FEW people before 1989 were brave enough to suggest that the Soviet Union would disappear. But it did at that. Today we have Vlad the Invader celebrating the czars and pretending he is the successor of Peter the Great – with an economy the size of Spain’s and an army that turns out to be pretty ineffective at anything other than lobbing shells at a distance.

My point is that the world never stands still. That things we take for granted can melt into thin air. And the next thing to melt is likely to be the United States of America. There is every chance that over the next few years the US will either break up or at least sink into a new and deadly civil war. The US is a society divided as at no time since its last civil conflict and with no hint of compromise between its warring factions. And if America collapses so will the world as we know it.

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Last week the House of Representatives began televised hearings into the attempted – if slightly farcical – invasion of Congress in January last year, encouraged if not instigated by Donald Trump in a bid to reverse his ouster by the American electorate.

The point is that the Republican Party has capitulated to Trump, is refusing to support these hearings and will certainly make sure they become a dead letter. Let me remind you that seven deaths were attributed to the attack on Congress.

Trump himself is preparing another run for the presidency as the Biden-Harris administration sinks in popularity. Biden’s approval rating is down to minus 13 points while Harris – originally seen as a shoo-in for first female president – is on minus 12. Meanwhile, in the next presidential stakes, Trump is polling ahead of Biden. As for this year’s mid-term congressional elections, the pro-Trump Republicans seem set to win a big majority in the House, to very likely win the Senate and to grab most of the available governorships. That will put paid to any hope of gun control and presage many states effectively banning access to abortion.

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The thought of another Trump White House seems ghastly from this side of the Atlantic but just think what it feels like if you are actually living in the US. While I remain a sceptic regarding Nato expansion in eastern Europe, we might remember that President Trump put pressure on Ukraine’s newly-elected Zelenskyy to investigate the business dealings of Joe Biden and his son, under threat of withdrawal of vital US military aid. Trump cares more about his own political needs than foreign policy in Europe.

It is a moot point whether an isolationist Trump administration would limit weapons supplies to Ukraine or simply threaten to nuke Russia if it ignores US interests, as The Donald did recently in an interview with Piers Morgan. Either way, expect an incoming Trump administration to be very destabilising. And that includes threatening China.

Just for the record, Biden is no peace-loving alternative as his administration has raised US defence spending to record levels. Biden and Trump will fight the 2024 presidential election over who loves the military more.

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But the real danger from a second Trump presidency is that he alters the constitution – or tries to – in order to stay in power. Actually, given the gap in his sojourn in the White House, The Donald can do two more terms quite legally, taking him to 2032. Now that’s a thought.

He has already appointed a conservative majority to the Supreme Court. Another eight years in power will allow him to completely subvert the US constitution. And therein lies the possibility of either civil war or secession.

As we all know, to the cost of many innocent lives, America is awash with private guns, including heavy automatic weapons. In fact, there are more private guns than people. As a result, in 2020 some 45,000 Americans were gunned down. So any internal political conflict is going to be very bloody indeed. How might a civil war start?

In recent years, right-wing state governors have become increasingly prone to acting independently of the federal government, just as they did before the first Civil War. In 2015, the US army held an ordinary exercise (“Jade Helm 15”) which pretended that Texas and part of California were “hostile” territory, for training purposes.

However, the populist governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, was so worried that this could be a real federal takeover that he ordered out the state National Guard to shadow army special forces, lest they be involved in a real invasion. With paranoia like this, a civil war is an accident waiting to happen.

With Trump in the White House, the division between liberal, “blue” states and populist, “red” states will deepen. America will become politically deadlocked and start to tear itself apart. An increasingly populist, isolationist America means the end of globalisation and the partition of the world into blocs. This leaves the UK stuck precariously somewhere in mid-Atlantic, both politically and economically.

The implications for Scotland are many. I am one of those who is unconvinced there will be a vote on independence next year. As it is, the timetable for holding a referendum seems unconvincingly short. However, we might see the start of a prolonged legal battle to secure a vote – one that stretches out to the next Holyrood election.

But time is hardly on Scotland’s side. The deepening economic crisis coupled with a political meltdown in the US (and with it the existing world order) are hardly propitious conditions in which to attain a Yes majority. The longer the delay in securing an indy referendum, the less chance there is of winning it.

Of course, an alternative scenario could play out. The best solution to growing global uncertainty is for Scotland and its people to take power (and local resources) into their own hands – and as soon as possible. But that requires the SNP government to play hardball with Westminster. A strategy that relies on gentle persuasion and infinite patience is not going to work with the Johnson clique.

If Boris hangs on, he will reject a second referendum regardless. Thinking the Tories will bow to democratic pressure is naive. Remember how often they have broken international law and put two fingers to the world.

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Besides, the obvious source of outside democratic pressure to secure indyref2 would be from America. But the US is going to be fixated with its own problems for the next decade or so. And Trump is hardly going to urge Boris to let the Scots vote to quit the Union when, say, he is threatening to invade liberal California if it tries to secede.

Prior to Covid, when the independence movement was able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of supporters on the streets, there was much talk about peaceful civil disobedience as the route to securing a second referendum. The mood in the movement seems much more subdued in recent months. But we are now living in the most uncertain of worlds – starting with America.

Unless Scotland is willing to impose its own political agenda on events, we are likely to find ourselves in a permanent political and constitutional limbo.