The National:

IS Scotland in a voluntary union with the rest of the UK? And if so, how can we exercise our right to leave?

In a democratic system, presumably we'd elect a parliament with a majority in favour of a referendum on independence. That outcome would be respected, a referendum would be held, and if we voted in favour of independence, we'd get independence.

But, alas, it's not quite as simple as that, because Boris Johnson apparently feels that we should not be permitted to make any of these choices until 2055. He pointed out on the Marr show that the first UK referendum on Europe was in 1975 and the second was in 2016, which he felt was "the right sort of gap".

That means in practice that anyone who was born later than 1998 will not have any say over whether their country should govern itself for the next thirty-four years. By the time the next vote actually takes place, nobody younger than around 57 years of age will have had any influence whatsoever over Scotland's constitutional destiny.

A funny sort of consent principle when the views of the majority of the adult population are deemed to be literally irrelevant.

READ MORE: Ex-SNP deputy Jim Sillars says Nicola Sturgeon should 'deprioritise' indyref2

But is the comparison with the European referendums a valid one? In a word, no.

The British people were actually given a clear opportunity to revisit the 1975 decision within just eight years, not within forty-one. At the 1983 general election, the Labour party put a commitment to withdraw from the European Community in their manifesto, and that would have happened without a referendum if they had been elected - even if they had been elected without a majority of the popular vote.

That's how parliamentary democracy works - voters never have to wait any longer than five years to reverse a decision they strongly regret, and they can either do it by means of an election alone, or by the two-step of an election followed by a referendum. If they find they have to wait longer than five years, or that certain decisions just aren't "allowed" at all, it's fair to say that democracy has been somewhat circumscribed.

Let's be clear: the rights of the British people have never been restricted in that way. We stayed in the Common Market in 1983 because voters freely chose a Conservative government rather than a Labour government - and not because another thirty-three years were required to elapse before that choice could be deemed legitimate. Why should it be any different for the Scottish people?

If the Tories feel that now is too soon for another indyref, why not make that case to voters and see if it's persuasive enough to command a majority? And, naturally, if the SNP win a majority instead, respect the will of the people and accept that a referendum must be held?

Ironically, until a couple of decades ago, the Tories and SNP were on exactly the same page in saying that Scots could indeed decide on independence at least once every five years. Mrs Thatcher noted that Scotland's consent for the Union was beyond dispute because its voters could, if they wished, choose independence by electing SNP MPs in a majority of Scottish constituencies at any general election. That was also the SNP's preferred method of establishing an indy mandate.

READ MORE: SNP warn Boris Johnson will get 'swept away' over indyref2 refusal until 2055

It was only with the advent of devolution that the SNP switched to the referendum route - and they arguably did that for tactical reasons, rather than because of any belief that referendums are democratically superior. The feeling was that if you told people a vote for the SNP was merely a vote for a referendum rather than an outright vote for independence, it would be a lot easier to get an SNP government elected.

That may well have made some sense at the time, but we can now see the downsides. It's a hell of a lot easier for the UK government to say with a straight face that referendums should only be held once every forty-one years than it is for them to say the same thing about elections.

It really is long past time that the SNP stopped making it needlessly easy for Boris, and simply returned to their own roots by embracing the fact that an independence mandate can be brought about by more than one type of democratic event. A referendum might be preferable, but if that option is unreasonably closed off, there's never too long to wait for a scheduled election. And while nobody can force the Tories to actually respect the outcome of an election, they'll forfeit any right to call themselves democrats if they don't.