The Belfast Agreement decoupled Northern Ireland’s constitutional future from day-to-day elected politics, but the pro-UK parties failed to adapt.
Hopes for normal, non-sectarian and growth-focused politics have been dashed as rent-seeking hard-liners dominate at Stormont.
The last thing Anas Sarwar wants as he fights to win back central Scotland is fresh fuel for the Nationalists’ claim his party are red Tories.
It will give cover to Conservative opponents of the deal. But the crucial question is the future of Stormont, and on that the Unionists are silent.
“The problems faced by Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson – and indeed George Osborne and David Cameron – are different from the crises and challenges we face today.”
Those who insist the Unionists can be bought off or pressured into backing down fundamentally misunderstand the situation.
“I know it might seem sudden, but I have been wrestling with it for weeks”, says the outgoing First Minister and SNP leader.
The most likely way through this impasse is a new agreement, sitting on top of the existing Protocol and introducing a new set of principles on how it operates. Such an agreement must preserve Northern Ireland’s constitutional status.
The most likely-looking outcome, at this point, is the same one which has marked the entire process: another deadline from the Government coming and going.
The first and best allies of the campaign for independence have always been pro-UK politicians who think they can buy it off.
The Scottish Conservatives claim that £1.5 million of public money has been spent trying to build the SNP’s case for independence.
Scotland under the Sturgeon is the highest-taxed and worst governed part of the UK. That’s the result of the SNP’s failure to square up to its responsibilities, rather than concentrating on their separatist fantasies.
Salmond bowed out after taking his shot at separation in 2014; his successor may feel that she can’t step down without doing the same.
With a referendum taken decisively off the table, there is now space to really take the fight to the SNP on their domestic record.
Joining the UK would end its status as a dependant territory, and so finally nullify Spanish (and Argentine) arguments based on the UN definition of decolonisation.