“Finally, the Jocks will be off the payroll” announced Kelvin MacKenzie, the disgraced former editor of The Sun, in a tweet last week that would have had the boys in blue knocking had he said it about black people. But he may get his way.

Last week, Ipsos Mori recorded the highest level of support for independence in Scotland since the referendum: 58 per cent Yes against 42% No, with don’t knows excluded. In itself, one poll means little. But it is the ninth in a row to have shown support for independence increasing. The poll of polls is now reading exactly the reverse of 2014: 55% Yes against 45% No. Independence is becoming normalised; it is no longer strange and exotic.

Unionists console themselves that this is all Covid-related. So: Boris Johnson isn’t popular in Scotland, who knew? Also, Nicola Sturgeon has a one-hour party political broadcast every day at which to pump out her message. There can be no prospect of an independence referendum during a pandemic, say Labour and Tories sotto voce, and once it’s over Scots will realise that independence is a non-starter because – ha ha – we’ll be out of the EU and that means leaving the UK is a much harder nut to crack.

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That much is true. After Brexit, Scottish independence does become a more difficult project. Unlike in 2014, voting Yes in future will mean creating a hard border with England and very difficult choices about currency and debt. But Unionists would be naive to think that these arguments – basically Project Fear 2 – will work next time.

Brexit cuts both ways. The argument against independence in 2014 was essentially: the UK ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Why go to the trouble and expense of independence when things are basically OK as they are? Scotland is not a colony and the Scots are not repressed. Indeed, Scotland does well out of financial transfers like the Barnett Formula. Why risk your pensions and jobs for a flag?

It convinced most Scottish voters – at least those over the age of 40 – but how does the ain’t-broke argument look today? The UK is very much broke and getting broker. Scotland has been dragged out of the European Union, despite Scots voting overwhelmingly to remain in 2016. Westminster is under the control of a politician who most Scots regard as an unreliable and incompetent chancer. Even the English regions are rebelling against London rule.

The Internal Market Bill, grinding through the Commons, has made clear to Scottish voters that life in Brexit Britain will be very different to how it was under the European Union. The UK is to become a more centralised state with London routinely overriding the Scottish Parliament on issues like agriculture, environment, food standards. The Lords Constitution Committee warned said last week that the Bill is “heavy handed” and would “destabilise devolution”.

There does indeed have to be a level playing field for trade. But in a UK dominated by England, with 85% of the population, it will inevitably be dominated by the UK Government. Not just on chlorinated chickens, but on trade, economic management, currency, environment, and relations with the rest of the world.

Unionists think ordinary Scots are not interested in whether the Scottish potato industry is protected against genetically-modified interlopers. Who really reads the detail of the Internal Market Bill? Well, more than they would like to think, actually. The overall message has been clear: that powers repatriated from Brussels by Brexit will go south.

The message of the Internal Market Bill is that the Scottish Parliament, indeed devolution, is an anachronism in the new “Global Britain”. The UK Government doesn’t want to be looking over its shoulder all the time while forging Britain’s new relations with the world. But the Scottish Parliament isn’t going away. You can’t unmake the devolution omelette.

This has turned the 2014 prospectus upside down. Now it looks as if remaining in the UK is just as risky and uncertain as leaving it. There is no status quo to compare independence with. The pound is no longer a stable currency. The UK’s relations with the world are in turmoil. Tory Brexiters sound like a crowd of anarchists wanting to wreck the UK in order to save it. Scots hear figures like John Major and Theresa May accusing the UK Government of behaving “recklessly and irresponsibly”.

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Last year, Boris Johnson was told by the Supreme Court of the UK that he was behaving unlawfully over the Withdrawal Bill and proroguing Parliament. Now, the British Government has taken to defying international law. It is being taken to court by the European Union over the Northern Irish protocol. Last week, Johnson called on Scots to prepare for a no-deal Brexit in January. The Brits no longer look like the adults in the room.

And then came Covid. Scotland’s handling of the pandemic has not been markedly better than England’s: our first wave death rate was one of the worst in Europe and only marginally less than the south. The Scottish Government made the same mistakes in March over lockdown, testing and neglect of care homes. But this scarcely matters because the perception is that Nicola Sturgeon did a lot better. In the Ipsos Mori poll, 72% said they were satisfied with the way the First Minister is doing her job. Only 19% were satisfied with Johnson. This is largely because Sturgeon is a better communicator than bumbling Boris, but it is also a function of distance.

During Covid, Scots realised just how much devolution has changed the equation of governance. Life-and-death decisions are now taken in Holyrood. Sturgeon has played a blinder in demonstrating this by delaying the winding down of lockdown over the summer. When she refused to “put lives at risk” by lifting restrictions on movement she was saying: look, Westminster doesn’t care about you, only the Scottish Government can be relied upon. Recently she has been in advance of the UK Government in imposing lockdown restrictions – like the ban on visiting households.

Of course, difficult questions remain about independence – not least about the currency. The SNP has yet to revise its independence prospectus from 2013 which is radically out of date. The nationalists will have to explain just how they will make the border at Carlisle disappear after independence. But these questions no longer loom so large in the minds of Scottish voters.

Indeed, borders are being rehabilitated by Covid. After decades in which only right-wing reactionaries seemed to talk about the virtues of national borders, they are now being seen positively by liberals. In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern effectively quarantined the rest of the planet by closing the borders against Covid. Wales has halted travel from English Covid hotspots. Sturgeon has told Scots not to go to Blackpool, even though its Covid rate is not much different from here.

The border with England is no longer seen as some relic of a nativist past. Basically – borders keep you safe – or safer. In this sense, Brexit has done the nationalists’ job for them. Take back control, they said. We need to make our own laws. Increasingly, Scots are saying “aye” to that.