SCOTTISH politics has been shaped by big events in recent weeks. The SNP have seen the end of the era of unquestioned dominance – one which will result in politics becoming more unpredictable and competitive for the next few years.

This is a period of change and ­disruption, and hence disorientation for some, ­especially those who supported the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon while first minister and believed that her leadership provided the best prospect for ­independence.

There is a profound, even visceral sense of betrayal and disappointment in sections of the SNP and ­wider independence. But there is also in this upheaval the prospect of an emergent and eventual renewal, ­although none of this will be easy.

To understand where we are now, we have to take a step back and understand the history, societal ­changes and long revolution from which Scotland has come – and is still experiencing.

READ MORE: Cartoon depicting SNP figures on crosses condemned

Through this, we can place the independence debate in a broader ­context, understand its roots, and ­recognise a deeper set of influences than those usually ­cited. This allows us to see the longer-term factors beyond the ­immediate crises of the SNP and ­everyday party politics.

Scotland has, for all its “Red Clydeside” ­mythology, had for much of its history an authoritarian, ­top-down, set of traditions and institutions which sat alongside and over-powered its radicalism, rebellion and people power.

Until fairly recent times, we were a society defined by moral, punitive, prescriptive authority. There was the pervasive power of the Kirk which reached peak membership in the mid-1950s; clear ­parameters of what could and could not be talked about in “respectable society”; pronounced barriers in ­public life to certain groups such as Catholics which only began to weaken in the 1960s and early 1970s; ­within a society which engaged in mass punishment and ­systematic violence, only banning the belting of ­children in schools in 1987.

This near-omnipotent sense of authority began to dramatically weaken over the course of the post-war era. There were always counter-stories to this state and different shades and hues of authority. Post-1945, a notion of good, enlightened authority – shaped by the rise of professionals, experts and the new ­managerial class, all of which had been expanded by the Second World War – came to the fore, claiming that they had the interest of the vast majority of the population at their heart.

Scotland at the turn of the 20th century was one of the richest countries in the world per head, but was savagely shaped by inequality and poverty. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 49 years for ­women and 45.9 years for men, and it was these grim ­realities which slowly galvanised government and public ­agencies to act, and to eventually improve and ­transform the quality and length of people’s lives.

Life expectancy rose to 67.8 for women and 64.1 for men for 1948-50, and 76.9 years for women and 71.1 for men by 1990. But these figures contain huge disparities with not all Scots equally enjoying such a transformation and too many not celebrating their 70th birthday.

This is part of the good story of Scotland ­1945-75 which saw progress, lives transformed, greater ­opportunity and a wider levelling of ­society – while not eradicating poverty, inequality and ­discrimination. The expanded technocratic class were key ­drivers in this, but this also represented the best of the Labour, socialist, social democratic and trade union traditions. This was above all a ­positive, enabling idea of freedom – one for every citizen, rather than just those who could afford it; tellingly in Scotland, it was called “planned freedom” – one with authority, purpose and boundaries.

The very success of this version of Scotland, ­albeit partial, post-1945, not only changed lives but fundamentally remade how men and women saw themselves and their future, their expectations and ­aspirations. This was the age of working-class optimism and opportunity reflected in British culture and society, and in films like Look Back In Anger and Room At The Top which told complex stories of ingrained resistance to change in privileged circles, and the drive and hope of working-class aspirations and dreams.

No longer was it enough to treat ­people as automatons – “new model citizens” who would do what they were told and be grateful in their new, shiny council housing on the edge of a town or city, liberated to an extent by the modern new electrical goods they could buy which made home life easier.

People wanted to be treated with respect, offered choice and engaged with as informed individuals. All this was the beginning of a rebellion brewing in “the people’s heartland” – one with echoes across the entire West.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf 'unequivocally' backs buffer zone legislation

At its peak, the power of authority began to be slowly questioned by more people in Scotland. There was the rising tide of working-class confidence, improving living standards, the power of trade unions, greater educational opportunities and the expansion of higher education. This was a Scottish version of a story found across the UK and the West.

The 1950s were the era of “peak ­Britain” across the entire kingdom ­including Scotland. This was a time ­supposedly defined by the homogenisation of British politics whereby politics moved to the same rhythm.

Labour and the Tories won 96.5% of the Scottish vote in 1951, ­alongside 97.6% of the English and 96.8% of UK-wide votes. The Liberals were a tiny force reduced to six seats in 1951 and 1955. The SNP were smaller, ­standing two ­candidates in 1951 and ­winning 7299 votes and in 1955 two again ­winning 12,112 votes. There was even talk in 1955 that, if the SNP had not been able to stand two candidates, of calling it a day – and a wider discussion about merging with the Liberals who had a long-term commitment to home rule.

This was not a one-off. As is widely known, the Tories won more than half the vote (50.1%) in Scotland in 1955, but less known is how popular they were across the UK at this point. In the same ­election, Anthony Eden, who had finally taken over as PM from Winston ­Churchill and was enjoying a brief electoral ­honeymoon, saw the Tories returned also winning a majority of the vote in England (50.4%) and Northern Ireland (68.5%). Only the reluctance of the Welsh prevented the party winning a majority of votes across the UK, falling just short with 49.7% – still the highest Tory vote share since 1945. This was “peak Britain” and just as it arrived forces were working which would erode it.

In the late 1950s, as Tory PM Harold Macmillan presided over “you have ­never had it so good”, rising prosperity and ­living standards, the age of affluence was being felt in Scotland. Yet at the same time, the relative underperformance of the Scottish economy began to concern government and business and come to the ­attention of voters.

In 1958, Scottish unemployment hit the unprecedented figure of 100,000 – ­something it had never done since 1945, and at a time when policy-makers talked endlessly of “the age of full employment”. Along with this, economic growth and other indicators were significantly ­lagging behind the rest of the UK.

This was the backdrop to the 1959 ­election when the Tories under ­Macmillan won a third term with a 100-seat ­majority. For all the talk of ­“national swing”, as England swung ­further ­towards the ­Tories, Scotland moved ­towards Labour. In 1955, the Tories had won 36 seats to Labour’s 34 in Scotland with a solitary Liberal. In 1959, Scotland shifted to ­Labour winning 38 seats to the Tories’ 31 with one Liberal, and Labour making four direct gains from the Tories.

Not only that, the economic storm clouds brought concerns about the health of business, investment and ­prosperity to government who decided to act. A ­prominent initiative was the Toothill ­Report published by the Scottish ­Council for ­Development and Industry (SCDI) in 1961.

Its economic prognosis for reviving Scotland was thin, involving mantras which were to come centre-stage in future decades. These included raising ­council house rents to a “sensible level” to ­increase labour mobility, calling time on “propping up dying areas and the undue concentration on looking to others for help”, and regular and cheaper London-to-Edinburgh and Glasgow air links.

Alongside this, other major ­changes ­were to have a long-term impact. A ­significant cultural dimension was ­provided by the emergence of an ­embryonic folk music scene, which linked into an emerging youth culture and nascent student politics, fed into a generational shift in politics and culture.

At the same moment Dwight ­Eisenhower’s US administration made a request to the UK for basing rights for ­nuclear weapons. This occurred in 1959, the site for US nuclear forces identified as Holy Loch in the west of Scotland, and the first deployment took place in March 1961. Simultaneously, the UK government of Macmillan held on to the illusion of “British great powerism” and the fantasy of an independent ­nuclear deterrent, Polaris, confirmed in March 1963, which ultimately would be based at Faslane.

Both of these decisions occurred ­before the emergence of “the Scottish ­Question”. Yet the effect of these two geopolitical events was both immediate and long-term, providing a catalyst for what was to become Scotland’s ­contemporary constitutional debate.

This juxtaposition of a myriad mix of interconnected and separate factors – the nuclear question, folk music and generational protest politics, alongside the increasing awareness of a distinctive Scottish economic agenda – contributed to an emerging idea of Scotland different from the rest of the UK.

