WHAT do I see when I look back at 2019? I see Boris Johnson punching the air at the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn, and I see Nicola Sturgeon clenching her fists in joy at the defeat of the LibDem leader Jo Swinson, and I see the hands of nationalism tightening their grip on British politics. How do I feel? Depressed.

It wasn’t all bad though – 2019 was the year we saw Julian Assange being carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and Prince Andrew’s reputation being carried out of Buckingham Place, and milkshake running down Nigel Farage’s suit, and Donald Trump being impeached. In many ways, 2019 was the year that took revenge on arrogant men. We like 2019 for that.

As for what 2019 did for Scotland, I like that much less, although I do think some of the trends that started in 2018 have hardened into lessons about where Scottish politics is now. I also think we can make a few predictions about 2020. Let’s meet here again in a year’s time and see if I was right.

Lesson one: the nationalist vote is resilient but so is the unionist one

Why on earth didn’t the polls on independence move much in 2019? We had chaos at Westminster, Boris Johnson as PM, and there was a risk of a no-deal Brexit – surely that should have been enough to send support for independence soaring, to the accompaniment of bagpipes? And yet: no. The polls in Scotland stayed much the same.

READ MORE: Alan Roden: Sturgeon. Corbyn. Cameron. They are all to blame for the Brexit crisis 

Why this might be is hard to say, but some of it could be because people underestimate the views of a particular type of voter: the type that feels Scottish, British and European and doesn’t want to choose.

I got some help in understanding who this kind of voter is from a conversation I had in 2019 with the granddaughter of John Buchan. Ursula Buchan told me the great man was neither unionist nor nationalist but “unionist-nationalist” with concentric loyalties – and this type of Scot still exists. Like nationalists, they are attached to their country, but they make decisions on the economic facts. They are also unlikely to be impressed by the idea of putting a nation’s interests first whatever the consequences, as in “Scotland First”.

I think this unionist-nationalist approach still represents a strong strand of opinion and explains why the SNP’s slogans ring hollow for some people. It also explains why many voters are turned off by the independence marches. There were more of them in 2019 and, as usual, the marchers seemed to think they represented the majority. But perhaps the SNP should consider the voters who didn’t march. Might they see the flags and hear the chants and think: these are not the people for me?

The SNP is unlikely to attract greater support until they focus less on the mind of the marcher and more on the mind of the unionist-nationalist.

Lesson two: Our political system is busted

We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament in 2019 but we should also remember what Tony Blair said when we first voted for it. Speaking in Edinburgh after the devolution referendum in 1997, Mr Blair said that “the benefit of the referendum will not just be here in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom.” If only he’d been right.

In fact, the election we’ve just been through proves that, 20 years on, the effect of the 1997 referendum has not been felt far enough. The UK is ruled by a Tory government supported by 43% of the voters and the SNP won the vast majority of the constituencies even though they got less than half the vote. We also have a regressive UK first-past-the-post system (that’s likely to return Tory governments) sitting above a Scottish PR system. Not only does such a system fail to accurately represent public opinion, it is built on differences that the SNP can constantly agitate about. The only answer is to fix the imbalance with a properly federal system based on PR across the UK.

All of which leads to a couple of quick predictions.

READ MORE: Honour the truly deserving, not failures like Sir Iain 

Prediction one: The Alex Salmond trial will make no difference to support for independence

There was a school of thought among Scottish Tories that the general election should be put off until after Alex Salmond’s trial on charges of sexual assault so the Tories could benefit from the bad press for the SNP, but the trial in 2020 is unlikely to change many minds on politics. Independence has always been a strong strand of Scottish opinion and, seen in the historical context, the travails of Mr Salmond are unlikely to have very much effect at all. The loyalists will stay loyal; others will try to judge independence on the facts.

Prediction two: Support for independence will not rise significantly in 2020

I keep thinking of something the former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said to me when I interviewed this year. The Brexit vote, she said, was a textbook demonstration of the type of chaos we would face if we were suddenly in negotiations over Scottish independence. “The interlinking of the 300 years of union has been much, much deeper than the 40 years of European union,” she said.

Jo Swinson may have gone on to be defeated at the election, but a lot of voters in Scotland think the same way as her, and are therefore unlikely to consider switching their support to independence until we are much clearer about the consequences of Brexit. This means that (for the time-being at least) the opposite of what was expected will happen: instead of Brexit fuelling support for independence, it is likely to keep support for unionism roughly where it is.

This will not last forever of course, because Brexit will become less and less of a prediction and more and more of a reality. It is also entirely possible that we are at the start of a process similar to the one that led to devolution in the 1990s. Thirty years ago, a consensus grew that a referendum on devolution was the right way forward. With some in Scottish Labour starting to peel off, 2020 may be the start of a similar process on a second referendum on independence.