IT’S safe to say that the anti-independence parties are running scared of another independence referendum and, indeed, of Scottish democracy in general.

There is none of the bravado of 2008 when Wendy Alexander, then-leader of the Labour contingent at Holyrood, dared Alex Salmond's minority government to "bring it on" when it called for an independence referendum. "I don't fear the verdict of the Scottish people – bring it on," Alexander said in May of that year.

Others in the Labour Party in Scotland at the time shared her confidence and urged her to "call Alex Salmond's bluff".

Of course, back then, Labour was buoyed up by 47 Holyrood seats, 46 out of the 59 Scottish Westminster seats, and was confident that it would regain its position as the largest party in Holyrood and would lead the Scottish Government following the next Holyrood elections.

Alexander's confidence was also bolstered by opinion polling which typically showed that the percentage of support for independence at the time hovered around the high 30s.

Alexander was slapped down by prime minister Gordon Brown, and it would be another six years before the referendum took place – a referendum which was won by the anti-independence side by a much smaller margin than its original confident predictions of a No vote of around 70%.

It was a campaign which forever changed the Scottish political landscape.

It normalised independence as a mainstream political idea in Scotland. Whether you support it or oppose it, after 2014, you had to take the idea of Scottish independence seriously.

No anti-independence politician can now realistically share Wendy Alexander's confidence.

They know that with opinion polling on support for independence versus opposition to it effectively neck and neck, they would be going into another referendum campaign facing the very likely prospect of losing it.

They also know that, in the shape of the corrupt serial liar Boris Johnson and the Anglo-British nationalism of the post-Brexit Tories, they are lumbered with a massively unpopular Prime Minister and a discredited Westminster system.

They will struggle badly to articulate an attractive and appealing case for the UK, and their betrayal of the promises and commitments they made in 2014 means that any Vow 2.0 will be ridiculed and not taken seriously.

It will only attract attention to their abject failure to fulfill their promises and remind everyone in Scotland that they cannot be trusted.

All that the No campaign has left are threats and scaremongering and dire warnings about how Scotland is supposedly a basket case.

This is not a political platform designed to inspire confidence. It is a platform aiming to do the opposite – and coming as it does from British nationalist parties with a justified reputation for lies and deceit, it risks backfiring badly.

So, it's no wonder that the anti-independence parties are desperate for the referendum not to happen.

However, they are hamstrung by their own rhetoric and mythology.

They cannot simultaneously tell Scotland that Holyrood's legitimate democratic mandate for another referendum will be vetoed by a desperately unpopular Prime Minister and the courts while at the same time maintaining the traditional Unionist understanding of the UK as a voluntary union of nations and respecting the Scottish Claim of Right which asserts that the people of Scotland have the right to choose the form of government best suited to their needs.

So, they are forced into vagueness, refusing to specify exactly what IS the democratic route to another referendum and claiming that "now is not the time" for another referendum without ever detailing what conditions must be met for the time to be right. It's a high-wire delaying tactic which cannot last long.

Eventually, the anti-independence parties are going to have to concede that it's for the people of Scotland, not them, to decide when the time is right for a referendum – and the people answered that question in last year's Holyrood election, or they are going to see the truly anti-democratic nature of the UK revealed.

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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