It's a very long word, antidisestablishmentarianism.

It may not be such a distant prospect in an independent Scotland. For four centuries the Church of Scotland has been the national church, protected by the Act of Union as one of the country's three pillars alongside its legal and education systems.

It may never have wielded the power of the Church of England but the status of the Kirk has meant Scotland has been enshrined as a Protestant country.

The census figures may say otherwise but officially it still is.

But as early as next week, with the launch of the Scottish Government's white paper and its vision for an independent Scotland, the future role and status of the Kirk could be spelled out and few will bet against the proposition of an entirely secular constitution.

Leaving aside the Greens' and Alex Salmond's courting of the Catholic vote and support for Catholic schools, is there a more stridently secular political party in Scotland than the SNP?

And across the political spectrum, aside from the few vocal about their faith, religion has long been shoved to the periphery.

Even though the Kirk remains the largest organisation in Scotland (despite losing 500,000 members between the last two censuses) with a nominal flock of around 1.7 million, or 32% of the population, it would be very difficult for a western state in the 21st century to draft a constitution giving preference to any religious body.

Even a semi-official role for the Kirk post-independence would be likely to put it on equal footing with the Catholic Church.

In reality national church status today affords the Kirk little by way of real power and influence. Within Scottish army regiments, the prison service and the NHS the Church of Scotland chaplains have seniority and are salaried employees of the organisations they serve.

Beyond that, it's largely a symbolic role wrapped up in the mechanics of the General Assembly, where the Lord High Commissioner (a role performed by Lord Reith, late Tory grandee George Younger and the aristocrat James Douglas Hamilton) reports back to the monarch of the day the goings on at the gathering.

On her visits north, the Queen will slip out of her role as the head of the Anglican Church and become an honorary Presbyterian for the duration of her stay in Scotland.

Its role in council education committees it shares with the Catholic Church (influential voices within which favour a secular constitution, mirroring that of the USA or Canada with a level playing field for all faiths and none rather than the aggressively secular French version).

Beyond that, the Kirk has little more than memories of the real power it once had. Today it's the "national" church which has not as yet taken a definitive line on the biggest national issue for generations.

For centuries, Protestantism was what continued to define Scotland as a country. Ironic that it is this status which could disappear if it again becomes a state.