WE are about to enter a new era in the relationship between politics, government and media in Scotland. In this respect I fear it is the Scottish media - newspapers in particular - which will be playing catch-up with public opinion.

For years our indigenous Scottish press has been mainly conservative, often with a capital C. Attitudes have not changed so greatly from the days when this paper, for example, was soft on apartheid and endorsed Ian Smith in what was once Rhodesia.

In Tayside the people have loyally bought the DC Thomson papers down through the generations and, for their trouble, have been been fed simplistic, Sunday Postish right-wing views. The fact that their readers remain oblivious and continue to vote Labour and SNP as usual suggests the papers - if not their journalists - are not exactly attuned to the public mood.

Only the Daily Record among the big Scottish papers is committed to Labour.

The rest start at the centre and progress to all points right and, in the case of the Daily Mail, off-the-wall right.

Before the General Election the Scottish edition of the Sun fleetingly backed the SNP, or at least Scottish independence, but that quickly faded when New Labour grovelled before Rupert Murdoch in return for editorial endorsement. I'll skip discussing some of the wackier behaviour of the Scotsman these days because it upsets them so.

The new breed of London-based, Scottish-printed papers, still coming to terms with the end of the Tory era, are not exactly sympathetic to much of Scottish opinion.

What we are left with, then, is a growing mismatch of Scottish public mood and editorial policy, and the big losers are, of course, the nationalists who enjoy no newspaper backing whatsoever - neither for their party nor for their prime objective of independence.

The signs are that politicians and the people are, however, changing even if newspapers are not, on the issue of independence.

Earlier this week the Scottish Socialist Voice announced that Scottish Militant Labour's executive now supports independence. Some Communists have long backed independence and the Greens do still. In the Labour Party the Scottish Labour Action group is openly nationalist and there are even Tories who, when pressed, will admit they would far rather settle for independence that devolution.

Granted, these are all minorities - but you know what they say about mickle and muckle.

How this disorganised alliance, if it progresses, might form itself in the Scottish Parliament will be interesting to watch. Labour will obviously be careful not to let too many candidates from its nationalist wing slip through the selection net. But it does seem certain that the SNP will be the second biggest party in the parliament and that it will find a measure of support for independence outside its own benches.

As matters stand now there is no sign of the SNP losing electoral ground as Labour predicted it would, come Home Rule. If anything, nationalism is gaining support especially in the context of elections for the Scottish Parliament, according to the polls.

The old left, too, is moving towards nationalism in this respect. Watching the progress of the independence-inclined Scottish Socialist Alliance will be interesting for that reason.

But what of the Scottish media which remains defiantly and unanimously Unionist? It does seem odd - not to say anti-democratic - that the second political force in Scotland in terms of votes, suffers a complete absence of editorial sympathy while the political Establishment of Tories and New Labour/Lib Dem pact partners, bask in the full constitutional endorsement of the press.

The roots of this perversity are deep in Scotland. Some of us are old enough to remember the Bulletin newspaper which flirted with nationalism in the 1950s. Its fate was to be closed while reportedly profitable and its editor fired. The lesson was not lost on succeeding generations of Scottish editors.

In those days the Scottish press perceived nationalists as cranks on the kilted fringe. To publicise their activities was seen as somehow irresponsible, almost disloyal.

No longer. In today's Scotland Alex Salmond can boast quite properly that Labour's devolution programme is running on SNP petrol. As Calum MacDonald said after the referendum: ''The nationalists are always there - like midges.''

And as the SNP responded: ''Midges make big men run.''

The nationalists are now talking seriously about contending as the first force in Scottish politics in the Holyrood elections in the spring of next year. Even if the SNP fails, it is very unlikely to go away.

You might disapprove of independence but there is no question it is a legitimate political objective with significant electoral support. For how much longer will the Scottish press conspire to unite against it?