When applied to Scotland’s constitutional debate, time is not the great healer which the old aphorism suggests it should be. This week we marked nine years since the independence referendum. To some, it was a joyous expression of democracy; to others the cause of bitter societal splits.

To me, it was an indecisive waypoint which posed more questions than it answered.

The Yes side offered a ‘milk and honey’ campaign intended largely to attract left-wing voters from Labour, which was astonishingly light on the detail of how we would create a healthy, wealthy independent country. It would be a stretch to characterise it as a successor movement to the global intellectual leadership which litters Scotland’s past.

The No side was no better, offering a dismally negative ‘better the devil you know’ campaign which displayed all the distasteful, patronising elements of centralised London politics and left those of us who voted for it, including me, doing so whilst holding our noses.

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In the final analysis, far from being a moment of healing, the referendum has left us more riven than ever. The chasm in our politics and society has been fomented by the SNP and the Conservatives, both of whom have benefited significantly from politics being aligned around constitutional poles.

Neither would thank me for the comparison, but the truth is that they share a common interest in keeping a second independence referendum, or at least the perception that there could be a second independence referendum, on the table. They need it; if they are unable to point, credibly, to a second independence referendum being right around the next corner, they remove the key motivation of their target voter base. It is mutually assured political destruction.

However, it is that credibility which is now in question. Reader, there is not going to be a second independence referendum for the foreseeable future. Much as the SNP or the Conservatives might attempt to contort an explanation for precisely why this is a live issue, it is not. Indyref 2 is off the table.

Ironically, it was the parties themselves which have seen to that. The Tories in 2021, in their fifth ‘vote for us to stop indyref 2’ election in a row, helped to deprive the SNP of 65 seats, and it was that absence of a majority which convinced Alister Jack and the UK Government that there was no requirement to concede ground on a second poll.

Then, the SNP shot itself in one foot by entering a coalition with the Green party, which is preventing it from rescuing Scotland’s economy and running the sort of government which soft No voters need to see in order to switch, and then shot itself in the other foot by taking Westminster’s refusal to grant a referendum to the Supreme Court, which subsequently confirmed that this was in Westminster’s gift, not Holyrood’s.

Unionist voters have ingested this new reality. The Tories are back to polling what was always their core vote in the mid- to high-teens, with the ten-or-so per cent of voters who loaned the Tories their vote on account of their belligerent unionism having transferred straight back to a more palatable Labour party under Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar.

Nationalist voters are a tougher nut to crack. Some have moved from the SNP to Labour, where Mr Sarwar’s economically centrist arms are wide open to SNP voters concerned about their party’s rapid shift leftwards (although, in the absence of a constitutional offer, there will be no mass migration).

But there is enough change in Scotland’s voting patterns to offer encouragement to those of us who are searching for some light at the end of the constitutional tunnel. In that respect, the next two national elections may, in time, be viewed as the most important since devolution.

Let us not forget what the voters have consistently told us they want. From the time of the first independence referendum to polling by Redfield and Wilton just a couple of months ago, it is clear that the binary choice being offered, of full independence on one hand and the devolved status quo on the other, is not the choice the people want to be offered.

Instead, if a third option emerged, which offered more autonomy within a looser kingdom, it would win very handsomely, even attracting around one-third of SNP voters. We can call this whatever we want to - devo max, federalism, fiscal autonomy, home rule. What it is called matters much less than what it represents.

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For what it represents is national healing. And what we need in order for it to emerge is an electoral shake-up. The first part of that is a Labour government at Westminster. Sir Keir is a cautious man, and Labour still displays scarring from the aftermath of the referendum, but there are enough sensible people there, with enough experience of the benefits of devolution to the nations and regions, to understand that the devolved status quo has no more long-term viability than independence.

And then the second part of it is a rebalancing of power at Holyrood after the 2026 election. An SNP First Minister with a much smaller number of MSPs, working with a Parliament with a pro-UK majority and a Labour Party with a much enhanced number of seats. Independence off the table, but home rule on the table.

An alliance between a strengthened Labour’s sensible centre and a weakened SNP’s sensible centre would represent a ‘healing coalition’ which could provide the foundation Scotland needs to rescue its economy and public services, and recover its political and societal cohesion.

It has been a rough nine years. Only the most detached amongst us would argue that what really matters - our education and health systems, our transport and housing infrastructure, our economy - are in a better state now than they were when we plunged ourselves into this constitutional black hole.

David Hume, the great figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, said that “it's when we start working together that the real healing takes place”. That is as true now as it was nearly 300 years ago.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters