The National:

OVER the past few weeks, there's been an increasing acceptance of the inevitability of another independence referendum from figures who previously supported the No campaign. There's also been an increasing acceptance that when the vote does take place, Scotland is going to vote Yes. 

Even without an official campaign and with a Scottish Government focused on dealing with the pandemic that has stated this is not the time for another referendum, support for independence continues to grow. Once the full force of Brexit hits at the end of December, and the economic ill effects of the UK Government's ideological destruction of ties with Europe are felt, that support is only going to increase even further.

Scotland has already started on the journey to independence. More and more this is a country which is independent in mind and spirit if not in actual fact. Some of the most prominent voices who warned against independence in 2014 are seeing and feeling the change. 

So it is with the BBC presenter Andrew Marr, who in 2014 during an interview with Alex Salmond remarked that it would be "quite hard" for an independent Scotland to join the EU, giving credence to the claims made by the Better Together campaign. 

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In 2013, while on a visit to the Edinburgh Festival to plug his latest book he said that he was “very worried” by the tone of the independence campaign. He claimed that everyone knew that support for independence was driven by anti-English racism. Or at least everyone in the metrocommentariat circles in London in which Marr spends his time and energies. 

The remark sparked off a predictable bout of soul-searching on BBC Scotland who regaled us with an hour-long programme about the dark sickness of Anglophobia which supposedly lurks at the heart of the Scottish psyche. The numerous examples of anti-Scottish racism in the UK media were of course dismissed as just a bit of banter, and only a dour Scot with a chip on both shoulders could possibly find it objectionable.

Marr is not a man who has sympathies with the case for independence, however on a recent trip to Scotland on the occasion of his father's funeral, Marr found a very different Scotland. In a piece for the Spectator he spoke of how people in Scotland are far more likely to wear face masks and are more cautious with social distancing. He was struck by the different atmosphere in Scotland, and the trust that the public has in the First Minister, which contrasts starkly with the widespread contempt for Boris Johnson. Despite its internal issues, the SNP is confident and vigorous, whereas opponents of independence are "muffled and tired". 

The National: The subject of widespread contempt: Boris JohnsonThe subject of widespread contempt: Boris Johnson

It's a belated recognition from a man who has never seriously questioned the Britishness of Scotland, that Scotland is slipping away from Westminster's embrace and opponents of independence have no real idea of how to prevent it. The actions of this Conservative Government to undermine and weaken the devolution settlement only have the opposite effect to what the Conservatives intend. 

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With a clear majority in Scotland now supporting independence, the snowball effect is in play. As more people come to the conclusion that independence is inevitable, it has the effect of encouraging doubters to support the idea. It also creates a feeling amongst those who believe that it's going to happen anyway, but who may not themselves be especially keen on independence, that Scotland may as well just get it over and done with. We're already at that tipping point.

The ties that bind the nations of the UK are frayed and tired. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are enthusiastically hacking away at what little remains of Scotland's affections for Westminster even as they preach about strengthening their precious Union. It's worth wondering whether the Conservatives would think that the Union was so precious if they actually had to pay heed to what Scotland wants. 

Marr is the latest London based commentator to warn that the UK is sleepwalking into Scottish independence. People in England have little interest in Scottish affairs, and even less understanding of what's going on here.  It's that lack of interest in doing what is necessary to keep an increasingly frayed UK together which will guarantee the victory of Scottish independence. You can't keep a union together if one of the smaller nations is growing increasingly restless and the largest nation in that union simply doesn't care.

We can be certain that the next independence referendum campaign is going to be a very different affair from the first. It's going to be a campaign that sets out from the assumption that independence is merely a matter of time. Indeed in England there is a growing acceptance that both Scotland and England will be better served by going their own ways. 

For England, that will be even more traumatic than Brexit because it calls into question basic issues of Britishness and identity that England has never had to confront. As someone who has lived in England for decades and who is closely identified with the anglo-scottish establishment, that is what Andrew Marr is really concerned about. Even he seems to recognise that independence will unleash Scotland's potential and open the door to new opportunities.