FIRSTLY, we congratulate Scotland’s newest MP.

In a 37% turnout at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, the majority of those who were able to vote clearly think their interests are best served by Michael Shanks. He will now join Labour ’s other MP from Scotland at Westminster .

A great deal will now be read into this result. Most of it will be nonsense and I have no wish to add to the detritus that will flow from other, better-compensated pens. I’d rather look at the bigger picture. But before we move on here are a few hard facts.

One, the SNP and the independence ­movement need to be more assertive. Being nice is nice, but nice guys don’t always win. The 2014 referendum was lost because the Yes campaign naively believed that hope conquers fear. The unrelenting negative campaigning from the No side was dismissed as mere ­scaremongering, that would be rejected by the people. ­Experience showed otherwise.

The relentless Yes positivity was akin to a ­golfer with only one club, believing that ­profound faith would carry the day. We all wish it might be otherwise, but fear needs to be fought with fear. The No side understood that fear works. They had a better understanding of the human condition.

Of course, introducing a third option a week before polling and against the rules didn’t hurt either.

Two, the result will quickly be overtaken by events. A UK General Election looms next year. Mr Shanks’s time at Westminster may be short-lived. Even if he outlives the coming General Election, he is unlikely to survive the next when the Tories will return.

Now the focus will be exclusively on the ­bogus competition between Labour and the ­Tories. The General Election will be fought on ­cultural ­issues because in policy terms, it is ­almost ­impossible to squeeze a cigarette paper between the two parties. What does that mean?

It means that there will be no real discussion on what really matters to people – the cost of living, homelessness, soaring rents, a declining NHS, and so forth. Rather, the news agenda will be stuffed with immigration and gender stories.

In a race to the bottom, both main UK ­parties will wrap themselves in the flag. Patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, will be to the fore. Every decision will be couched in terms of what is good only for Britain. Hang the environment and care for one’s fellow man, or woman. ­Every form of socialism will be denounced – by all Westminster parties.

Internal party dissension will be ruthlessly crushed. Sorry, Mr Shanks, if you thought being at Westminster would help your constituents. Gutter politics will reign supreme.

As for Scotland’s football games appearing on television, you can forget that. If you think the UK is falling into an economic abyss with few friends in the international community, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Talking about the international community brings us neatly to the cover of Time magazine. It features Humza Yousaf, the First Minister of Scotland.

Why does that matter?

Actually, it matters a great deal. History tells us repeatedly that independence comes when the pressure on the controlling entity – in our case Westminster – becomes unbearable. This is generally due to a combination of factors, ­internal and external. Freedom movements ­succeed when internal turmoil makes the cost of governing unsustainable in economic terms. The price of holding on exceeds the cost of ­letting go.

The UK is destined for economic decay. The Brexit torpedo has holed the SS Great Britain below the waterline. It cannot be fixed without the vessel returning to dry dock for a complete service. Nothing less will do.

Instead, passengers will look on helplessly as colossal efforts are used to “make Brexit work”. That is, to keep the ship afloat with temporary patches. Any resultant movement will be erratic at best and bring about a more rapid sinking at worst.

Independence movements need ­international support unless they can call upon the aid of a powerful ally. And pressure from the ­international community can be game-changing when linked to internal disorder.

Up to now, official support for ­independence has been muted. The UK is still a player ­internationally. But it is increasingly seen as a player that cheats.

Perfidious Albion has ­returned, with a ­vengeance. When Westminster governments boast of breaking internal treaties and brag about junking human rights commitments, the world notices.

It creates a sense of alienation. The ­international community does not need ­another pariah state. It has its ways of dealing with countries that scorn international rules. Trade becomes more difficult, research dries up and corporate headquarters move.

Read the runes. Humza Yousaf on the front page of Time is more than a straw in the wind. It signals a real change.