WE SHOULD all applaud the finding by the Electoral Commission that the Scottish independence referendum was well run, with voters on all sides happy with the process.

Three cheers for Caledonian democracy.

But perhaps only those sporting "45" lapel badges, and those of us who earn our keep scribbling about politics will maintain the standing ovation and demand an encore any time soon. Many, not just those who might instead wear a "55" badge, if such exists, tucked discreetly under their lapel, despair of the whole idea of the "neverendum".

But referenda may be about to become a fact of British life, in spite of the miserable failure of the Westminster voting reform poll to kindle the enthusiasm of the electorate.

We may not be about to go down the road of Swiss cantons in terms of multiple and repeated plebiscites, but a European referendum is a distinct possibility in the relatively near future.

English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) might be considered an issue worth referring to wider public consideration than simply the denizens of Westminster themselves, and if reform of the House of Lords and the wider British Constitution is not up for grabs soon then increasing numbers may be joining comedian Russell Brand's anti-politics revolution.

So it is encouraging that Scotland has shown the way in terms of the conduct of referenda, voter engagement, and the enfranchisement of our young citizens at the age of 16. Scots will probably take a keener interest than most in these islands if we get to debating a more thorough reform of Westminster's dysfunctional system; one House elected by a voting system that remains manifestly unfair, the other not elected at all but continuing to spawn new members on the basis of opening their wallets for political parties.

But let's not kid ourselves. What we are all thinking about north of the Border is: could there be another independence referendum sooner rather than later?

You don't have to go very far back to find Alex Salmond talking about such a referendum settling the issue "for a generation", usually defined as 20 years. Then there was talk of "for his generation", which handed a free pass to his successor Nicola Sturgeon, who was clearly of a different vintage. She in turn spoke of "perhaps 14 years" as a suitable gap before broaching the national question again. But then we all remember when 14 years was a life sentence, before the advent of automatic time off for good behaviour.

During the immediate aftermath of the referendum there was a line rigidly stuck to by Ms Sturgeon, fully supported by her former boss and mentor. It was to sidestep putting any specific timescale on the question of revisiting the independence question. Instead, the formula became that this would be dictated by events and circumstances, and by the political will of the Scottish people. And who could possibly argue with the political will of the Scottish people? Especially if it was no longer the "settled will"?

So now, far from ruling a fresh referendum out, Ms Sturgeon has shifted to saying that she won't rule in our out the possibility of such a commitment being in her party's manifesto for the next Holyrood election in 2016. A generation appears to have come down to barely 18 months. In fairness, that period could encompass a period in which the Bullingdon Boys win a second term of office, complete with a Ukip-inspired EU referendum, in which the English may vote for withdrawal while Scots got to remain part of the European project.

That's what Ms Sturgeon meant by "events and circumstances" and this is why her first foray into UK politics on becoming leader-elect of her party was to suggest a double-lock on EU withdrawal, demanding that any vote had to be agreed not just by the UK electorate but by the electorates of each of the four home nations. Not that she thought she would win this concession; more that she wanted to make her personal mark to London as successor to Mr Salmond, and lay down a marker for the future.

This debate brought to mind a segment of an interview conducted with Mr Salmond on the final evening of my last day in the post as Chief Scottish Political Correspondent of The Herald last month. It was all on the record, so I'm not breaching the kind of confidences belatedly apologised for by the Holyrood journalist who has rather hubristically written a book about his part in Alex Salmond's downfall.

There were a number of excellent lines in that interview, conducted in the First Minister's office at Holyrood. One was the revelation that the SNP were planning to waive the rules and allow fresh talent drawn from the Yes campaign to be fast-tracked as party candidates. That was the splash taken care of. The other was Mr Salmond's regret at his cause peaking too soon during the campaign and allowing the late fight-back led by Gordon Brown and the "Vow", which he did not foresee. That led the inside interview.

But there was another strand to the interview which there was neither space nor time to use but which is of interest in the context of the "neverendum" debate. Here is the exchange on law and fact:

RD: You're on record as saying the power to hold a referendum must be devolved.

AS: De facto it is.

RD: De facto it's not.

AS: De jure it's not. De facto it is. That argument is over and done with.

RD: I disagree. You needed to have the Edinburgh Agreement.

AS: Yes, but where did the Edinburgh Agreement come from? It came from the [Scottish] Parliamentary Parliament majority.

RD: I don't think Westminster would see it that way.

AS: (laughter) Westminster might not be in a position to argue anything.

RD: Having come close this time is it not highly likely that Westminster in future would be more like Madrid and refuse, saying you've had you referendum, you're not having another one, we won't sanction it?

AS: I think they might like to be de facto they won't be able to. The game's a bogey, the bird has flown, the precedent has been set. In English Common Law precedent is all.

I would have thought "the game's a bogey, the bird has flown" and "Westminster might not be in a position to argue anything" are not comments from someone who thinks independence is off the table for a generation. If anything, Alex Salmond, 60 on Hogmanay, sounds like he might be a man in a hurry, hoping for a second bite long before his allotted Biblical span.

Many in the "45" clearly agree. The SNP's four-fold higher membership will agree. Whisper it, given the last Osborne Autumn Statement, even some of the "55" may not disagree, nor some Labour members now they have a certain Scottish leader.

But the SNP will have to codify where they stand sooner rather than later if they are not to impose political campaign fatigue on large tranches of the population. Ms Sturgeon to her credit has stated her position on principle (the varying national votes in an in-out EU referendum) but she needs to be more specific if her unstated threat on the neverendum is to have political and constitutional legitimacy.