I WAS struck last week how little notice was paid to the fourth anniversary of the Brexit referendum which took place last Tuesday.

I wasn’t expecting the lampposts to be hung with mourning crepe nor a day of fasting and penitence to be observed.

However, given the huge damage that has been done, and will continue to be done, it was worthy of not just recall and regret but also some analysis of how things have unravelled since then.

For the UK has moved on from what what was seen in the days immediately following the vote as a likely speedy soft exit to the inevitability of, at best, a hard and complete break, not just with the EU but with the interconnected reality of the modern world.

The initial result took Scotland by surprise. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and in the immediate aftermath of the decision there was a substantial degree of political unanimity at Holyrood that we should seek the strongest of ties, most probably by means of continuing membership, or close association with, the single market and the customs union.

In that expectation we all took some heart from the initial approach of the May government. Although Theresa May’s speech at the Tory party conference in October 2016 caused concern, it was recognised that she was, as ever, playing to the Tory gallery.

It was her Lancaster House speech in January 2017 that fully delineated the disastrous and foolish red lines which locked her into a failing battle with both her fellow Tories and the EU.

The impossibility of her winning those battles was made clear shortly afterwards when she called an unnecessary General Election and put herself in hock to those in her party who wanted to play out in real life a 19th-century fantasy of absolute sovereignty and exceptionalism.

In the end she was cast aside by the misfits and ideologues who had slowly taken over the Conservative party.

Of course, Boris Johnson is their prisoner too, but he was willingly bought with the bauble of high office. Meanwhile the Scottish Tories remain scared stiff of standing up to them.

The greatest tragedy of all this for the UK is that current and future economic damage, loss of global reputation and the debasement of politics and governance could have been avoided had May recognised that a compromise with both the EU and the other nations of the UK was not only possible but the best way forward.

She didn’t, and those now running the show don’t either. In fact they revel in absolutism.

I have often observed that had May sat Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones, Arlene Foster, Martin McGuinness and Jeremy Corbyn down round the cabinet table in Number 10 in the autumn of 2016 and – instead of hectoring them – genuinely asked them to work with her to find a deal to which everyone could sign up, then at least some of the heartache and political chaos of the past four years could have been avoided.

Of course, she did agree to establish a new committee of the discredited Joint Ministerial Council with a written remit which seemed to provide an opportunity for co-operation, but it was no sooner in operation than it was trashed in practice by the UK, a process that has simply got worse with each passing year.

The outcome for Scotland is currently tough, and the immense damage being done by Covid can only be exacerbated by the inevitable Brexit recession.

But the prognosis for Scotland is getting better, as the independence polls show.

Those who have now seen at close quarters the way in which the UK Government works and who recall being lied to during the first indyref are drawing their own conclusions. Scotland’s constitutional history shows that this country”s voters are slow to change their minds on the biggest issues, but there is no doubt that they are, bit by bit, changing them.

I was, for example, very heartened this week to hear from an old friend, who had been resolutely opposed to “separatism”, as he puts it. Now he has accepted that there is no other sensible alternative.

Our First Minister and her leadership of a cautious but competent government at a very difficult time is a key factor.

But another factor lies in the detail of the Brexit clusterbourach which has unfolded over the past 48 months.

We should not only be clear about that, but must also make sure our fellow citizens know the story too.