PERHAPS, when considering her future career options, Nicola Sturgeon might do worse than sign up Janey Godley as her agent. The feisty and kenspeckle Scottish comedian seems to have found an improbable English audience during lockdown.

Jan Basarab, an abstract painter who lives in the south London district of Southwark found himself transfixed by Ms Godley’s spoof cameos, channelling Scotland’s First Minister giving her daily Covid updates. “I loved Janey Godley’s little sketches during the lockdown, and I know that some of my friends down here felt likewise. My first thought on hearing that Nicola Sturgeon had resigned was: ‘How’s Janey going to survive this?’”

Trawling the coverage of English-based news outlets in the wake of the First Minister’s resignation you might imagine that the warp and weft of Scottish politics forms a staple part of the everyday, political diet south of the Border. Mr Basarab, though, isn’t convinced by this.

He confesses to being a political geek who takes a keen interest in the constitutional debate and was surprised at the manner of Ms Sturgeon’s departure, but he feels it’s gone largely unremarked beyond the confines of the UK’s very small, but very self-aggrandising, political bubble.

“If I’m being honest,” he said, “it hasn’t really resonated much with people around here. But that’s not to say that people aren’t interested in her. There’s no doubt that during lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon was a very compelling presence in our lives. It was a widely-shared perception here that somehow she was doing a much better job of managing the pandemic than Boris Johnson, although that wouldn’t be difficult.

“She came across as a sort of stern schoolmistress chivvying her class. But that was probably the tone and message that we all needed to hear: ‘Come on, you’re better than this’, or just giving us the facts straight up. But to others, she was something of a love/hate figure. I felt she was that rare thing in a politician of the left: someone who came across as credible and sensible.

“I think in London, the idea has formed that the issue of Scottish independence is wrapped around her and her personality. The big question many of us are asking is to what extent has Scottish independence been damaged by her resignation. And, of course, there will always be speculation about the abruptness of her departure so soon after pledging that she’d be here for a few more years yet. Are there some underlying reasons that, if they came out, might damage the cause further?

“You’ve got to understand though, that down here, our own political theatre has involved the spectacular resignations of three prime ministers; the revelations of all sorts of machinations and malfeasances at the heart of government and the little matter of Brexit. At least your First Minister appears to have chosen her own route out.”

Scots often accuse voters in England’s south-east of being insular and of being too ready to embrace a self-regarding sense of English exceptionalism. The way in which the Brexit debate was conducted in England seemed to underpin this.

Yet, we often overlook the fact that London is a huge city, with a population that dwarves Scotland’s. There’s always a helluva lot happening in this city that directly affects the lives of eight million people. And besides, Southwark – like many other neighbourhoods across London – is so culturally and ethnically diverse that its coat of arms should probably incorporate the insignia of the UN.

Ten years ago, not long before the first referendum on independence, I spent a week travelling down through the backbone of England: North Yorkshire, Manchester, the Cotswolds and London. This was at a time when English journalists were beating a path in the opposite direction. I was simply curious. How were English people reacting to the prospect of Scottish independence?

After all, around 450,000 of them live and work in Scotland and there are around one million Scots resident in England. Independence wouldn’t alter the fact that Scotland will always be partly-defined by our relationship with our great southern neighbours.

What became pleasingly evident on that little pilgrimage was the affection and admiration that existed in all of these communities for Scotland and the Scots. And, in a back-street pub in Manchester’s edgy Moss Side district the regulars were actively supportive of Scottish independence. “I wish we could have the opportunity to do likewise,” I was told.

North of the Thames lies Stoke Newington, another area that hosts myriad colours and nationalities (if a little more chi-chi than Southwark). Delilah Geary, a successful television news producer lives there and recalls several visits north to report on Scottish independence and interview Ms Sturgeon. She was always impressed by her. “She’s an extraordinarily canny and authentic politician who has defined Scottish politics and the independence debate for years. However, can the SNP remain as popular without her?”

Iain Martin, the influential political commentator and founder of the political website Reaction, has been observing Ms Sturgeon since she was embarking on her upwards progression through the SNP around 25 years ago.

Mr Martin is a Scot who has lived and worked in London for almost 20 years and thinks that the First Minister’s resignation is a moment of profound truth for the future of independence. “It marks the end of the formidable Salmond/Sturgeon era,” he said. “It was long felt in nationalist circles that even if Salmond ultimately failed, ‘Nic’ would complete the delivery of independence with one more heave.

“Her resignation marks the end of the gradualist route to independence. This is a big constitutional moment. As a Scottish unionist living in London, I’ve long felt that Sturgeon gets an easy ride from English broadcasters. She’s interviewed as though she’s a disinterested observer of Westminster who regularly gets to give it a pasting. She’s treated as a political rock star by some of them. I think too that they fear getting into a row with the Scottish nationalists and this has fed into coverage of her departure in London.”

There’s a palpable feeling too among London’s political elites that’s becoming evident outside the bubble: that for the first time in the Salmond/Sturgeon era the spectre of independence, and with it the break-up of the Union, is beginning to recede. Mr Martin feels this too. “Look, there’s genuine respect in the Westminster lobby for Sturgeon. She’s seen off four Conservative prime Ministers and countless other party leaders both north and south of the Border and she’s a brilliant communicator.

“But there’s a feeling down here that global geopolitics have outrun the cause of Scottish independence. European defence is a live issue once more and with it a global energy crisis that won’t be ceasing any time soon. And despite all their time in power neither Salmond nor Sturgeon were able to answer the big questions surrounding currency, defence and how Scotland’s relationship with Europe would work in the post-Brexit era.”

Jan Bradshaw from south London is a retired editor at The Women’s Press and a former information officer at The Feminist Library. She describes herself as a centre-left feminist and admires Nicola Sturgeon.

“She came across as intelligent, genuine, a good leader and good speaker. She seemed sensible and grounded and not an Oxbridge toff, especially around the early days of Covid.

“There was a time when I did think Scottish independence could become a reality, but that it would be a long time before Westminster would ‘allow’ another referendum. I always felt if the referendum had been two years after Brexit (rather than two years before) the outcome would have been different. And it would have been interesting to see if 52/48 % in favour of independence would have been seen as binding.

“I think, though, her resignation will inevitably set independence back somewhat. I think it will depend on the new leader and whether they can regain the lost support. Most of the likely ones seem to support the SNP line on gender identity, but this seems to me to be in contrast with a general move in popular opinion in the opposite direction. The timing of the Cass Report and the Hannah Barnes book about GIDS at the Tavistock is not good for the transgender lobby.”

Meanwhile, back in Southwark, Jan Basarab watched Ms Sturgeon’s resignation speech intently. ‘I was waiting for her to say ‘get the door, Frank’,” he said.