THERE’S a sense of inevitability creeping into discussions about independence – a belief that sooner rather than later Scotland will vote for separation from the rest of the UK.

When it comes to even moderate supporters on both sides of the constitutional divide, nationalist voices brim with expectant confidence, and unionist voices sound beat. The gods favour Yes; the tide of history has turned against unionism.

It’s all a little premature, too prideful, on the independence side; and a little too pathetic on the unionist side. Both camps need a dose of the old-fashioned wisdom our grandmothers taught us. Yes voters should remember pride comes before a fall – and No voters should find a backbone.

This mood is built on a series of recent polls showing support for Yes in a majority somewhere between 53-55%. If polls have taught us anything in recent years, though, it’s that they can’t be trusted. Neither side can assume defeat or victory.

We should also remember that we’re living in remarkable times. Boris Johnson’s government is a recruiting sergeant for independence through its endless failure, ugly cynicism, dangerous dithering, sneering privilege, tainted cronyism, and galling hypocrisy. Every time Johnson opens his mouth a new indy supporter is born.

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Although there’s fundamentally no great difference in outcomes when it comes to Covid across the four nations, Nicola Sturgeon has presented herself as a safe pair of hands, while Johnson trips over his clown shoes. Perception matters – so Covid has helped play a role in edging Scottish voters toward independence.

Certainly, as a longtime independence supporter myself, I hear more of my unionist friends say they no longer see independence as the devil’s work. Among committed but moderate unionists, hostility has ebbed to mere opposition.

And then there’s Brexit, of course. Johnson’s team is now back in full Seppuku-mode. The relish with which the Tory government seems intent on breaking international law repels Scotland’s pro-EU majority, and is just another reason for undecideds and soft No voters to switch to the Yes camp.

As a Yes voter, I should be crowing from the rooftops along with other independence supporters – but I’m not. Firstly, the very act of crowing is a vote-killer. Nobody is won over by arrogance, and swithering No voters who might be inclined to back Yes certainly won’t do so if they feel their noses are being rubbed in it.

However, I’m also not crowing because events may change. The right-wing is turning on Johnson – there’s even talk he wants to quit as Prime Minister. Who knows how that may change the public view of Covid and Brexit in Scotland? With most new independence supporters coming from Labour and the left, there’s also a chance that Sir Keir Starmer, if he’s smart enough, could set out a Scottish policy to woo them back. Without Scotland, Labour can’t defeat the Tories.

But, of course, Johnson may very well be going nowhere – and even if his time in Number 10 is running out, a successor may alter nothing in terms of the increase in support for independence in Scotland. And Starmer might prove useless.

Yet, with or without a revived Labour Party, Covid, and the human joke currently inhabiting Downing Street, the biggest risk still remains for the Yes movement: the unanswered questions surrounding independence itself. If Yes supporters feel buoyed by recent polls, then heed must also be paid to polls which warn of the leaky tire in the indy bandwagon.

A Survation poll last week found voters less likely to support independence if it involved ditching the pound or a hard border. Survation is the same polling company which a week previously published findings that 53% backed independence.

The key flaw in the independence movement is the failure to address these hard questions adequately. Until these issues are dealt with openly and honestly then the perceived growth in support for Yes may be fleeting. The Yes movement mustn’t fight its way to a referendum only to see support start to vanish as hard questions come to the fore too late. These issues need confronted now so there’s a clear understanding of how strong bedrock support really is.

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A few weeks ago, the Yes movement found a new supporter – Mark Blyth who’s from Dundee but currently professor of international political economy at Brown University in America. Previously in two minds about independence, he’s now “for it”. However, the Yes movement should heed the cautious words of this new convert.

Blyth has got “no doubt” Scotland can make it as an independent nation – but, he says, “the thing is, you just can’t be dishonest about the costs”. If we’re going to be independent, he says, we need our own currency. There’s no point, in his opinion, in swapping London control for Brussels control – especially if Brussels goes on an “austerity binge”.

“The question is,” says Blyth, “how much cost are you willing to bear to get from where you are now to where you want to be.”

The currency question must be properly interrogated. Will the pound definitely go? Are we heading for a new currency? If so, how? If we rejoin Europe, will we have to adopt the Euro? What does that mean for public spending? If we rejoin Europe, what are the implications for borders and a future relationship with England outside the EU?

As a nation we rarely even talk about prosaic matters like what happens to pensions and the welfare state post-independence. So what about issues that are seldom if ever discussed, which could fuel a second Project Fear? Like the creation of Scotland’s armed forces, and an intelligence service.

Nor does it help that the most common image of the Yes movement is marchers wrapped in flags. Demonstrating outside the BBC is not a tactic designed to keep newly, and hard-won, supporters for independence onboard.

Today, with polls onside, the Yes movement and hopes of a second referendum remind me of Scotland going into a World Cup – it happens rarely but when it does it’s all clapping, cheering and chants of ‘easy’. As football shows, though, it’s not difficult to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Keep the head. Tackle the hard stuff now. That’s the only slow but sure path to follow.

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