SLOWLY but surely the lights are going out on European democracy.

Across the continent, right-wing and far-right political parties are growing in electoral strength.

For the first time since the Second World War, extreme nationalist parties are gaining an electoral foothold and becoming legitimised. Meanwhile, moderate social democratic parties of the left are in historic decline.

This weekend’s rioting in France may indicate intense frustration in the immigrant banlieue suburbs. But it also reveals a lumpen anarchism and governmental paralysis that will only embolden the French far right under Marine Le Pen.

The French presidential elections due in 2027 will likely sweep away the centre parties as well as the socialists.

It is against this ominous political backcloth that we need to assess the future direction of the national movement in Scotland and the likely failure of the Starmer government after the next UK General Election, in 2024.

Both the indy movement in Scotland and Starmer’s colourless, clueless version of social democracy are pretending that the political firmament is unchanging. A few tweaks here and everything will be hunky dory.

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An independent Scotland will slide effortlessly into the Big Brother EU – Humza Yousaf’s latest pronouncement is, effectively, a decision to adopt the euro on independence.

Meantime, a Starmer government (advised by a resurrected Tony Blair) will magic away double-digit inflation, rock-bottom UK productivity and the fiscal black hole that constitutes the NHS. And pigs might fly.

Unfortunately for the intense navel contemplating that constitutes British liberal political dialogue, Europe has moved on. Everywhere the political right is on the rise – a nasty, illiberal, bellicose, economically autarkic, racist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, antisemitic, protectionist right.

And there are no US liberals – no Franklin Roosevelt or John F Kennedy – riding to the rescue. Politics there, too, is degenerating into isolationism and suicidal culture conflicts that presage a new civil war. Nowhere does the left, or liberal centre, understand that a gestalt shift is taking place.

Look at just the past few weeks

In Greece, the leftish Syriza government has been swept away.

While the Greek maritime authorities were blithely ignoring the drowning of 500 immigrants, a right-wing New Democracy government was elected, its parliamentary majority buttressed by the arrival of Spartans, a new, semi-fascist party.

A decade of EU-imposed austerity has demoralised the Greek population, crushed any hope of an alternative political vision, and reinvigorated militant nationalism.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the nasty, far-right Vox party gained ground in May’s local and regional elections. Vox have now entered regional coalitions with the mainstream conservative People’s Party, the PP.

The National: Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox partySantiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party (Image: AP)

Spain is holding a full general election later this month. The PP and Vox seem on course to win a majority, ousting the Spanish Labour Party from office.

The Spanish left are badly split and the radical Podemos group has lost electoral support. Podemos promised much but compromised in coalition with the Spanish Labour Party. Again, disillusion with the left has opened the door to the intransigent right.

A similar story emerged in the Finnish elections in April.

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The traditional Social Democrats lost power to the conservative National Coalition Party which entered government in partnership with The Finns, an ethno-nationalist, anti-immigration swamp.

Again, The Finns group has won normally left-wing voters by it more consistent anti-globalist, anti-EU agenda. There is a consistent pattern across Europe of working-class disenchantment with the left’s inability to confront neoliberalism translating into support for right-wing, populist movements.

These mix ethno-nationalism and left-sounding, interventionist economics

Where did we last see that historically?

The difference this time around is that in country after European country, the old, post-war taboos about letting far rightists enter coalitions with mainstream conservative groups is breaking down. A Rubicon was crossed last year when Giorgia Meloni, an avowed admirer of Mussolini, became Italy’s first far-right prime minister since… er, Il Duce himself.

The National: Giorgia Meloni Prime Minister of Italy and Viktor Orban Prime Minister of HungaryGiorgia Meloni Prime Minister of Italy and Viktor Orban Prime Minister of Hungary (Image: PA)

The end of the taboo on letting fascists enter European governments has come about because 1) traditional social democrats are no longer strong enough to shame conservatives into avoiding deals with the ultra-right; and 2) because the political boundaries between traditional conservatives and the ultra-right are being eroded through a common appeal to populism.

Witness the UK Tories, who are now an unstable melange of economic liberals, social conservatives, English ethno-nationalists and Big Government populists.

The result across Europe is that the newly legitimised far-right is becoming emboldened. Eventually, as in the 1930s, the fascists will devour the conservatives.

To date, the brake on this process of legitimisation has been in Germany and France. But in the former last month, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) won for the first time a district election, in Sonneberg, despite the opposition of all the mainstream parties.

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AfD is now ahead of the governing Social Democrats in German polls. Some in the conservative Christian Democrats are arguing that if voters are prepared to elect AfD candidates (especially in East Germany) then there should be no barrier to a coalition of the centre-right and far-right in Berlin.

In France, the collapse of the Socialist Party – plus the absorption and destruction of the French centre by the lacklustre Emmanuel Macron – has opened the road for Marine Le Pen to enter the Elysee.

Note: both Le Pen and Italy’s Meloni have shown a canny ability to moderate their public stance, particularly their opposition to the EU, in order to win mainstream votes. But this should not be seen as a mellowing of the ultra-right. It is only the cat playing with the mouse.

The National: French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (Image: Getty Images)

In this analysis, the UK has been an outlier to date. Social democracy – at least in its pale, Starmer version – has not collapsed but shows every sign of winning the next General Election.

However, Starmer and his acolytes have effectively destroyed and expelled the old left in the Labour Party. There is now absolutely nothing to the left of the Blairites in British politics. If Starmer fails to deliver on inflation and the cost of living – and he will fail to deliver because he is such a cautious soul – then the door is open to the populist, anti-immigration right to win mass support.

The Tories are deeply divided and carry a lot of baggage after their disastrous period in office. They are likely either to split or be captured by the ultra-right. Or the traditional inertia of British politics will condemn us to another generation of drift.

And in Scotland?

The SNP’s Dundee convention was akin to an AA meeting in which confirmed addicts gather together for mutual comfort. The party’s leadership – and such of its leading lights who do not intend to retire next year – seem unwilling or unable to comprehend the changing European reality.

Will a Europe dominated or influenced by the likes of Le Pen, Meloni, Vox, and the AfD really welcome an independent Scotland into its ranks?

This is not a counsel to turn our backs on Europe per se. Progressives everywhere need to unite to build a European-wide resistance against the new far-right and simultaneously against the Nato warmongers who are using the Russo-Ukraine conflict as a pretext for a new global arms race.

We definitely need new European institutions now that the old ones have proven so useless.