WE’VE all become a little used to political hypocrisy and inconsistency in the last few years – it’s what happens when you reduce complicated arguments to four little words: yes, no, leave or remain. But even by recent standards, the hypocrisy on show in the last few days and weeks has been staggering.

Take Michael Gove for example. Arguing in favour of Theresa May’s Brexit deal at the weekend, the Environment Secretary and arch-Leaver said a no-deal would be bad for the British economy. He did not blink; he did not blush. He also said a second EU referendum would damage people’s faith in the political system – in other words, his argument was that holding a democratic vote would damage the principle of holding democratic votes.

Nadine Dorries, another ardent Brexiter, has been at it as well. Asked a few days ago why she didn’t support Mrs May’s deal, the Conservative MP said it would leave the UK without any influence in Europe. “This deal gives us no voice, no votes, no MEPs, no commissioner,” she said. In other words, her argument was that we shouldn’t support the deal to end Britain’s representation in the EU because it ends Britain’s representation in the EU.

The inconsistencies have not been confined to Conservatives either. In her reaction to the withdrawal deal, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she could not support it because it would make Scots £1600 worse off. “In short, it will make us poorer,” she said, just five years after she argued independence would leave Scots £600 better off. In other words, her argument is that leaving a union of nations is economically disastrous unless leaving a union of nations is economically brilliant. Both are true. It is both good and bad at the same time. Perhaps Erwin Schrodinger could have explained it using his cat.

These inconsistencies can be infuriating, but they’ve been happening in recent years for one reason only. Since 2012 – thanks to David Cameron and Alex Salmond (cheers guys) – we have all been forced to live on a landscape dominated by two referendums, the one on independence and the one on Brexit, and this fact distorts everything else. Once you’re standing next to a Yes banner or a Leave poster, all other issues start to become defined by that position. What matters is Yes or Leave and other subjects are moved around to fit the bigger picture, however hypocritical or inconsistent you need to be.

The nationalists in particular have been called out for this approach many times, most recently at the weekend when former PM Gordon Brown said the SNP were prioritising independence over the health service. “SNP ministers are far more likely to wake up in the morning planning for independence than worrying about our NHS,” he said.

Jackson Carlaw, the deputy leader of the Scottish Tories who’s been standing in for Ruth Davidson while she’s on maternity leave, made a similar accusation – one that he’s learned to make at the feet of his leader. The First Minister, said Mr Carlaw, was dog-whistling to her supporters over independence, but the Conservatives were ready for her. “If that is the platform on which she wants to conduct the next Scottish elections, then we are ready for that,” he said. “We would run on a pro-Union ticket, saying that if people voted for us there would be no further independence referendum.”

In some ways, you can understand why Mr Carlaw and Ms Davidson say this kind of thing because an anti-referendum message seemed to serve them well at the 2017 General Election. But accusing the SNP of being obsessed with independence looks like yet another example of referendum-induced hypocrisy. The Tories point at the SNP and cry “obsession” and yet take a look at the recent BBC research on First Minister’s Questions and you can see that in the first six months of 2017, independence came up 17 times and on 11 of those occasions, it was the Conservatives who raised it. Of course, FMQs is only a small part of the picture and the SNP is a party predicated on independence, but even so: it is an interesting indication that in pointing the finger at the SNP, the Tories are in some ways pointing at themselves.

And there’s a bigger truth at work as well, which is that the Conservatives are only doing what we’re all doing – their hypocrisy is the hypocrisy of us all. In the heat of the arguments we’ve been having for six years now, we will often accuse someone else of being obsessed with independence or Brexit while spending most of our time talking about little else. Isn’t the truth that everyone is obsessed with referendums now?

Partly, the obsession is because referendums provide the illusion of a nice, easy-to-understand, binary issue, but their apparent strength is also their weakness. Referendums may seem to offer an easy solution (Leave the Union! Don’t leave the Union!) but, in fact, they are fiendishly complicated and resolve nothing. They also create two camps that are willing to sacrifice subtlety and consistency for the greater cause.

If there is anyone in the middle of this mess who can claim at least some consistency, perhaps it is those who argued in 2014 for Scotland staying in the UK and then argued in 2016 for the UK staying in the EU. In both cases, the argument was broadly the same – that economically and socially we are better off working very closely with other nations, although to be honest no one really emerges from the guddle with much credit.

Perhaps, in the end, the search for consistency is futile, but until we get over our obsession with referendums, nothing much is likely to change. Indeed, we are now close to establishing a principle that the solution to referendums is more referendums, which, for Scots, raises the prospect of indyref2, indyref3, indyrefadinfinitum.

For nationalists, this will sound absolutely fine on the basis of the Oprah Winfrey principle – you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. But for many voters, it sounds like more of the horrible same: one issue above all others, inconsistency, hypocrisy, and the same old monolith standing over our political landscape, casting a shadow over everything.