SUDDENLY, it's not a problem.
Delaying the independence referendum until 2014? Yeah, sure, go ahead – whatever. The Prime Minister has made clear that he is no longer "fussed" about the timing of Scotland's date with constitutional destiny.
Wonder what's changed? Well, I think the UK Government has realised what this column has been saying all along, that delaying the referendum is not necessarily good for the independence cause.
Exactly why the Coalition was so exercised about the SNP's autumn 2014 timetable was never entirely clear.
Presumably, Number 10 thought that wily Alex Salmond would spend the next two and a half years hypnotising Scots into thinking they were already in the early days of a better nation.
But it isn't looking like that any more. After the SNP's setback in the local elections two weeks ago, the UK Government has remembered the oldest lesson in politics: that all governments become unpopular eventually, and they become most unpopular in the political mid term, just when the SNP is planning to hold its referendum.
Now, before the cybernats turn their flame-throwers on me, let me concede right away that the local elections were not technically a defeat for the SNP. Indeed, technically they were a considerable success, with the SNP gaining more seats and more votes than in 2007.
But perception is everything in politics, and it certainly looks as if the SNP bandwagon has stalled in Scotland's major cities.
The SNP and its leader are still popular, of course, and were there an election tomorrow in Holyrood, the Nationalists would be returned, almost certainly, as the largest party.
But there isn't going to be an election tomorrow, and this is precisely the point. There are only events, dear boy, events.
The Greek crisis may not seem to have any direct bearing on the timing of the referendum, but of course it does. UK ministers believe it could be the ultimate independence-killer, and not only because it is about a small country on the periphery of Europe getting a hard time for living beyond its means.
The climate of uncertainty that the Greek crisis is generating could make it very difficult for the SNP to win a referendum in two years' time.
It takes a great deal of self-confidence to leave a union, any union. Greece may not like the ECB/IMF bail-out terms and doesn't want austerity, but 70% of Greeks still want to remain in the eurozone.
This may seem like having your cake and eating it – or not eating it as in Greece's case – but it is a natural response to economic crisis. People will always prefer a known quantity over a leap in the dark.
No-one is suggesting that Scotland would be in the same boat as Greece if we left the UK – but they don't have to. Becoming independent inevitably involves an element of the unknown, and the UK Government believes that this uncertainty will be enough to persuade Scots that they should stick with the Union.
The only certainty about Europe in the next few years is that it is going to be in a state of unresolved crisis. If Greece actually leaves the euro and defaults on its debt, there would immediately be chaos across the eurozone. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and possibly Italy would be in danger of serial default too because bond-holders would rack up the interest they charge on those countries' already unsustainable debt.
The risk of contagion is very real, and no-one should be under any illusions that an "orderly departure" of Greece is likely or even possible.
And even if Greece remains in the eurozone the medium term forecast is still bleak. The ECB/IMF austerity measures are plunging the Mediterranean states into a double-dip recession – bringing mass unemployment and political instability.
In Spain, more than half of all young people are workless. As the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, observed yesterday, the EU institutions seem incapable of preventing Europe "tearing itself apart" in this orgy of fiscal self-destruction.
All of which means that the 2014 independence referendum could be taking place at a very difficult moment politically. Alex Salmond's popularity will be on the wane, the economic situation will be deteriorating, the eurozone will be in turmoil.
In these circumstances, the UK might look like a safe haven from the European storm. Indeed, sterling is already a safe haven for investors right now. Britain may have a deficit larger than Spain's, but because Britain is not in the eurozone the pound is rising in value as investors park their money here until they see how the euro crisis pans out.
And there is a more fundamental, ideological problem for the SNP arising from the euro shambles. For the last 20 years, SNP policy has been based on "Independence in Europe" and this slogan has allowed many non-nationalists to support the party on the grounds that Scotland is not "going it alone" but joining a supra-national Europe in which borders are fading.
But it looks as if that Europe is dying before our eyes. Nations and boundaries and divisions are re-asserting themselves in a way that can only dismay liberals and internationalists.
We see Greece refusing to bend before austerity measures that they believe are dictated by Germany. In the German press there is open contempt for the "profligate" Mediterranean states that are supposedly getting a free ride on the back of the German economic powerhouse. Parties of the Right are on the march from Finland to Belgium.
This new European nationalism is bad news for the civic nationalists of the SNP. Suddenly Europe no longer looks like an alternative to petty-minded British nationalism.
The European Union is a misnomer. They thought they had created a union without boundaries, a United States of Europe. But they've discovered that it is still a collection of countries that pursue their own national interests.
The danger for the Nationalists is that Scottish independence might come to look like an avoidable part of the chaotic renationalisation of Europe.
Are Scottish voters seriously going to vote for independence while Europe is fragmenting into bitter national rivalries? David Cameron doesn't think so. You don't move house when the town is burning down. Perhaps the SNP should think of shelving the referendum until 2017.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.