, the postponement of independence into the distant future, perhaps forever.

In this light, one awkward fact emerges from the results last Thursday night. The SNP’s 48 seats at Westminster were won on 45% of the total vote. To translate the outcome from past election to future referendum, support for independence remains at the same level as in 2014. That is despite the tentative evidence from a couple of recent opinion polls of a rising level of support. In the real world, where people actually put their ballot papers into the big box, rather than just answer hypothetical questions from pollsters, there has been no progress for independence – not something Nicola will have been happy to see.

All the same, she has to be ready in case indyref2 does come, and one of the best ways to do this is to keep the popular commitment at as high a pitch as possible across Scotland. So long as there are thousands ready to go on boisterous marches through Scottish streets, with Saltires streaming and pipes skirling, no Tory politician will be able to sleep in peace at night.

At the same time, such events do not solve the basic problem. Shouting louder did not rescue Unionism from its doldrums in the first two decades of devolution, or indeed last Thursday. Shouting louder is not going to end the immediate stalemate facing the SNP.

Something that can be done in the interim is to widen the nationalist appeal and to deepen popular commitment to it in its fresh, expanded form. To pin the abstractions down, one promising item on the agenda is support for Scotland’s re-entry into the EU, which only the SNP can deliver. When our European allegiance was tested in 2016, 62% of us responded positively (close to Nicola’s indyref2 margin of safety).

Many of these were nationalist voters, but not all of them could have been. Most LibDems would also have been there, inside that majority, together with factions of the Tory and Labour parties. The real success for the SNP was to have put itself at the head of a rainbow coalition. Now, it has to do the same for independence as it did for Europe.

But there are still a couple of colours missing along the rainbow’s spectrum. In my last column before the election, I wrote how, ever since Alex Salmond gave way to Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP had swung to the left. It has turned hostile to capitalism and advocated policies that scarcely connect to the digital world we live in. Even before we got to polling day, I found my judgement confirmed by a statement from Nicola during the Scottish leaders’ TV debate: “I think unregulated capitalism is a force for bad, and I think we need much more regulation, and I am not opposed to more state ownership where that is appropriate.”

Is this a line from the Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Socialist? Hard to tell, when scarcely anybody nowadays actually advocated “unregulated capitalism” except Vladimir Putin’s ex-communist oligarchs and kleptocrats. The UK has regulated capitalism ever since it introduced joint stockholding and limited liability in 1856, so separating corporate from private ownership of companies. Workers’ conditions have also been the subject of numerous Factory Acts and similar legislation right down to the minimum wage of the present time.

It seems to me the key to Nicola’s essential political position is “we need much more regulation”. In fact, if ever the SNP decided the National bit of its name carried too much dubious baggage, in a Europe of resurgent bigotry, then it might well with justice change its name to the “Regulatory Party”. As I write, it has at work a Social Justice Commission which, so far as I can see, is planning to regulate our entire Scottish society under “proposals for a vision of independence that ensures a safe, warm home and community for everyone to live in, and a fair chance for everyone to get on in life”.

Scotland will be an Earthly Paradise, a Land Flowing With Milk And Honey. I’ll deal with this in the New Year.

The question arises whether there is much difference from what was promised in Labour’s La La Land manifesto, which brought the party crashing to defeat last Thursday. Nicola disagreed with Jeremy Corbyn on Scotland and Brexit, but on all social and economic policies, I would say there was little to choose between Labour and the SNP.

If the election had gone the other way, and Corbyn had ended up leading a minority UK government, he surely would have found little difficulty in gaining support for his measures from Scots MPs. Amid his post-election dwam, he claims he “won the arguments”. But the truth is that more than 20 million English people disagreed, and in Scotland?

I point once again to that 45%.

This is not enough to win independence, even if Boris were to agree to a referendum, but at least it crystallises the question. In indyref2, how are we to get from where we are now to across the line of a 50% Yes vote? As I’ve said before, shouting louder is not the answer. The way things stand, the Scottish Government is far more attuned to what it conceives to be the interests of left-wing west-central Scotland than to the interests of the right-wing north-east, which it ignores.

Yet the north-east is where it needed to win back the seats it had previously lost, and it only won back half of them. The LibDem far north and in the Borders, right next to England, remained equally resistant to the SNP’s blandishments.

Socialism is not the answer either. Socialism first became a real force in Scottish politics after the First World War, and for 100 years those outlying regions of rural Scotland have remained completely unimpressed by it. If anything, they have gone off in the opposite direction, from mainly liberal in the 19th century to largely Tory now. At any rate, socialism has never been on their agenda.

So, is regulation the answer, and will a Regulatory Party finally persuade these wayward regions that their future lies not in the Union, but in an independent nation? I find it hard to believe. Perhaps the slogan “We need much more regulation,” does get the punters flocking to the SNP in Clydebank or Kilmarnock, but in Kelso and Kintore they tend rather to pride themselves on their self-reliance, not least because that was once the pride of all Scots. In any case, not many more SNP votes can be squeezed out of Clydebank or Kilmarnock, or the last survivors of Old Labour still holding out there. In Kelso and Kintore, however, there is still work to be done in the nation’s cause, still a decisive margin of voters to be won over. They will give me plenty to write about in 2020.