ONE of the most reliable characteristics of British nationalism in its Scottish incarnation is the hope that some external factor will come along and save their beloved Union™ like a messiah driving out the demons.

This is because, deep down in what passes for their souls, they recognise that what is really driving demand for independence is the contemptuous disdain that Westminster has for responding to the democratic demands of the people of Scotland.

But they can’t actually admit to that in public, or indeed even acknowledge any truth in it, because that would in turn mean admitting there is a genuine reason for the desire for independence, and it’s Westminster and the British state which need to change in order to prevent it.

These days, the vile nats have penetrated everywhere. You can even find them among Rangers supporters. There’s even, God help us, an actual newspaper which supports independence.

British nationalists in Scotland long for nothing more than a return to the good old days when a red, white and blue patriot could pontificate in the golf club bar about how inadequate Scotland was without fear of being openly contradicted and the only publications supporting independence were hand typed by a big hairy man who ran about the hillsides of a weekend, pretending to be a Pictish warrior, and printed them off on his maw’s computer.

But they know as much as any independence supporter that the British state is not about to change in order to accommodate Scotland, and all they’re left with in order to prevent the inevitable slide into independence is the fond wish that something will come along and save them from themselves.

Brexit was going to make independence impossible. The SNP losing seats in the 2017 Westminster General Election killed independence stone dead. The Salmond trial was going to destroy the SNP. The coronavirus epidemic would prove that we’re all in this together singing Vera Lynn songs.

Yet support for independence and for pro-independence parties has remained stubbornly high, consistently equalling or exceeding the levels which brought about the referendum in 2014. Scotland changed forever during that campaign, but the British nationalists in Scotland and the majority of the Scottish media have yet to adjust to the new normal.

Far from boosting support for British nationalism, the coronavirus epidemic seems to have done the opposite. This is no doubt due to the competence and apparent honesty of the Scottish Government – and Nicola Sturgeon in particular – in handling the crisis, compared to the shambling incompetence, lying and deceit which has characterised the Conservatives at Westminster.

In an opinion poll last week, 70% of respondents in Scotland said they trusted the Scottish Government’s information on the virus. Only 54% across the entire UK had the same trust in the British Government. It would have been interested to see what the figure for trust in the UK Government was in Scotland – I suspect it would have been far lower.

It’s one thing for Scotland to suffer Conservative governments which we didn’t vote for and which we cannot hold to account when that government is capable and competent in pursuing its goals – even if those are goals which Scotland opposed. It’s quite another matter when the charlatans and buffoons who govern us from Westminster are risking lives and livelihoods and taking the UK to the top of the European league table for deaths because of their arrogance, British exceptionalism, and determination to pursue Brexit at any cost.

Last week, an opinion poll from YouGov showed support for the SNP is at record highs – 54% of those asked said that they intend to vote SNP in the constituency vote at the next Holyrood election, whereas 2% would support the Greens. Meanwhile, 45% said they’d vote SNP in the list vote, and a further 8% said they’d vote for the Greens.

An absolute majority of Scotland’s voters would back pro-independence parties in both votes. This result would produce a majority SNP government and a significant majority in Holyrood for parties that would support another independence referendum.

Winning a majority of both votes and seats would make it very difficult for the British nationalist parties to argue that there’s no demand in Scotland for another independence referendum. This will, of course, not stop them trying. After all, it’s what they’ve been doing to counter all the previous mandates for another referendum that the SNP have been piling up and sticking on the mantelpiece behind the clock along with forgotten birthday cards and menus from curry houses. The SNP must not meekly accede to these claims. They must counter them robustly and with determination.

Above all, the gradualists in the party hierarchy must remember the grassroots independence movement is not voting SNP because we want the competent administration of a devolved government. We vote SNP because we expect the party to deliver a referendum.

It’s all very well telling people to wait until the time is right, but it sticks in the craw of many in poor and deprived communities to be told by comfortable middle-class people that that is not upon us just yet. Their patience is already worn very thin.

There must eventually be a determination from the Scottish Government to politically confront the British Government directly. A refusal from Westminster following the election of a majority pro-indy parliament in Holyrood at the next Scottish elections cannot be followed by a speech from the SNP leader telling us all to keep doing what we’ve been doing only to do it harder. It must be followed by a plan of action to bring about a referendum irrespective of Westminster’s obstinacy.

Telling us to keep working to build support for independence will no longer cut it. The political reality is that the greater the support for independence in Scotland, the more Westminster will seek to block any attempt to hold a referendum.

At some point, Westminster’s refusal must be met head on. That point is following the next Holyrood election. Because if the SNP leadership doesn’t deliver on a referendum after winning a majority, a significant section of the independence movement will vote with its feet and will march off to a different party. Then the movement will be split and divided, and the only winners will be the British nationalist bores in the golf club bar.