A few weeks ago the First Minister started re-framing her goal of independence, not as a response to Brexit but what she termed a “choice” facing Scotland.

Either, in her own words, Scotland is “content for our future to be dictated by an increasingly right-wing Westminster government” or “we take our future into our own hands”. Furthermore, added Nicola Sturgeon, it was “becoming ever clearer that this is a choice that Scotland must make”.

Subsequent events have apparently served to vindicate the SNP leader’s analysis. Last week the Supreme Court ruled that ministers need only consult Westminster rather than the UK’s devolved bodies when it comes to Brexit, while Theresa May’s needlessly tardy response to the US President’s border controls fuels the standard Nationalist narrative about nasty Tories versus enlightened Scots.

Read more: May warns Sturgeon of disagreements ahead on Brexit

It matters not that the Supreme Court told us nothing we didn’t already know, that the Scottish Parliament is devolved and the Sewel Convention precisely that, or that foreign and trade policy usually involves compromise (the Scottish Government, for example, routinely panders to undemocratic and unpleasant governments in Asia and the Gulf), for what matters is the overall narrative.

And the current narrative from a Unionist point of view is undoubtedly bad. Scottish Conservatives have embarrassed themselves by prematurely hailing the Prime Minister’s US trip as a “triumph”, while the often-bonkers stuff from Brexiters – I couldn’t care less about a bust of Sir Winston Churchill – serves to vindicate the long-standing SNP caricature of the UK as beyond redemption.

This approach, however, has its limitations. Firstly, many Nationalists have inhabited the moral high ground for so long they find it difficult to comprehend that a majority of Scots don’t necessarily share their outrage about Brexit/immigration controls/welfare cuts, but surely if 2016’s taught us anything it’s that there’s often a sizeable gap between the “liberal elite” consensus and what a lot of voters actually think.

Thus the SNP’s recent pivot: Brexit alone hasn’t provided them with the traction necessary to take the plunge and hold another independence referendum; to their evident surprise, all that stuff about Scotland being an “ancient European nation” doesn’t really resonate beyond the West End of Glasgow. Rather most Scots appear to have accepted it’s happening and that the Scottish Government’s attempt to broker a “compromise” isn’t credible (today the First Minister will have another quixotic stab during a "crucial" meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in Cardiff).

Worse, the Scottish Government’s (qualified) Europhilia is now seriously alienating those few hundred thousand Yes/Leave voters who naturally don’t take kindly to being told they voted the wrong way. This is clearly causing serious concern among Nationalist number-crunchers, thus the return to good old-fashioned 1980s Tory-bashing in the hope that those Yes/Leavers might return to the fold.

Read more: May warns Sturgeon of disagreements ahead on Brexit

Presumably the SNP will try that narrative for a bit, monitor the polls and keep their options open, plus ça change. I’ll be very surprised, however, if it moves the needle, for not only is the Scotland good/English bad narrative almost as old as I am, but a) it comes across as a bit preachy and b) it simply doesn’t cancel out legitimate concerns about everything that created doubts about the independence proposition back in 2014, i.e. the Holy Trinity of currency, oil and the fiscal deficit.

Sure, a newly-independent Scotland might want to play nice on the world stage, standing up to Donald Trump, opening its borders and only trading with the good guys, but not only would realpolitik temper all those admirable goals but its government would, at least initially, have considerably less cash with which to spread joy up to the maximum. Happy days would not necessarily be here again.

Nevertheless, as I’ve long argued, the First Minister’s rhetoric since last June has left her and her party with diminishing room for manoeuvre. Ms Sturgeon has already ruled out a second referendum this year, and holding one in 2019 isn’t logistically credible, which leaves 2018. Alex Salmond has been touring the studios punting autumn as the point of decision, and it makes a lot of sense, not least because it has to take place within the “Brexit window”.

So over the next 18 months things look likely to fall into place. At the SNP’s spring conference in a few weeks’ time their leader could make another announcement about the necessary legislation, while Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission will publish its thoughts on the Holy Trinity outlined above. And as the Brexit negotiations unfold in an inevitably messy fashion, the Scottish Government will repeat, mantra-like, “we told you so”.

Senior Unionists certainly no longer believe that Ms Sturgeon is bluffing about wanting another referendum, although there’s surprise at the ratcheting up of the rhetoric when the circumstances don’t seem very favourable (i.e. sluggish economic growth and an increasingly poor domestic record). And that, of course, means the UK Government faces a dilemma of its own when Edinburgh formally requests another Section 30 Order.

Read more: May warns Sturgeon of disagreements ahead on Brexit

This is interesting, for despite all the talk of Ms Sturgeon being irredeemably cautious (I should declare an interest), she might actually be shaping up to be a bigger gambler than her predecessor. While it’s often forgotten that he too was a prisoner of events (a surprise majority at the 2011 Holyrood election), Alex Salmond had relatively little to lose. His successor, on the other hand, has everything to lose in calling – and potentially losing – another referendum.

The few Nationalists that still speak to me, however, seem quite upbeat. They regard the past few days as politically useful, enabling them to cast a second referendum as that clear choice between two futures, either Little England or internationalist Scotland. They think, perhaps with good reason, that we’re still in the phoney war when it comes to the economic consequences of Brexit, and thus independence will appear more and more palatable over the next year and a half.

Furthermore, they believe most of those Yes/Leavers will, come the crunch, back independence in Europe, carried along by what one insider calls the “key theme” – the prospect of Trump’s “maternal homeland rejecting his plans for the world”. As I said, I remain dubious that such a “choice” will necessarily work in the Nationalists’ favour, for it’s not inconceivable that a slim majority of Scots would actually prefer being “dictated” to by a right-wing Westminster government to the uncertainty of independence, but only a fool would make the call.

The late Tam Dalyell famously described devolution as “motorway to independence” without any exits, and at least one of his obituarists deemed that analysis correct. Who knows what Scotland, the UK, Europe and indeed the world will look like by the end of next year.