THE SNP-Green co-operation pact is now a done deal, much to the chagrin of anti-independence gammonistas, in particular Andrew Neil, who was already in a bad mood because his GBeebies channel is receiving lower viewership figures than the Gaelic language version of Postman Pat.

Neil, who cares so much about Scotland that he lives in the south of France, took to the pages of that organ of decency and toleration the Daily Mail to vent his spleen against the imminent arrival of Green representation in the Scottish Government. The Greens are anti-UK, anti-monarchy, anti the wealthy and obsessed with the environment, he fumed, like those were bad things. That’s where right-wing British nationalism has got to these days, reduced to plaintively asking: “Will no-one think of Prince Andrew and the tax exiles?”

The signing of the SNP-Greens deal will hopefully usher in a period of stability in Scottish government and will significantly reduce the ability of the anti-independence parties to create mischief and for Douglas Ross to put on his angry face and appear on Reporting Scotland to do another SNPbadterview. The deal ensures the all-important committees will have a Scottish Government majority and guarantees the smooth passage of the Budget. It means that for the next five years we will spared the annual pantomime of wondering whether the Scottish Government will fall while the Scottish Tories and the Labour Party rub their hands with gleeful anticipation. No wonder Douglas Ross is raging about this deal.

Its great advantage is not that it assures the smooth passage of a referendum bill through Holyrood – even without a formal co-operation deal between the SNP and the Greens, that was always going to happen anyway. The real advantage is that it now makes it much harder for the anti-independence parties to present independence as purely a project of the SNP.

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This has been very successful for them in the past and has been crucial to their efforts to peel away voters who are attracted to and interested in the idea of Scottish independence but who would never identify as SNP voters or supporters.

The inclusion of the Greens in the Scottish Government significantly boosts the environmental credentials of Holyrood and the independence project in general. With the hosting of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in a few months’ time, the media focus will shift very strongly to environmental issues, allowing the Scottish Government to steal a march on a British Conservative government whose environmental credibility is at best questionable and to present itself and Scottish independence as being key to the achievement of an environmentally friendly and sustainable Scottish economy.

This will be key to enthusing and engaging younger voters with the independence cause and ensuring they turn out to vote in a referendum. Younger voters are both more likely to support independence and to prioritise the importance of environmental issues in how they decide their vote.

Anything we can do to attract that all-important younger age group and give them additional reasons for voting for independence – and to make them more likely to turn up at the polling stations – will only increase the chances of a victory for the independence campaign in a future referendum, all the more so because opinion polling has consistently shown that the majority for independence is overwhelming amongst younger voters but younger people are less likely to register to vote and to turn out to vote than older voters.

An important study published by the pro-independence think tank Common Weal over the weekend highlights the necessity for separating the cause of independence from narrow party politics. The study found that there are significant numbers of voters who do not align themselves with the SNP but who nevertheless support independence.

The study even found that there are more Conservative voters in Scotland who are willing to back independence than there are actual members of the Scottish Conservative Party. It might be difficult to understand the rationale of an independence supporter deciding to back the Conservatives, but as the theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg remarked about quantum physics, “not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is also stranger than we can think”.

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The same applies in spades to the logic of an independence-supporting person who goes into a ballot station, sees Andrew Bowie’s name on the ballot paper then puts their X by his name thinking: “I’ll have me some of those six chips.”

While it’s unlikely that Conservative voters are going to be made more likely to support independence because of a Scottish Government that’s been shifted to adopt more radical pro-environmental and pro-public transport measures due to the SNP’s deal with the Scottish Greens, the same cannot be said for indy-curious Labour and LibDem voters, who may very well find such policies more attractive.

We already know from opinion polling that there are large numbers of Labour voters in particular who are supportive of independence despite voting for a party which opposes independence and the holding of another referendum.

The anti-independence efforts of the Conservatives, the Labour Party, and the LibDems have hitherto centred on the single-minded identification of the independence cause with the narrow party-political interests of the SNP.

That’s why we hear the constant repetition of phrases such as “Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum”. It’s why we see attempts to delegitimise Holyrood’s mandate for a second referendum by claiming that the SNP “didn’t really” win the election in May because it narrowly failed to win an outright majority in a voting system designed to make absolute majorities for any one party next to impossible to achieve.

It’s part of a deliberate strategy on the part of the anti-independence parties which is designed to minimise support for independence and another referendum, a strategy which was aided and abetted by the BBC during May’s Holyrood election with its reporters’ frequent references to the outcome of the election being on a “knife-edge” despite the fact that there was never any serious doubt about an eventual victory for the SNP. The only question ever was the magnitude of the party’s victory.

It’s now going to be so much harder for the anti-independence parties to pretend that independence is purely about the SNP. That’s the real advantage of this deal, which goes a long way to explaining the fury of the Scottish Tories and the Labour Party.

It effectively undercuts one of their most effective anti-independence tactics.