It may only be three weeks ago, but to state the obvious, the SNP won an incredible, eye-watering election victory that absolutely gives them the right to govern Scotland as they see fit. That is what democratic elections are about; the electorate gives a mandate to lead and subsequently votes as to whether or not a party has done well. That is the fundamental basis of democracy – the power of veto is in the hands of the people – and it is why most of us vote in the first place. The result was so decisively in favour of the Nationalists that to argue otherwise is not only to belittle the outcome but also implies that the electorate does not know, or barely considered, whom they were voting for. And yet, I say this now because with the loud applause only just starting to fade, there is already a serious change in tone towards the SNP that does not bode well for a serious debate on constitutional change. There is a comedic element creeping into commentary about Scotland, one which portrays Scots as simply nursing a grievance and having made our point, we should now get back in our box. That basically, while the Nationalists have won the battle, they have not won the war which then gives legitimacy to the unionists and the defeated parties in this election to argue that the SNP should be forced into a referendum now. Salmond has clearly said that a referendum will be at a time of the people’s [read his] choosing. He fought an election on that basis and it is a serious miscalculation of mood to try and force his hand on something as serious as this and could have the opposite result of the desired effect. Whether the SNP’s opponents like it or not, the Nationalists hold the balance of power and this constant political call my bluff is simply exposing the weakness of the arguments in favour of the status quo and is allowing all kinds of mistruths and false analysis about whether the SNP has departed from the one true path to independence. ‘Devo-max’ and ‘independence-lite’ are media inventions and are not debates going on within the party that frankly, can’t believe how far it has travelled in so short a space of time. The SNP has never seriously considered absolute separation. We are part of an island, for God’s sake, how would that work? The SNP does want financial and political independence and it does want to be treated as an equal part of any constitutional or interdependent whole, whether on the domestic or global stage and certainly it’s election victory demands that it sets out the clarity of that vision and answers some fundamental questions now being asked. But ironically, the SNP is not the one obsessed with independence right now. Indeed, Salmond has made clear there is an immediate job to be done which is steering Scotland through very difficult financial times. And while obviously for the unionist parties there is an increasingly hysterical crisis of confidence given the SNP’s historic win, they still need to affirm a coherent and positive argument for remaining together, other than just saying independence is wrong. The hubris of defeat which leads respected figures such as Alistair Darling to keep repeating, mantra-like, that an independent Scotland could not have saved the banks, is doing nothing for their cause. That argument is not only artificial, in that who knows what the banks would have done within the context of independence but it ignores the obvious – that the banks went bankrupt while part of the Union and it exposes the barren truth that there is little other in way of a rehearsed or sophisticated argument in favour of the Union. What would be being said against independence now, for instance, had the banks not collapsed? The SNP won an election on a positive vision for a better Scotland and yet negativity about Scots is creeping into everything, from restaurant reviews to commentary pieces in so-called heavy-weight papers such as the Guardian. Only last week the Sunday Times magazine reviewed a restaurant in Glasgow that had been recommended by food critic Joanna Blythman and broadcaster Kirsty Wark and it took delight in contradicting their views and expressed the opinion that this divergence in taste would no doubt provide the Scots with yet another reason to hate the English. In an interview with Scotland’s First Minister, Radio 4’s John Humphrys suggested during questioning about the Sunday Herald naming the footballer at the heart of the super-injunction affair that in Salmond’s world of a nation of equals, Scotland should respect the English courts’ ruling despite having its own distinct judicial system. Last week BBC Scotland reported that the FM was going to London to ‘complain’ to the Chancellor about the deal Scotland was getting from Westminster and Newsnight Scotland observed that Salmond had ‘got his gander up’ about the Supreme Court ruling on Nat Fraser. Scotland is not a novelty act to be ridiculed and it seems premature in the history of this new political landscape to have to revisit Salmond’s speech on the day after the election but for the record, he said: “My dearest wish is to see the countries of Scotland and England stand together as equals. There is a difference between partnership and subordination. The first encourages mutual respect. The second breeds resentment.” It is paradoxical that while one of the more dismal recurrent aspects of the Scottish psyche is to cut down a tall poppy, it seems now we are being punished for having outgrown original predictions on devolution.