THE ongoing struggle for an independent Scotland has been a fruitful one for the SNP’s sprawling executive suite. The party has governed Scotland for almost three-quarters of Holyrood’s devolved existence. Only one of those end-of-days prophecies that the cheery Mayans left behind, it seems can prevent them running Scotland for the next decade or so. By that time even President Vladimir Putin might be casting an envious eye towards Edinburgh.

Since 2007, it’s begun to dawn on some among Scotland’s professional classes that by joining the SNP they too stand a decent chance of securing a seat at Holyrood or Westminster for a few years. Obviously, it helps if you can negotiate a career holiday with your legal partners or council bosses and the kids are all packed off to university and your second home in the Highlands can be rented out. After that, it’s a matter of hosting your fair share of webinars and attending the requisite number of leadership conferences that happen three times every day in Scotland.

And if you don’t actually get a nomination first time around there’s always a quango that’ll take you while you wait your turn. Besides, it’ll give you the chance to brush up on your paradigm-shifts, your laser-focusing, your interfacing and all those other locutions that belong to the native tongue of civic Scotland.

You don’t even need to get yourself elected to join what surely now must be considered one of the world’s best pension plans. You can choose from a wide assortment of adviser’s posts offered by the government or the party. These have become particularly attractive to journalists, lobbyists and public relations specialists. Indeed, as the newspaper sector has contracted the government advisory division has expanded. And should the electorate grow tired of you the connections you ought to have made will secure a tidy sinecure in Edinburgh’s lobbying square mile.

The trick, of course, is to keep the punters onside, especially those troublesome ones who insist on talking about independence all the time. I mean, who actually wants actual independence? Next thing you know there’ll have to be a Scottish general election and, if Labour ever got its act together, well … who knows where it’ll all end.

READ MORE: Latest poll finds support for Scottish independence at 54% 

This hasn’t proved to be too difficult. Just ensure your face is seen at most of the independence marches and that there is a generous quantum of photographs of you wrapped in a saltire on your Facebook page. You’ve worked so hard to get here and it would be a shame to ruin it all by, you know, actually agitating for independence any time soon.

It also helps when the occupant of No 10 Downing Street is implacably opposed to granting a Section 30 order giving the Scottish Government the powers to hold a referendum on independence. Then you can shrug your shoulders and say that it’s a waste of time and resources to keep knocking at his door. I mean, look at the Catalans. That didn’t end well, did it? After that it’s just a matter of sitting back and watching Boris Johnson being Boris Johnson to ensure another big Holyrood win in 2021. Or is it 2022? Sometimes you forget.

Yet the question of having a Plan B for a second independence referendum refuses to behave itself. It’s not unreasonable to have assumed a proper strategy that considered all scenarios, including the predictable obstinacy of a hard-right Tory administration at Westminster, was being constructed by the SNP. Yet, not only has there not been a Plan B there’s been no recent evidence of a Plan A. Coronavirus is already being used by big business to provide cover for ‘tough decisions’. Is it also being used to justify the scarcity of the I-word among the SNP hierarchy?

A run of opinion polls indicates an overwhelming Yes majority at Holyrood next year and plus-50% support for independence. Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic and his troubling reliance on his Rose Garden Rasputin Dominic Cummings has made independence more appealing. The quality of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership in this period has helped too.

A recent study by the Centre for European Reform indicated that the damage to the UK economy caused by Brexit now exceeds the budget contributions Britain will be able to claw back when it leaves the EU. In 2014, the biggest asset for the No side in the referendum was economic uncertainty. In the course of the last six years that weapon has been neutralised. The case for independence, it seems, has never been stronger.

There is a case currently being considered by the Court of Session which may provide the opportunity for some movement on an independence Plan B. This is a summons in the name of a pursuer called Martin James Keating seeking a declarator that the Scottish parliament has power under the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 to legislate for the holding of a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country without requiring the consent of the UK Government.

Since 2012, when several legal academics published a paper challenging the view that only Westminster has the authority to call an independence referendum, the issue has never been settled. Earlier this year Aidan O’Neill QC, the legal brain behind the UK Government’s defeats over Article 50 and prorogation has also produced a detailed opinion setting out why Holyrood possesses such authority.

READ MORE: Majority of Scots want second Scottish independence referendum in next five years, poll finds 

It’s almost certain the matter would eventually come to rest at the Supreme Court if the Court of Session did grant Holyrood leave to hold a second referendum without Westminster consent. And recent case law, principally the prorogation case, suggests the Supreme Court would consider the different constitutional traditions of England and Scotland.

There is nothing to be lost from pursuing this avenue. The Advocate General and the Lord Advocate have been called as defenders in the Keatings case, which means the Scottish Government will, at last, be required to show their hand. It’s curious that they haven’t shown more eagerness to explore the legal possibilities or give any indication they’ve even done so. Perhaps 14 years of the good life have been just a little bit too good.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald