THE desperation of the anti-independence parties to avoid another referendum is just getting ridiculous now. Last week, interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives Jackson Carlaw decided to vote himself the sole arbiter of determining what is or is not a mandate. Naturally Jackson has decided that the threshold for a proper mandate for independence is one which is unlikely to be achieved in the real world. That’s because the Scottish Conservatives don’t live in the real world, so on the face of it he’s being perfectly reasonable.

However the rest of us do live in the real world. What the interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives is demanding is that mandates are no longer to be recognised if a party merely wins an election.

Oh no. That might mean that the SNP actually achieves a mandate for an indyref that the Tories would have to recognise. The bar must be set a lot higher by our self-appointed referee of anti-democracy. It’s not enough for the SNP simply to win the election like the did the last time.

It’s certainly not enough for the SNP and the other pro-independence parties combined to achieve another majority in Holyrood – even though they already have one. It’s not even enough for the SNP alone to win an absolute majority in Holyrood.

Oh no. They did that in 2011 and it’s conceivable that they could do so again. So that can’t be allowed. According to Jackson Honestly I’m a Democrat Really Carlaw, he’ll only consider whether there’s a mandate for an independence referedum if the SNP win the next Holyrood election, they win an absolute majority of seats by themselves, and they achieve more votes than were cast for independence in the referendum of 2014, when there was a historic electoral turnout of 85%.

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Turnout for Holyrood elections is always considerably lower than the record turnout achieved for the indyref. Based on the same turnout for Holyrood as 2016, Jackson thinks that the SNP need to win about 88% of the votes cast before he’ll even consider admitting that there’s a mandate for another independence referendum.

It’s a ludicrous suggestion on so many levels, but it comes from a party whose anti-democratic machinations have grown ever more ridiculous and extreme. Jackson Carlaw’s suggestion means that all pro-independence voters who don’t vote SNP are effectively silenced.

But then this is a party whose leader in Westminster is prepared to risk breaking the law in order to silence Parliament. So we should hardly be surprised that the Scottish branch office shows equal contempt for the normal democratic process.

Meanwhile the Labour branch office shows equal contempt for Scottish democracy and seems to have adopted a very similar line to Jackson Carlaw. During a BBC interview with Gordon Brewer, branch office manager Richard Leonard was forced to admit that there needs to be “demonstrable public opinion in favour of holding an independence referendum” but that the Scottish electorate actually giving a majority to pro-independence parties standing on a mandate for another referendum wasn’t enough to demonstrate public support. “Of course that’s a part of it,” he was forced to concede.

It’s just not sufficient by itself. He wasn’t clear what other criteria needed to be met.

Richard Leonard doesn’t seem to be certain about very much, however he was quite certain that he couldn’t see his unspecified conditions which would allow another independence referendum being met in the foreseeable future.

We can be equally certain that whatever bar the anti-independence parties set, as soon as it becomes plausible that the SNP will surpass it, they’ll set a new bar that’s even higher.

The LibDems are notorious for their lies, but at least they are being honest when they say that they’ll not permit another independence referendum under any circumstances.

The party is implicitly acknowledging that it will cheerfully trample over Scottish democracy. Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard can’t even manage that much, contorting themselves in weasel words.

As support for independence rises in opinion polls, and the British state’s institutions fall into greater public contempt, the British nationalist parties in Scotland grow ever more desperate in their determination to find some formula that allows them to rule out another independence referendum.

Despite the protestations of the British nationalists who are not nationalists at all because they’re British, the more that support for independence and another referendum rises, the more determined that they will be to prevent any referendum from happening.

There is no mandate that they will respect, no conditions that they will recognise as having been met. That’s because they know that when the next independence referendum takes place, they’re going to lose it. In their panic, we are now already at the point where they are seriously suggesting that the normal rules of democracy should no longer apply. That is a worrying and dangerous development for Scottish democracy.

There’s an electoral test coming up sooner rather than later. It is now certain that there is going to be an early General Election. It will be an election dominated by Brexit, but in Scotland we need to ensure that the question before the voters of this country is that Scotland must have a right to determine its own future.

We can only do that by demonstrating to the parties of British nationalism that Scotland is revolted by their disregard for the basic principles of democracy. Any party which stands for election announcing that it intends to disregard a mandate achieved by the winners of that election is a party that is unfit to call itself democratic.

It is now a question of the future of Scottish democracy itself that those parties which refuse to allow the Scottish people to have a say on deciding their own future are not returned to Westminster.

The trigger for agitation for another independence referedum is Brexit, but the Brexit question has opened up many other more fundamental issues. Those are issues about the nature of democracy itself, issues about the slide of the United Kingdom into authoritarianism and disregard for the rule of law. Scotland can still escape, and if we are to ensure essential and basic democratic standards in public life, we must escape.

Scottish independence has now become a question of securing democracy itself.