WE might not have a firm date for the next referendum and the official campaign has yet to begin, but Scotland is already experiencing the early stages of the next independence referendum.

Yesterday in the annual spending review, the Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced that the Scottish Government has set aside £20 million for the independence referendum which it plans to hold next year.

The news was greeted with predictable performative outrage from the anti-independence parties, citing the cost of living crisis – yet those same parties have no problem at all with the fact that the British Government has spent an estimated £1.3 billion on Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

So it is perfectly fine with Douglas Ross that £1.3bn of public money has been spent on a British flag-shagging display of orgiastic nationalism to celebrate the fundamentally undemocratic central pillar of the British state, but it's wrong to spend £20m to ensure that the people of Scotland are able to exercise their democratic right to determine the future of this country – a choice that they made plain that they wish to exercise in last year's Holyrood elections. Douglas Ross lost that election. 

At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross bemoaned the teachers, police officers, nurses and public services that could have been paid for with that £20m. However, the sum being spent on the jubilee is 650 times greater than that being spent on the referendum that Scottish democracy demands. You won't hear Douglas Ross complaining about that. Like the rest of his party, he is far too busy wrapping himself in a Union flag and, without a scintilla of self-awareness, railing about the evils of nationalism.

As the First Minister pointed out, the Scottish Government is forced to spend £700 million annually in order to mitigate the impact of Conservative policy decisions which Scotland didn't vote for. That is 35 times the amount spent on another referendum, and unlike the referendum, which will be a one-off because Yes is going to win, Scotland has to spend that £700 million as a part of the UK to protect Scotland from the worst effects of Conservative policies year after year after year.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll published today found that support for independence is at 50% and that the same number want an independence referendum within the term of the current Scottish Parliament.  A further 15% believe that while there should be another referendum, it should be later than 2026.  Fully 65% of people in Scotland support holding another referendum, with only 31% saying that there should never be another referendum.

We are going into this campaign with a strong and solid base of support from which to make the arguments for independence. Our opponents have nothing to offer but nationalistic flag-shagging, fear-mongering and threats and a Brexit Britain which has trashed its international reputation.

On the other hand, among European countries, there is now considerably greater sympathy for, and understanding of, Scottish independence. The British Government will struggle to find the international figures to speak out against independence that they deployed in 2014.

The next referendum will have a very different character from the first. During the first referendum, opponents of independence maintained an airy superiority about the supposed quality of British institutions and even went so far as to claim that it was only the British state which guaranteed the continuation of democracy in Scotland.

Given the travesty of Johnson's regime and the Conservative assault on democratic safeguards and any means by which British Government ministers can be held to account, that's no longer an argument that they can convincingly make. The protection of democracy itself will be a central issue in the coming referendum.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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