It had a political element in the shift from Tories to Labour which began in 1959 and culminated in the 1980s and 1990s. It saw the emergence of a ­politicised younger political culture that contributed to the rise of CND. A ­cohort of people, admittedly in small ­numbers, joined the SNP as the only ­party in ­Scotland emphatically ­anti-nuclear ­weapons, as Labour under Hugh Gaitskell had overturned its anti-nuclear stance in 1961. Even the modern SNP logo created at the time is a tribute to this confluence: combing the Saltire with the CND ­symbol.

These different factors contributed to the beginnings of a profound shift in the idea of Scotland. This had an ­economic, cultural, democratic, ­generational and ­geopolitical aspect to it. ­Subsequently, it was reinforced by successive ­failures of Conservative and Labour UK governments to bring about greater growth, prosperity and equality.

IN 1970, for the first time since 1945, Scotland got a Conservative government it did not vote for. Scottish Labour’s evidence to the Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution said there was no such thing as “a separate political will for Scotland”, and that “they were prepared to put up with” UK Conservative governments that Scots did not vote for, as future Labour administrations “can more than make that good” – meaning any damage done. Such attitudes were about to be tested and found wanting.

Such political dynamics contributed to igniting the campaign for a Scottish ­Parliament and linking to the Tory ­attack on trade unions in the early 1970s. It had already had a flip from Winnie Ewing’s victory at Hamilton in 1967, and as a ­result, at their Annual Congress in 1968, the STUC supported home rule. Faced with Ted Heath’s Conservative government, the STUC in 1972 began to talk about a “democratic deficit” in Scottish politics – a phrase that would resonate in the 1980s.

This brings us to the present. Part of today’s independence movement has ­always displayed a Janus-like character. At times post-2014 it has believed it was speaking for a self-evident majority – and that the only thing holding the cause back was bold leadership. And at other times it has displayed an anxiousness and ­nervousness, believing that unless we have an indyref as soon as possible ­somehow the moment might be lost.

The notion of an increasingly ­autonomous, self-governing Scotland has never been owned by any one political party or perspective. It is associated with Scotland’s slow journey of detachment from the UK imperial centre, of which the independence project is but one ­expression, but not the sole one.

The long-term changes above still ­impact on the present in their ­modern ­variants – economic, cultural, ­democratic, generational and geopolitical. These make the debate about “the Scottish Question” about more than short-term political changes and the ebbs and flows of everyday politics.

Coming to the immediate ­environment – 16 years of SNP government, electoral dominance, and the success and ­limits of “Big Tent” politics all eventually come at a cost. Sixteen years in office and the style of politics of the past eight ­during ­Sturgeon’s leadership have hugely ­affected where we are now.

A more profound influence in all this is the morphing of the SNP under Alex ­Salmond and Sturgeon into a party of institutional Scotland. This has seen the SNP become what can be understood as a “court party” – a political entity about ­access, patronage and privilege. This is the traditional way that Scottish elite politics has been undertaken through the ­centuries. It was how politics operated around the monarch’s court pre-1603 – it was how much of the politics of the ­pre-democratic ­Parliament was ­undertaken with a loose alliance called the Court Party out to win favours and preferment.

The National: Scottish politics will move into a new landscape with the prospect of a Labour governmentScottish politics will move into a new landscape with the prospect of a Labour government

In more recent times, it shaped the character of Scottish Labour’s dominance – and the same has become true of the SNP.

Scottish and UK politics will soon move into a new political landscape, ­defined by the prospect and potential election of a UK Labour government.

If this ­happens it will have consequential ­effects on ­Scottish politics – requiring a new distinct Scottish Labour offer when there is as yet none, and a very different SNP and ­independence offer.

All of this has to be understood in the context of Scotland’s long ­revolution, ­enduring drivers and the shifting idea of Scotland – ongoing, never-ending and ­without a final singular story and ­conclusion. Scottish independence has to take succour from the reality that it is now part of that mainstream ­transformation and is not ­going away, but also that it is not the sole story or has a monopoly on ­Scotland’s ­future.

Gerry Hassan is the author of Scotland Rising: The Case For Independence, published by Pluto Press, £14.99.