Last week’s landmark EU-UK deal on Northern Ireland was significant in its own right.

The so-called Windsor Framework reinterprets how the Northern Ireland protocol to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement operates in practice. If enacted, as expected, the deal would resolve most of the issues raised by both sides on how the post-Brexit EU-UK relationship applies to Northern Ireland.

At the same time, the Windsor Framework creates an opportunity to reset political relations between the EU and the UK. Greater space now exists to replace recurring discord with purposeful cooperation. Brexit was always going to be awkward; the EU and the UK are not peers. Nevertheless, it makes sense for the two to work together wherever possible. It is also marginally easier to envision how the UK could build a closer relationship with the EU in the years ahead.

More fundamentally, this deal underlines that, over three years after the UK formally left the EU, Brexit is truly done. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU was deeply regrettable, but it has happened. It is nostalgic at best and disingenuous at worst to pretend that Brexit is somehow recent, temporary or unrealised.

Whatever their future choices, neither the UK nor Scotland will part of the EU for the foreseeable future. It is possible that, in the decades to come, the UK could seek to rejoin the EU. Scotland, if it were to become independent, could also apply to join the EU. However, given the political transformation required for the UK and the hypothetical sequencing of independence for Scotland, I would not expect either of those eventualities this decade at least. Regardless of our preferences, Scotland’s relationship with the EU will not involve membership for some time.

Despite these realities, Scottish politics collectively continues to treat Brexit as if it were still being litigated or liable to being readily undone. Neither is the case. The UK left the EU and joining again (for Scotland or the UK) would require applying from scratch. The Windsor Framework addresses specific questions related to Northern Ireland, not the general premise of the UK’s departure from the EU. In any event, the framework is not a new treaty and it does not replace the Northern Ireland protocol; it simply redefines how aspects of the protocol are applied.

Incidentally, it is thoroughly dispiriting to witness some independence proponents demand that the Windsor Framework or an equivalent be applied to Scotland as well. The Windsor compromise, like the protocol itself, exists only to ensure that the EU-UK relationship takes account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland (namely, its post-conflict legacy). Beyond the UK government’s opinion, I see no reason why the EU would agree to a similar arrangement for Scotland.

For clarity, Northern Ireland is not in the Single Market. Instead, it functionally participates in the Single Market for trade in goods. Even if the EU and the UK government did agree to the same for Scotland, facilitating it would require trade border infrastructure between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain to differentiate between intra-GB goods and Single Market goods. Simplistic claims of Scotland’s disenfranchisement due to special post-Brexit terms for Northern Ireland founder on the reality that Scotland is not remotely positioned – politically, economically or logistically – to operate and adapt to a corresponding trading situation.

The underlying reason that Brexit is still debated in Scotland if it were somehow not over is of course its fusion with the independence debate. Nevertheless, we are assuredly in the post-Brexit era. The settled issue of the UK’s former EU membership is entirely distinct from the prospects of Scotland joining the EU in the event of independence or the UK rejoining the EU in the long term.

Indeed, the real post-Brexit questions are how Scotland relates to the EU now as part of the UK and how Scottish EU membership would work under independence. Our debate on both remains deeply uninspiring. It should be perfectly normal for Scottish institutions to engage with European counterparts on matters within their competence. That work should have no connection to the constitution. Instead, it is predominantly viewed as an extension of the independence debate. That polarised approach hinders the potential for good public policy in this space.

Potential Scottish EU membership is a core element of the independence debate. It is a complicated subject with various dimensions, just as the EU itself is a complex, political union. The issue merits thorough discussion. In reality, the debate on EU membership is heavy on sentiment and light on substance. Each side of the divide recycles its same, mostly inaccurate, arguments – to the point of boredom.

The Sturgeon administration, whatever the reasons, never found itself able to produce a real post-Brexit EU relations strategy under the present constitution or a serious and detailed proposal for EU membership in the event of independence. Perhaps the next first minister will choose a different and better approach.

Anthony Salamone is managing director of European Merchants