THE war in Ukraine will "profoundly" change the independence debate and make it harder for the Yes side to increase support in the coming years, according to a leading political analyst.

Anthony Salamone, a member of the Europa Institute at the University of Edinburgh, who runs the consultancy European Merchants, said while Brexit had helped increase backing for independence, a geopolitical shift in its wake of the Russian invasion of its neighbour would not favour constitutional change in Scotland.

He said while it was right the principal public focus in the EU, the US, the UK and elsewhere has been on support for Ukraine, it was also appropriate for countries to reflect on what implications the conflict has for their own states.

"Just as Germany is reimagining its spending on defence and Finland is considering whether to join Nato, so too must Scotland reflect on the meaning of the war for its politics – and its undeniable centrepiece, the independence debate," he said in an article published online today on his Political Courant website.

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"We have entered a period in which the circumstances generally favour advocates of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom over advocates of Scotland becoming an independent state.

"This dynamic is a reversal of the Brexit era, which mostly privileged the independence side over the UK union."

Mr Salamone listed five reasons how the debate had altered as a result of the war, saying a new security environment brought indefinite uncertainty while security concerns traditionally boosted arguments for the status quo.

He pointed out that while defence and security issues did not feature significantly in the debate ahead of the 2014 vote, when peace prevailed in Europe, the war in Ukraine had put these concerns to the forefront of the public's mind.

He added that the question of Scotland's membership of Nato - supported by the SNP but not by the Scottish Greens - would take on "greater practical meaning" while the "global zeitgeist is of retrenchment, not openness."

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Mr Salamone, pictured above, said that neither side in the constitutional debate in Scotland yet appeared to appreciate the significance of how the war will affect their arguments.

The SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested last month that it could mean a pause in the timetable for a new independence vote.

Days later the First Minister said the situation did not change her plans for a referendum which she wants to hold next year, should the Covid pandemic be over.

But her stance appeared to be out of step with the public mood.

One opinion survey published last month found a majority of voters in Scotland felt discussions over when a second independence referendum will take place should stop due to the Russian invasion.

Some 59% said talks on the timing of indyref2 should stop, with 29% saying discussions should continue. The same poll found support for a No vote is at 52% and support for Yes is at 48% - when the "don't knows" are removed.

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The SNP's response to the poll's findings was to say that any pause to Indyref2 would be "grist to the Kremlin's mill" and any pause would be to hand the Russian President Vladmir Putin an "effective veto over democracy in Scotland."

But Mr Salamone rejected the idea that the only potential impact could be a pause to the timetable to the vote - arguing the consequences would be more far reaching and that Europe has been "irreversibly changed" and moved into an era of greater instability.

"It is essential to dispel the prevailing notion that the only noticeable consequence of the Ukraine war for Scottish politics is a delay to the timetable for a possible independence referendum. In fact, the war and its legacy will profoundly alter the terms of the independence debate," he said.

"It is doubtful either side of the constitutional argument is yet ready to acknowledge or accept the external redefinition of their debate. Nevertheless, it will soon become untenable to contend that the Ukraine war simply reinforces existing arguments for independence or the UK union. The reality is Scotland’s independence debate will be refashioned."

He added that the pro independence side would need to make new arguments about why Scotland’s security would not be weakened by leaving the UK.

Mr Salamone went on to say that the situation did not mean that the outcome of a future referendum would be predestined, nor that the circumstances might not change again in the years ahead, but that the SNP and the Greens needed to face up to the difficulties the new era would bring. But he also warned the Pro-UK parties that they should not over state their advantage.

"The pro-independence side would undermine itself if it dismissed its newfound disadvantage. In turn, the pro-UK side would be unwise to overestimate its new position," he said, underlining that the main response in the west to the war in Ukraine had come from the EU and the US, with post Brexit UK playing a secondary role.

"Security is on the agenda, but the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has equally demonstrated the UK’s diminished role in the world after Brexit. The primary axis for the response has been between the United States and the European Union, with the United Kingdom playing a supporting part on the side. In that sense, the UK is fulfilling a role more like Canada or Norway than France or Germany."

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson failing to agree a second independence referendum, the First Minister intends to hold the vote using Holyrood legislation, but the Referendum Bill is likely to be challenged by the UK Government at the Supreme Court.

Mr Salamone also warned that the new security environment in Europe in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine "will make it more challenging to establish and deliver either an independence referendum" or to bring independence about following a Yes vote.

"This new difficulty will certainly not aid, and may well compound, the ongoing dispute between the Scottish and UK Governments over holding a new referendum," he said.

"It is also separate from the fact that, without the close cooperation of the two governments, Scotland lacks a viable pathway to effective independence."

And he raised the prospect that new potential developments in the crisis - such as the disruption of food and energy supplies to the west or a direct conflict between Nato and Russia - would cause further set backs to the independence cause.

"Such uncertainty could impact the independence debate in a variety of ways. In a more probable scenario, disruption to food or energy supplies could preoccupy government attention in place of planning a referendum or negotiating independence.

"In a less likely scenario, Nato could, despite its clear aim to the contrary, become involved in a conflict with Russia, in which case all independence-related processes would surely be suspended or abandoned. The degree of predictability which underpinned the 2014 independence referendum may well not exist for a future referendum."

An SNP spokesman said: "People decided in last May's Scottish Parliament election there should be an independence referendum, when the SNP was re-elected with the highest share of the vote of any party in the history of devolution, and which saw a record majority of pro-independence MSPs elected."

Scottish Conservative Shadow Constitution Secretary Donald Cameron said: "The last thing Scotland needs right now is another divisive independence referendum. All of our focus should be on supporting the people of Ukraine and defeating the barbaric actions of Vladimir Putin.

"People have made it clear they don’t want to be dragged into a constitutional argument when so many more important things are going on. However, we have seen nationalists, including the First Minister herself, use the war to push their constant obsession with breaking up the Union.”