THIS is an educational story of our times. Imagine you have been appointed to teach a class of children, some of whom have severe, self-induced behaviour problems. Your task is to equip this group to pass major exams that lie ahead.

You soon discover the majority of the class is even more badly behaved than you imagined. They constantly throw things at each other, disturb other classes in adjoining rooms, abuse you and other teachers trying to help them, and display utter contempt for anyone who disagrees with them.

Worse, exams are already under way.

Despite an appalling class record, having failed most tests in the recent past, they are now being asked to answer a series of searching questions you feel might task the most able of students.

But begin you must, so you start of with some simple rules to establish if there is any hope the bulk of the class can absorb the basics of human behaviour. You start with the essentials for decent conduct, since the majority seem incapable of anything more taxing.

You give them the kindergarten rules. Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt someone. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush.

Unhappily, despite your best efforts, you find many of the class unresponsive. They care little for responsible conduct. Instead, they are guided by the class clown.

This large, lazy, bumbling buffoon has managed to corner a supply of sweets, and these are doled out to those he favours, and withheld from others. With his inner circle of cronies, he controls class behaviour. He possesses few ethical standards that you are able to ascertain.

The ruling clique was always hostile to new classmates, regularly vilifying those from elsewhere. All the while they continually abuse the minority of fellow classmates, particularly those with different accents or background.

To your chagrin, you find the controlling set has also established a pattern of maligning those in other classes. Whenever those elsewhere complain about excessive noise and foul odours, they are insulted.

You now hear that the gang in charge has decided to exit the school entirely and form its own group.

The class clown claims they have been “held back” by other schoolmates and it’s time for it to be on its own, free of any constraints on conduct or rules.

Some of the class point out they prefer the school they are in and have no wish to move. But the majority insist their wishes must be obeyed.

As a responsible teacher, you point out this is the worst possible time to attempt an exit test because all schools are at risk from the lethal virus. And your worries grow as you see the class start its new school on January 1, with minimal preparation and reports of no school meals and few books.

Worse the pandemic seems to be strengthening.

So, like the dedicated teacher in the above saga, we watch a UK debacle unfold with little being done to impede the extent of its awfulness.

What lessons does 2021 hold in store for the objecting classmates and the rest of us? Oddly, in the light of the above, there is much to hope for. Shorn of its fulsome EU support, the UK is likely at first to flounder, then founder.

As the UK wallows, this ought to present real prospects for Scotland. This country needs to be fully prepared to exploit the sizable opportunities that will emerge. Scotland ought to be nimble and seek out the issues before these emerge. And it will be pointless to continue to seek to shield those who fervently wished for Brexit to avoid the consequences of their actions.

If this is not done and done with vigour, opponents of independence will call repeatedly for measures to mitigate the very consequences that are inevitable with Brexit. If this is allowed to happen the Scottish Government will find itself constantly on the back foot – defending the indefensible.

There will always be a debate over timing, but there ought to be no excuses for not being prepared. Our hope for 2021 ought to be based upon a willingness to take the fight post-Brexit to the foes of independence. To task them to alleviate Brexit. To demand their reaction to the UK’s diminished prospects. To insist, unrelentingly, to those as yet unconvinced of independence, that worse will befall them unless the country re-joins its European neighbours.

And this is only possible with independence.

Professor Murray Pittock is the next guest on the TNT show at 7pm on Wednesday