IN the myriad of responses following Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum proclamation three themes have emerged. They characterise the major fault-lines in Scottish politics.

The immediate aftermath of the First Minister’s declaration had a binary aspect similar to that which follows Budget Day. Nationalist sentiment was a cautious welcome: at long last, a date has been set and the UK Government has been caught on the hop by the concept of a plebiscite election. Unionists gathered broadly around a notion that, whatever this was, it looked and felt opportunistic and would not, of itself, constitute a mandate for a referendum.

The 48 hours or so which have elapsed since Ms Sturgeon’s statement have permitted more detailed scrutiny and a degree of nuance. In this, a third theme has begun to emerge: the extent to which the SNP are opposed within the wider Yes movement.

The weakest responses have come from the Unionist alliance and their media cheerleaders. In the eight years since the last independence referendum they have failed to produce anything more coherent or worthwhile beyond “nasty and divisive” and “there’s no mandate”. It’s been as predictable as the call that will soon go out for Gordon Brown to emerge from his bat-cave.

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Ten elections in all four Scottish and UK jurisdictions have come and gone since the first referendum on independence. Each has delivered an overwhelming victory for the principal advocates of independence.

The most recent one occurred in last year’s Scottish election. In this, a majority of MSPs were returned on a clear pledge to seek an independence referendum. Perhaps Scottish Labour and the UK Conservatives have a different interpretation of what comprises a mandate.

Yet, those nationalists who simply proclaim that such a mandate is all that matters and that a plebiscite UK election in 2024 will settle the issue are being naïve in the extreme. Securing more than 50% of the popular vote in what is likely to be a high turn-out is certainly within the grasp of the SNP: they achieved 50% in the 2015 UK election.

The assumption that the UK Government will somehow back down and agree to a referendum is a highly optimistic one: neither Boris Johnson nor any of those deemed to be his likely successor will immediately retreat from this position.

The SNP’s brightest prospect of forcing Mr Johnson or his successor to agree to a Section 30 will lie in a growing acknowledgement – at home and abroad – that the UK Government’s continuing position of “Nyet” is untenable.

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Like the Scottish Government though, the UK Government will exhaust every available legal route to have any planned referendum declared illegal.

Either way, there will be no independence referendum before 2026, the year of the next Holyrood election, unless Boris Johnson were quickly to call the SNP’s bluff (the numbers show that this may yet prove beguiling).

The SNP’s offering in that election will be reinforced by resentment and grievance over the Unionist parties’ manoeuvring together with a portrayal of The Supreme Court as a judicial and patriarchal lapdog of the UK establishment. For a while yet the SNP’s electoral hegemony is thus assured. The pensions and property portfolios will continue to expand and positions in their favourite lobbying firms will still beckon.

The SNP must also produce something less jejeune and, frankly, less insulting than that which Angus Robertson expressed in The Times yesterday. Such is Mr Robertson’s omnipresence in the Scottish media that he seems to have been chosen as Nicola Sturgeon’s choice to succeed her.

Yesterday’s article wasn’t his finest offering. It concludes with the infantile line that “an independent Scotland would be a wealthier, fairer and happier country” and that Westminster politicians would find this “increasingly hard to engage with, let alone counter”.

Really? Multitudes would find it easy to counter this. I’ll start: define happier. Where is this wealth? Your government recently squandered 17 plots of prime offshore real estate for a fraction of the annual profits of the Big Five energy firms. And where is the redistributive model that would address two decades of poverty in the same postcodes year after year on your watch?

Unless the SNP can generate something better and less condescending than this trite nonsense they risk alienating those left-leaning Yes voters they now obviously take for granted. Perhaps not enough to threaten their primacy at a General Election, but enough to ensure they never reach the sacred 50%-plus one.

This leads directly to a third group of responses to the First Minister’s declaration. It’s been espoused by several prominent voices on the radical independence movement and, to a more cautious extent by Joanna Cherry writing in The National yesterday. Thus far, they comprise the most thoughtful analysis of the SNP’s current position and their chances of securing a second referendum, let alone independence.

This concerns the SNP’s lurch to the right in recent years, ironically similar to that of Blair-ite Labour which led to a mass migration towards Yes. As things stand, there are many on the left of the wider Yes movement who can no longer stomach the idea of voting for the SNP in any election following its recent NATO fetishism and hints to cast Scotland in the role of night-watchman for nuclear submarines.

Voting Yes in a referendum as part of a wider grass-roots movement representing working-class aspirations is far different from casting your ballot in favour of the SNP in an election. This is a party which intends Scotland’s industrial, fiscal and foreign policies to be dictated by global corporate raiders; the City and the Bank of England and the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Joanna Cherry proposes a Yes Alliance of all political hues, including the SNP, to keep the malcontents like me inside the tent. I’d go a step beyond and advocate establishing a Yes alliance without the SNP, supported by the Common Weal, the remnants of the Radical Independence Campaign and Yes-supporting trade unions.

These were all influential players in the 2014 campaign, but their values and aspirations have all now been jettisoned by the party which once wooed them. They have two years to get their act together and provide a radical Yes alternative to the SNP.

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