MANY of the key issues that will dominate the independence debate as it builds over the next year – and which will determine its outcome – are already clear and were confirmed by the Ipsos Scotland poll this week.

As this newspaper reported, distrust of Westminster and a feeling that Scotland’s trajectory in politics and society is different from that south of the Border are strong motivators for a Yes vote, while economic scaremongering and the “best of both worlds” fallacy still work in the opposite direction, though their influence is diminishing. Brexit continues to be a major concern, and an earlier poll indicated that support for remaining in the EU is now at 72%, a full 10 points ahead of where it was in the 2016 referendum.

Yet I still occasionally hear some people in the Yes movement say that focusing on Brexit is a distraction. Some even contend Scotland should accept what has happened and, as we become independent, seek a substitute for EU membership, such as association with the European Free Trade Association (Efta).

For my part, the importance of Brexit within the national debate is not diminishing but growing. Brexit isn’t simply a choice voters in England and Wales made – against our and their interests, admittedly – nor is it something that can be “made to work” or “done better”. In fact, the Tory leadership contest has revealed it to be a fatal poison – an obsession which is killing democracy.

READ MORE: Barrhead business loses out on £50k in EU funding due to Brexit

I am sorry to return to the Tory leadership contest again. It is an ever-more-revolting spectacle, and the sight and sound of Liz Truss on the issue of nuclear weapons was particularly horrific. She had clearly rehearsed the question, and it speaks volumes that instead of prefacing her inevitable hardline answer with a touch of humanity and a recognition of the awful nature of the subject, she not only robotically repeated: “I’m ready to do it” – she did so to the whoops and cheers of her Tory audience.

Contrast that with a published piece the day after by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pointing to the impasse that seems to have gripped the nuclear non-proliferation treaty renewal talks in New York and quoting John F Kennedy’s plea to “abolish these weapons before they abolish us”.

Such an unpleasant glimpse of the current Tory party reveals the effect of the Brexit poison – as does “Lord” Frost’s preposterous, bizarre and utterly unworkable proposals to abolish democracy and devolution in Scotland. He, almost unbelievably, echoed the language of Lord Carson a century ago, who argued that Irish Home Rule of any sort could not be permitted because it would “leave behind” Unionists.

His comments also brought right-wing raving previously only encountered in the far reaches of Ukip and the BNP into the political mainstream and permitted prejudice against difference – whether that be European or Scottish – to be openly flaunted as was done on Thursday by the appalling Amanda Platell on a licensed TV channel, an intervention that should have brought immediate action from the broadcasting regulator.

EMILY Maitlis further confirmed the corrosive effect of Brexit in her Edinburgh TV Festival lecture – because Tory hijacking of editorial control in the BBC took place to secure Brexit and then to ensure the details of the ensuing disaster was never revealed.

Of course, the rehearsal for such perversion of fact and argument was BBC coverage of our first independence referendum in 2014, something that should give Maitlis and her colleagues food for thought. Perhaps they might resolve not to allow it to happen again.

Doing some research a few days ago, I found myself counting the number of people appointed to Theresa May’s first Cabinet in mid-July 2016 who were still there just before Johnson’s final meltdown.

The figure is telling, for it shows how completely the Tory party has changed, and how being stridently, fervently and obsessively in favour of Brexit has become the sole determinant for progress into government – a fact which deepens the gulf between the politics of Scotland and England.

The figure, including Johnson himself, is five out of 27. The other four are Baroness Evans, the Leader of the Lords; Priti Patel; Sajid Javid; and, of course, Truss – all of whom have willingly ridden the Brexit tiger.

An examination of the list of 357 Conservative MPs with the whip presently in the House of Commons tells the same story – supporting Brexit is virtually the only way to get elected, just as going on supporting ever-harder versions of it is the only route to promotion. Amazingly Labour and the LibDems have drunk the Brexit Kool-Aid too.

Yet Brexit is clearly an unmitigated disaster, and there can be no doubt it is the major factor in making the general global challenges arising out of the war in Ukraine and Covid so much worse in the UK.

Some are now arguing that Truss is the last hope to secure what Brexiteers regard as a “true Brexit”.

READ MORE: 'Completely stupid': Scottish bike firm reveals how Brexit has hit business

But that isn’t true because if she turns out to be a traitor to the cause, as Johnson was increasingly seen, then the Brexit revolution will overturn its latest leader and seek someone even more fanatical.

The Brexit poison will continue to spread through the system, with ever-more disastrous results.

In 18th-century France, the terror was their answer to the failures of extremism. In 20th-century Russia, vast and bloody purges were meant to keep the system pure. In 21st-century England, the remedy is different but the principle is the same. Democracy, prosperity and perhaps even peace can and will be sacrificed for the sake of the Brexit revolution.

The price will be very high, and we must not be among those that are forced to pay it. That is why telling Scotland the truth about Brexit and what it is leading to remains – for me at least – the key argument in making sure we aren’t.