SCOTTISH independence is recognised as one of the defining issues of the next decade, and while a majority at the Holyrood election in May would give the SNP an “unarguable mandate”, a leading political magazine says the party “has to explain what secession means”.

In a 700-word editorial, the New Statesman says London’s strategy of obstinacy is “ultimately unsustainable” and if the Union is to be meaningful, “it must rest upon consent, not coercion”.

Its front page splash is headlined “End of the affair – How long can London hold off Scottish independence?” by its Scotland editor Chris Deerin.

The illustration is a caricature of Boris Johnson scratching his head while standing on a Union Jack watching Nicola Sturgeon spray painting the blue out of the flag.

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Deerin writes: “The end of Britain, if it comes, looks like it will be less a velvet divorce and more a season finale of Dallas – messy and hysterical, a vicious and bitter fight for the spoils.

“Unionists across the political parties share a pessimistic view of the odds. As yet – so late in the day – there is no strategy or leadership, no grip or vision.”

He goes on to quote Tory MP and law professor, Adam Tomkins: “This is a message for Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak. If we carry on like this, the country will split up. And we’re running out of time.”

The National:

In the leader, the New Statesman says it has cautioned Westminster politicians “that they ignore the Scottish question at their peril”, since the SNP formed a devolved minority government in 2007.

“In 2011 we suggested that the SNP’s second victory made it ‘the natural party of devolved government’. The Labour Party under Ed Miliband did not listen.

“The SNP has since become something much bigger: a truly national party, even a party state.”

According to the magazine, there are still questions for the SNP to answer about independence – our relationship with Europe and what currency we would use.

It continues: “Yet the value of a nation and of self-determination cannot only be measured in pounds and pence.

“The progressive case for Britishness is that it has provided a broad umbrella under which multiple identities can shelter. Ethnic minority groups, in particular, feel at ease with such civic nationalism in a way they do not always with Englishness or, indeed, Scottishness.”

The magazine says the SNP should ask what would be lost and gained for all the peoples of these islands from the break-up of Britain.

It adds: “Since the 1980s, Thatcherism, austerity, Brexit and, now, Boris Johnson’s premiership have been imposed on Scotland against its democratic will.

“This is precisely why the almost 314-year old Union has never appeared more fractured.

“We have an open mind on the Scottish national question and will continue writing about it, in the magazine and on our website, with the seriousness it deserves.”