WHEN you are forced to deal with bullies, eventually there comes a time when you need to do one of two things. You can either surrender to them, or you can stand up to them. That’s the dilemma which the independence movement is currently facing.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech last week frustrated many indy campaigners because they’re longing to see some progress in standing up to the bully that is Boris Johnson and his antidemocratic denial of the successive mandates for another referendum. The speech didn’t deliver much in the way of that. More importantly it didn’t deliver much in the way of fire and inspirational rhetoric.

It was a bit like expecting something rich and delicious to get your teeth into and then being offered a small plate of sugar and fruit free muesli with soy milk.

Because you’re told it’s good for you. That initial disappointment was very much my own reaction, before the consolation of the thought that at least it wasn’t broccoli, the vegetable Spawn of Satan. However flavourless and unappetising as it was, it’s not wrong that the boring small plate is better for you than something with a lot of carbs dripping in oils and sugars.

After getting over the initial disappointment, there’s plenty of sense in the cautious approach to achieving a referendum that’s being advocated by the SNP leadership.

The opinion polls are only starting to display solid and consistent majorities for independence. The figures have shown some improvement in the right direction, but they’re still short of what would be needed to guarantee victory in an official campaign. Brexit has only just happened, and may very well boost support for independence even more once the realities of leaving the EU become more apparent. The same applies in possibly even greater measure to a growing awareness of the realities of Boris Johnson’s government.

However there’s still going to come a point when Boris Johnson will have to be openly confronted and challenged. It’s all very well ramping up the rhetoric, but eventually you have to do something with it. Should Boris Johnson continue in his obstinacy, no matter how much opinion in Scotland swing towards support for another referendum and for independence itself, eventually some means will have to be found which makes the consequences of the denial more damaging to Johnson than the consequences of agreeing.

There are several variations on how that might be achieved, ranging from court action through advisory referendums or plebiscite elections, to peaceful civil disobedience.

Anyone of these tactics, any possible variation or combination of them, could potentially succeed in bringing about another independence referendum which would produce a victory for independence.

Not only that but they’d bring about a referendum where the result would be followed by negotiations with and recognition from the British government. That’s the key to a smooth and successful transition into independence. If the British government recognises the independence of Scotland, every other country is going to as well. After all, if the state from which Scotland is declaring independence doesn’t object, then no other state has any reason to object either.

The more that support for independence grows, the more certain we can be that Scottish public opinion will look positively upon the strategies that might be required in order to force the British government to cooperate.

Also, the more likely it becomes that adopting one or more tactics designed to force the hand of Boris Johnson will be supported by a growing majority of the Scottish public. A country in which 60% or more of the population consistently support independence is a country which is going to be far more supportive of peaceful attempts to secure a recognised referendum, and one where the political costs to Boris Johnson would grow ever more acute.

There’s nothing like a permanent case of political toothache to wipe the smug grin off of Boris Johnson’s face. A Scotland where there’s a strong and healthy majority in favour of independence could easily be that for him.

The National:

Even though Boris Johnson is doing his best to give an Am I Bovvered impression, there are already signs of his worry. You don’t go spending £5 million on an advertising campaign to persuade Scotland that it’s better off as part of the UK if you don’t fear the large and significant number of those in Scotland who disagree.

The campaign will most likely be widely mocked and ridiculed on social media, creating yet more reason for the Conservatives to worry. There’s nothing like being lectured at by a self-satisfied Etonian to make Scottish people feel like they’re being listened to.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon uses Brexit day speech to say indyref2 closer than ever

There is every indication that support for independence will continue to increase this year. There are already welcome signs that senior figures within the EU are being markedly more welcoming of the prospect of Scottish independence now that the UK is a third country as far as the EU is concerned.

That will encourage remainers in Scotland to see that independence offers the best prospect by far of a way back into EU membership or failing that into some form of relationship short of full EU membership but which offers closer alignment with Europe than anything the Conservatives will concede to.

The British state wants us to believe that it’s all powerful, but the truth is very different. It’s a lot weaker in its dealings with Scotland than it wants us to think. Johnson can’t make any substantial concessions to Scotland because that will incur the objections of the dominant English nationalism of his own party, and any attempts to ignore or dismiss Scottish demands will only create a feedback loop within Scotland of increasing resentment leading to an increased demand for independence.

That in turn makes it more likely that the next Scottish election will be all about independence, as the SNP want, and less likely that it’s about the SNP’s alleged failings in government. None of it ends well for Boris Johnson.

Johnson has deprived Scotland of freedom of movement to the EU, but his own political freedom of movement is very limited. The only way he can make Scotland surrender to his bullying is by offering Scotland concessions that his own party won’t allow. All that leaves is the eventual standing up to the bully and facing him down.