THE Sunday Times newspaper is not at all pleased. After its sister paper The Times reported last week that Theresa May was not disposed to grant a Section 30 order for a second Scottish independence referendum, on Sunday the paper reported in outraged tones that the SNP is “plotting” to have an independence vote without Theresa’s permission. What this plotting boils down to is ensuring that the people of Scotland have a legal and recognised means of voting on independence. It’s a peculiar form of plotting that entails going to the electorate and asking them to cast a vote.

The harrumphage was provoked by the SNP’s response to Theresa May’s assertion that she’d refuse to consent to a Section 30 order.

That anger was shared by many of the British nationalists who infest the comments section of this newspaper, appalled as they are that a single newspaper in Scotland dares to support the constitutional position favoured by about half the Scottish population.

Keith Brown also at the weekend declared that Scotland can have a legal vote without Theresa’s consent, and the Scottish Government will explore alternative avenues in the event of Theresa May refusing to grant a Section 30 order and hence recognise the Scottish Claim of Right. That Right was voted on and agreed to by the Westminster Parliament, and it asserts the right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. It didn’t include a rider saying “as long as that’s OK with Theresa May”.

I’ve blogged, written, and spoken about this topic a number of times, but it’s an important point which is worth repeating, and it was reassuring to see Keith Brown asserting it. There are possibilities other than the false dichotomy between a Section 30 order or a declaration of UDI. There are a number of legal and constitutional avenues open to Scotland in order to bring about a vote on Scottish independence, getting Theresa May to agree to a Section 30 order is only one of them. This is not Spain. There is no constitutional prohibition on any part of the UK voting to choose independence.

Alternatives to a Section 30 order include a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order, or a plebiscite election. A consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order would certainly be subject to a legal challenge by the British nationalist parties, but providing the question was carefully phrased, this could be surmounted. Alternatively any election in Scotland could be converted into a plebiscite election in which the SNP and other pro-independence parties do not ask for a mandate to hold a referendum, they ask for a mandate to negotiate independence. This cannot be subject to a legal challenge, and the anti-independence parties cannot realistically boycott the vote.

If either of the alternative scenarios takes place, then the independence movement will be able to demonstrate to the people of Scotland that opponents of independence do not want Scotland to have the right to decide its future at all, and they want the path that Scotland takes to be subject to a veto from a Prime Minister that Scotland didn’t vote for.

That’s really not a good look if you’re an opponent of independence trying to persuade the electorate that Scotland is a valued loved partner in a family of nations. It means, in effect, surrendering any attempt at a positive campaign and relying solely on threats, scare stories, and intimidation. Again, that’s not a good look.

The truth is that Westminster only agreed to a Section 30 order in 2012 because they were convinced they were going to win by a huge margin. The events of 2014 and since have scared the crap out of them. They know that the next time there’s a vote it’s more likely than not that they’re going to lose. Brexit has destroyed what previously passed for a positive case for this Union-in-name-only.

However that produces a conundrum. The stronger the case for independence, the stronger the public demand for a vote for independence, the stronger public support for independence is, the less likely it becomes that a UK Prime Minister will agree to a Section 30 order.

Yes, it is important to continue to build public support for independence, and in that I’m fully in agreement with Nicola Sturgeon, because increased public support increases the political imperative within Scotland to hold a referendum. However increased public support for independence by itself will not by itself make Theresa May more likely to grant a Section 30 order. It will only make her more scared of the consequences of one. Some means is required of forcing her hand.

Equally, it’s all very well for the SNP to say that if there is an early General Election, then they will campaign for a mandate to grant a Section 30 order. The Scottish Government already has a mandate for an independence referendum. Suppose they win the GE handsomely, that merely reinforces the existing reasons why Westminster won’t want to grant a Section 30 order. No British Prime Minister is going to agree to a course of action that spells the end of the UK unless that is their least bad choice. Again, a means of forcing Theresa May’s hand is required.

The SNP needs a well thought out and coherent strategy for holding a vote on independence without a Section 30 order, and that should be articulated now. Westminster must be presented with a fait accompli. Theresa May needs to realise that there will be a Scottish independence vote with or without her consent.

It’s only when she understands that it’s going to happen anyway that she might be disposed to consent to a Section 30 order in an attempt to maintain the twin fictions that she is still in charge of the course of events, and that Scotland is a partner in a Union and not a subordinate part of a unitary British state.

The Scottish Government needs to demonstrate to Theresa May that it is in her own interest to agree to a Section 30 order, because that’s the only route to an independence vote which allows opponents of independence to maintain their beloved myth that Scotland is a partner in a precious Union. Theresa May needs to realise that granting a Section 30 order is the only hope she has of keeping Scotland within the UK. It’s a slim hope, but that’s her problem, not ours.

You don’t ask bullies for permission. You don’t request favours from those who hold you in contempt. You tell them how things are going to be. You present them with a course of action. That’s not plotting. That’s standing up for yourself and standing up for Scotland.