NICOLA Sturgeon’s handling of the Covid crisis has seen a steady rise in support for independence north of the Border. It’s not something consciously orchestrated, but a happy by-product of her straight-talking, “show don’t tell” approach to Scottish governance.

Now it seems the FM’s regular appearance on TV south of the Border, has had another unintended consequence, helping boost the case for English independence. And not just amongst infuriated, right-wing British nationalists.

Of course, the biggest levels of support for English independence in the Business for Scotland (BfS) poll, is amongst Conservative voters, 52.5% of whom favour “separation”. There’s also greater support amongst English Brexiters (39% for and 36% against) than Remainers (30% versus 37%).

“Taking back control” is evidently a state of mind, not just a slogan to dignify Brexit-related Little Englanderism, so it wouldn’t be surprising if English independence became the next beneficiary of pumped-up, Brexit-fuelled political energy.

As BfS’s Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp’s observed: “Without any serious campaign and with no political party advocating such a move, English voters are essentially split right down the middle on whether England should be an independent country. If such a campaign was launched, we can only assume support for English independence would grow exponentially.”

It’s a tantalising prospect. Once the transition period ends in December and Brexit’s all but irreversible, where will that “independence state of mind” take England’s sovereignty-seeking voters next?

It would be pleasingly ironic if the folk with least enthusiasm for Scotland started digging the other end of our escape tunnel, by pressing Boris Johnson to rid England of the whingeing Jocks.

Could that happen?

Certainly, the Brexit electorate has clout – as its cross-party mobilisation demonstrates. But without Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party how far would that mobilisation have gone and where is the electoral vehicle needed to turn the burgeoning “England First” outlook into a formal campaign for English independence?

The English Independence party has only a couple of hundred followers on Twitter and hasn’t tweeted this year. English Independence has 302 followers and seems focused on attacking Sadiq Khan. The English Democrats – “a pro-democracy, pro-independence party” who reject British rule – are a more interesting bunch who recently tweeted: “Brexit party hypocrites didn’t want UK (England, Scotland, Wales, NI) to be subordinate to EU rule but still want England, Scotland, Wales and NI to be subordinate to UK rule.” Hmm.

But dinnae get excited.

The First Minister’s suggestion that English people should avoid crossing the Border to low-Covid Scotland is still proving irresistibly irritating. An English Democrat supporter posted: “Nicola Sturgeon considering mandatory quarantining for English visitors, but it’s OK to fast track English taxpayers’ money into SNP Scotland coffers...”

Ah yes, that old one.

But dinnae fash. The English Democrats have less than 4000 followers on Twitter.

Some might think Nigel Farage is the strongest candidate to lead an English independence party. But does he feel strongly enough about getting rid of the Celts? Might he have quietly realised that England needs Scotland’s vast resource base and rich, coastal waters, no matter how much he punts the subsidy junkie myth? Either way, Farage doesn’t look sufficiently animated about “the Scottish issue” to quit his lucrative day jobs and push the English independence line.

And there’s really no other electoral vehicle on the right of English politics, unless we accidentally breathe the oxygen of publicity into the BNP (let’s not).

SO, it’s hard to see how lingering resentment of the Union south of the Border can be transformed into a political force able to push for English independence.

There’s no great move on the left either, despite BfS’s more surprising finding that 51.5% of the English Labour voters surveyed back an independent England too. That’s likely to be a mixture of the quest for identity and sovereignty unleashed by Brexit, a growing awareness of England thanks to different national Covid responses, and a bit of “bloody Scots” for good measure. Of course, many English progressives support Scotland leaving the Union. Some leading English academics at the 2019 Rewriting the UK Constitution conference in Oxford insisted that such a constitutional cataclysm is needed to revive the English liberal/Remain-voting left. Indeed one professor predicted the EU will make a public offer to Scotland once Brexit’s done and there’s no further risk of offending London.

Still, I doubt any of these folk will openly campaign for English independence, even if that does hasten seismic change.

Nor it seems will long-term campaigners for an English parliament like musician Billy Bragg who thinks growing respect south of the Border for the Scottish First Minister is actually strengthening the case for English devolution, not independence.

“There is a strong urge for sovereignty right now in England and an inability amongst some English voters to imagine sharing power with anyone. But I think the pandemic has highlighted the strengths of devolution. The case for English regional government gets stronger every time Nicola appears on the telly. The pandemic shows just how centralised the British state has become. The Scots’ more localised response has clearly saved lives. Smaller regional units of government would help us do that too.”

Fair play, but Scotland isn’t just smaller than monolithic England, there’s a profound societal difference too. Take face-coverings. Once Scots were told to wear them in shops there was around 80% compliance. That could be because folk had been telt by a First Minister they’ve come to trust and respect on Covid. It could also be because Scots attach greater importance to solidarity and reciprocity as a nation. English podcaster Laura Pidcock retweeted Prof Devi Sridhar’s observation that Scots compliance was a collective effort, before commenting herself; “Many people on the right – struggling with compulsory mask wearing – are really struggling with collectivism, doing something for another. It is all me, me, me. Not we, we, we. It is political.”

Yip, without seeming smug, Scots generally get that. Hence the

desire to quit the nakedly self-serving, loadsamoney culture promoted by successive Westminster governments.

Billy Bragg also understands that Scots won’t be hanging around waiting for devolution, federalism or societal change in England. He backs Scottish independence because it would encourage a new constitutional settlement, with PR elections and a reformed upper house to represent English regions: “I’d certainly vote for a new England.”

But will Labour or anyone else offer it?

Or will the desire to “take back control” in England be satisfied by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove putting the Scots in our place, hollowing out devolution and leaving us with the “wee pretendy parliament” we were always meant to have in the first place?

Who knows.

But perhaps England’s independence supporters have already made their contribution to Scotland’s future. A massive mismatch in attitudes towards the Union now stands revealed and

it exists within the two main Unionist parties not between

them. The majority of English Conservative and Labour voters agree on one thing – they want the Union to end.

So, there’s a lot for former No voters to think about.

It’s always disturbing to discover feelings of loyalty and affection are not reciprocated.

But it also creates the opportunity to move on.