OVER the last decade, as insurgent political movements have surged across the world – some progressive, some profoundly reactionary and frankly terrifying – the response from critics has often been one of denial.

Whether it be Brexit and Donald Trump on the one hand or Corbynism and Scottish nationalism on the other, certain of their opponents tend to adopt a rather unpersuasive posture: That these are irrational outbreaks of political hysteria, that their foot soldiers are stupid and impervious to reason. A supposedly idyllic recent past, it seems, was suddenly disrupted by madness, like a civilised dinner party stormed by an uninvited mob.

The Scottish independence movement has long been used to such critiques, of course. A principled position Scottish Labour could long have adopted is to wholeheartedly back the right of Scotland to national self-determination, without requiring any embrace of independence. In the here and now, that means championing new devolved powers, but also handing Scotland the right to choose the timing of any potential independence referendum.

It is a democratic absurdity that the Scottish people can vote for a majority of parliamentarians who support such a referendum, and yet Westminster can promptly tell the Scottish electorate where to stick it. I may have found Boris Johnson’s Hard Brexit objectionable, but when a majority of MPs were elected to drive it through, that was deemed the inevitable outcome of parliamentary democracy.

The National: Keir Starmer

Yet this week, Labour MPs decisively voted against legislation granting Scotland the right to choose the timing of its own referendum. It gets worse. Sir Keir Starmer may have been named after Labour’s first Scottish leader, but he shows little interest in affairs north of the Border. This is hardly supposition. On Wednesday, Labour sent its parliamentary candidates a 24-page document described as a "campaigning bible", entitled "Let’s Get Britain Back". As glossy as it is lacking political substance, it had a big omission: the word Scotland didn’t appear once.

That all said, nothing beats Tory contempt for Scotland. The Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, has made it clear that the Westminster government will force Holyrood to cough up legal fees after shutting down the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party attempt to reform trans rights legislation in line with best practice in countries such as Spain, Belgium and Denmark. At best, it smacks of a type of a form petty score settling.

All of this offers important reminders for those of us who hail from a British socialist tradition, including plastic northerners who abandoned Mancunian roots for the capital, like yours truly. We have sometimes appeared arrogant and haughty ourselves, coming across as though we’re waiting for our Scottish brethren to snap out of it and join English and Welsh sisters and brothers in a great struggle to forge a new progressive Britain. 

READ MORE: Owen Jones: The Keir Starmer soundbite that sums up Labour's weakness

The struggle to build new societies which place human need – rather than the profit motive – at their heart goes on, of course, but I confess we are taking something of a scenic route to get there these days. The Tories combine ruinous economic policies with toxic forms of nationalism, demagoguery and right-wing populism. Labour, on the other hand, aren’t even bothering to propose a hopeful alternative.

So it’s easy to see why many in Scotland are more interested in other options. Here’s a nation, after all, which consistently voted against Thatcherism, but still suffered its catastrophic consequences, like losing a fifth of its workforce in its first two years. As for the Tories’ recent benighted term in office: One study suggests that more than 300,000 deaths in Scotland are linked to austerity. Being saddled with a central government you don’t like is one thing: It being a matter of life and death is another.

The Tories are on their way out, and that is certainly something to cheer. What is so striking about this particular stretch of Tory rule is that, even on its own terms, it has nothing to show. There are those of us who despise Thatcherism, but we can hardly deny it achieved the goals it set itself, alas with catastrophic consequences in both the short and long term. This breed of Toryism has only brought an unprecedented squeeze of living standards, stagnant growth, a crumbling public realm, the cruel vilification of vulnerable groups, and general political turmoil.

The National: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with Eastleigh FC players and staff during a visit to Silverlake

READ MORE: Owen Jones: Are Labour and the Tories really the same now?

So it may seem a safe bet to some to believe that, when Rishi Sunak – if he even makes it to the General Election – is turfed out of office, Scottish nationalism will be permanently slain. Keir Starmer will undoubtedly enjoy something of a honeymoon across our nations, just because relief at the political demise of Toryism will be so palpable.

I’m not so sure. What drove so many into the arms of Scottish independence wasn’t a Braveheart re-enactment or blood and soil nationalism, but disillusionment with a manifestly unjust society. Starmerism has made it clear that a Labour government won’t redistribute wealth and power – it even toys with cutting taxes on the rich – and it certainly hasn’t committed to the sort of investment required to rebuild our nations. As a political project, it doesn’t seem to have that much interest in Scotland at all.

The Scottish independence movement has had a rocky year, for sure. But all of the underlying social crises which drove it in the first place haven’t gone away – if anything, they’ve intensified. Its critics may find themselves bewildered all over again.