NICOLA Sturgeon must be feeling a little like the Queen, shaking hands with successive new Tory prime ministers. Count 'em: three since David Cameron stepped down in 2014 and she took over from Alex Salmond. May, Johnson, Truss – it's hard to keep up. Though on the face of it, Liz Truss is likely to be the hardest nut to crack.

Gone are the emollient Tories, like Michael Gove and Lord Mark McInnes, who advised Boris Johnson to “hug” the Scots, not scold them. Make clear the benefits of being in the Union rather than just lecture them about how Scots should be grateful for the “Union dividend”. And no – you'll have had your referendum. Scottish voters may not have been particularly aware of this schmoozing, but they’ll likely notice the change in tone.

Liz Truss is a notoriously plain speaker, in private as in public. Punches will not be pulled. Lectures will be delivered. Unionism will be muscular. Scottish voters will be informed, in no uncertain terms, that the cost of the forthcoming energy price bailout, like the previous coronavirus bailout, is only something that can be managed by the “broad shoulders” of the Union. Scotland is too wee, too poor etc.

An independent Scotland could, of course, have managed such bailouts. Denmark did, so did Norway and Finland – size doesn't mean it is not possible to borrow money or raise taxes, especially for an energy-rich country.

However, it does make the timetable for independence look even more awkward. Nicola Sturgeon still insists, to widespread scepticism, that there will be a referendum in the autumn of next year. Really, during what she called a “humanitarian emergency”?

After the UK has just borrowed £300bn for the pandemic and is in the process of borrowing, or rather underwriting, another £100bn or so to freeze the energy price cap? These are horrendous numbers. To extricate Scotland from these ever-multiplying financial rescues may seem reckless when, according to the Scottish Fiscal Commission, the Scottish economy and the population is shrinking like a deflated balloon. The one thing we know about the First Minister is that she is not a risk-taker.

If the SNP is to exploit the forthcoming economic crisis, and the evident unpopularity of the new Tory leader, she is going to have to show a kind of insurgent leadership that she has failed to show in the past. She'll have to fire up little short of a nationalist revolution, complete with staged confrontations, mass demonstrations and civil disobedience – things that are entirely alien to the First Minister's lawyerly instincts.

She'll also have to take the economy as seriously as she does gender politics. At present the Scottish Government's entire growth and fiscal policy is summed up in one sentence: It's Westminster's Fault.

To create a viable case for independence in the coming inflationary crisis she is going to have to start giving some broad idea about how an independent Scotland will create wealth instead of just redistributing cash handouts from Westminster. Yesterday the First Minister was at it again promising fares and rent freezes, yet more public sector pay rises, increases in child payment.

The SNP isn't even sure how an independent Scotland would finance state pensions, let alone colossal bailouts and expensive social protections. How much of this epic UK debt would be transferred to a newly independent Scotland next year? £30billion, £40 billion? The UK national debt is currently over 100% of GDP. Again, independent countries can take on colossal debts, if they have their own currencies.

But Scotland, we understand, is going to peg an “independent” Scottish currency to sterling for the next ten years or so, leaving the Bank of England in charge of interest rates which, you may have noticed, are rising fast. Nor has the Scottish Government explained how creating a hard border with Scotland's biggest trading partner is going to help grow our anaemic economy.

There may well be answers to all these questions. Indeed, the broader “life boat” argument – that Scotland needs to leave the sinking UK ship – is easier to make now. Voters are more willing to consider radical alternatives. But they need credible solutions to the most obvious problems that might face a newly independent Scotland.

The FM seems to be constitutionally averse to talking about the hard economics of independence. She prefers to play legal games with the UK Supreme Court and speculate about turning general elections in the referendums. These will not fire Scots with a burning desire to undergo the sacrifices that separation will inevitably involve.

We can expect Liz Truss to pick at these lacunae almost from day one. The Scottish Government gets a very good deal from the Barnett Formula: 20% more spending per head. It also has tax raising and significant borrowing powers. Is Nicola Sturgeon prepared to raise income tax to help Scots meet the cost of living crisis she said yesterday is her priority?

What happens when Truss reverses the National Insurance tax rises? Initially wealthier Scots will benefit from a windfall of around £1,000 a year, while poorer Scots will hardly notice. Is Ms Sturgeon going to use her tax powers to reverse this? Or will John Swinney, in today's budget statement, drone on that we cannae dae a'thing, ochone.

An early confrontation is likely over reform of the Gender Recognition Act, an issue very much to Nicola Sturgeon's heart. Suella Braverman, Liz Truss's choice as Home Secretary, has said she will block Scotland's decision to allow men to self-identify as women because it would have an impact across the entire UK. Westminster can block legislation even on devolved issues.

The FM will not doubt condemn the “nasty Tories” as transphobic bigots who cannot accept diversity. Though this is a more difficult argument to make than before. In a quite remarkable turn of events, Liz Truss's government is going to be more diverse in gender and race than any UK government in history. None of the four big offices of state are going to be held by white men. It robs Nicola Sturgeon of her favourite Tories-are-racist attack line. Instead, it will be the Scottish Government that looks hideously white.