A NIGGLING feeling of disquiet emerges when Remainers offer their reasoning for a second referendum on leaving the EU. Some insist that the chaotic nature of the negotiations of itself justifies holding a second plebiscite. In particular, they cite the impasse in discussions about the future of the Irish border which, they claim, has become a much bigger issue than was ever predicted at the outset of the Brexit process. I’d be more inclined to entertain this one if not for the fact that I’ve rarely seen any evidence that the future of Ireland – north or south – was ever close to the heart of those now purporting to be anxious about it.

Others claim (and this appears to be the majority view among Remainers) that many UK citizens simply didn’t know what they were voting for. Well of course we didn’t know what we were voting for, as Britain had never previously conducted a vote on whether or not to remain in the EU. And if you insist that those who voted to leave the EU were largely ignorant about the consequences and ramifications of Brexit then the same could also be said for many who voted to Remain.

How easily many Remainers choose to overlook the behaviour of the EU in bending Greece to its will, encouraged by German banks who expressed disgust at the profligacy and corruption they claimed led that country into financial distress. These same banks have since made €2.9 billion in interest payments on Greek bonds since 2010. The German government’s own figures showed that Germany made €3.4bn in interest payments on these bonds – purchased in a deal to keep the Greek economy afloat – while paying Greece less than €1bn. There are benefits to be had from being in the EU but, as ever, some benefit more than others.

Some Remainers also become haughty when citing their reasons for holding a second referendum. In this they can barely conceal their liberal disdain for those of their fellows who unconscionably voted to leave. They portray them as a bunch of ignorant, racist and ill-educated northerners who were incapable of understanding the consequences of Brexit. Their barely-concealed glee at every presentiment of evil that may yet afflict those northern communities has been sickening.

Yet, like their manufactured concerns for the future of Ireland I’ve rarely heard any of the metropolitan elites previously profess to be overly-vexed by the challenges faced by working-class communities in England’s north-west or north-east. Where were they when the fishing fleets on Humberside disappeared, sacrificed to enable the US to spy on Soviet submarines from the Icelandic coast? And beyond some hand-wringing and anti-Thatcher sloganising what did they actually do when the mines all shut and the car factories fell silent? Each time I see Gordon Brown wade into Brexit on his white charger I can still hear him say: “British jobs for British workers”. You also contributed to this, big man.

Nothing we’ve seen in the British political and social landscape makes me think that a second EU referendum would bring a different result from the first one. The social problems encountered by England’s most disadvantaged communities are profound and figured massively in their reasons for choosing to exit the EU. These problems remain deep-rooted and those who think their reasons for voting Leave were forged solely on the big, fat NHS lie on the side of Boris Johnson’s battle-buses are deluding themselves. And anyway, if we’re seriously talking about re-running the EU referendum on the claim that the idiot punters were fed myths and lies then let’s also have a look at every General Election held in the UK since the dawn of universal suffrage.

I’m aware too that those of us who seek a second referendum on Scottish independence are on shaky ground here. Many of the reasons put forward for rejecting a second EU referendum might, with some justification, also apply to the prospect of a second Scottish one. And, having previously stated some obvious flaws in the arguments of recalcitrant Remainers I’ll refrain from pointing out the response which immediately comes to mind when Nicola Sturgeon talks about the craziness of leaving the world’s most successful and robust trading confederation. Yet, there are some obvious differences too which arguably justify a second independence referendum and a mandate too.

Since September, 2014 there have been three General Elections on either side of the Border: one for Holyrood and two for Westminster. In addition there has been a local government election. In Scotland the SNP, the only party campaigning for a second referendum, has triumphed in each of these elections comfortably. Four years on from the first referendum on Scottish independence there remains a pro-Yes majority at Holyrood. These alone constitute a mandate in anyone’s language.

Equally, there can be little doubt that the social and political terrain of the UK, as it affects Scottish citizens, has changed materially and that these changes have been profound and dramatic. As such, these take us well beyond any questions about not respecting the democratic vote of the first independence referendum. We’re not talking about seeking a second vote for fear of what might happen as a result of the first one but because of what actually has happened. The vote to leave the EU could stand alone here in justifying a second independence referendum simply because two-thirds of Scots voted to remain.

The most profound reason, though, has been evident for some time and will become critically so following Brexit, no matter what sort of deal is reached with the EU. While England has been in convulsions for a decade over the amount of migrants coming through its borders Scottish governments since 1999 have been united behind one policy: we want them; the more the merrier and we need to find ways of attracting them and persuading them to stay. They don’t need to earn £30k-a-year for the privilege and they won’t need to know through which eye Harold had his brain skewered in 1066. We need them because our population is ageing and there aren’t enough Scots paying enough to fund their care. When free movement of EU citizens stops post-Brexit the nation which voted overwhelmingly to permit will be worst affected by it.

Unlike a second EU vote the second independence referendum will not be a choice between mere predicted scenarios. Instead it will determine if we wish to remain in a Union which has already changed dramatically.