Scottish independence leader and first minister Nicola Sturgeon is at it again, pretending that insoluble problems can be negotiated away despite EU border rules which have been shown to be non-negotiable as recently as Brexit, writes Donald Forbes.

In an interview, the BBC's Andrew Marr put it to Sturgeon that the only way to avoid a hard border between Scotland and England if Scotland joined the EU would be a unique let out from the requirements of the EU single market or for the UK to abandon Brexit. Neither is likely to happen, he observed drily. Sturgeon, always articulate, responded with the classic "we will negotiate", despite knowing that neither of her prospective negotiating partners could or would meet her demands.

Under Sturgeon's leadership and with opinion polls at their back, the SNP is expected to retain power at Holyrood elections in May and claim a mandate for a second independence referendum. Boris Johnson has ruled out granting one, but that simply adds another grievance to the nationalists' well-stocked quiver.

Scottish politics resembles a ball kept aloft by a water fountain. The ball is the SNP which is dedicated to leaving the union with England. The fountain is composed of the Scottish electorate's credulity and the party's constant of happy talk about Scotland's golden future if it can escape its oppressive ties with England – and the fantasy that inescapable obstacles are escapable. The SNP needs a majority of the Scots to believe the fantasy until after independence when the consequences would prove its untruth but be irrevocable.

There are two kinds of SNP voter. The first are ardent nationalists who want to break with the English whatever the cost. The second are emotionally attracted to the idea of regaining a nationhood that has been subsumed in the Union for 300 years but are wary of what that means for their jobs and standard of living. The Union is rich but the devolved regions ?including Scotland ? are financially dependent on London. This division explains why the consistent recent polling majority in favour of independence is suspect. Lukewarm nationalists may be happy to keep the SNP in power in a limited government, but their support cannot be counted on at an actual referendum.

It is to soothe the anxieties of waverers that Sturgeon persists, in the face of all evidence, that everything is negotiable with both Brussels and London who will surely accept that plucky little Scotland, voting for something it cannot afford, is a special case.

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Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell, CEO of the SNP, who are the two most powerful people in Scotland, have no personal illusions about the realities of independence but are selling dreams to their working-class base in central Scotland, the country's most populous region. Sturgeon, Murrell and their cronies have a lot less to lose even if GDP falls precipitously and the UK subsidies under the Barnett formula disappear as they most certainly will. They will cover themselves politically as they always do by blaming hard-hearted London.

The fundamental dishonesty of the SNP's message is that no one will suffer from independence and that Scots will somehow be better off with less. Their success in convincing so many of them of this is a feat of political charlatanry and psychological exploitation of the Scots inferiority complex. For every bold cry of "Scots wa hae" there is a nagging suspicion that it is just bluster.

Many are already aware of the delusion of Sturgeon's plans to join the EU because Scotland does not remotely qualify. In any case, the first negotiation after independence would be with London. Whatever treaty was agreed between the two countries would be of fundamental importance to Scotland since if the EU were closed off, independence would be permanent.

The SNP is at war with itself over the timing of a second referendum. Supporters of Alex Salmond want one as quickly as they can get it. Sturgeon is trying to hold the line on delay until she is sure she can win. A second failure would severely damage the cause.

The UK government could help things from getting this far. George Osborne concentrated the minds of Scots voters in 2014 when he said an independent Scotland could not officially use the pound and the SNP has never developed an alternative to sterling. Johnson's government could reinforce Osborne's ban by warning that independence would mean a hard border between the two countries to free itself of SNP troublemaking regardless of the EU.

There are obvious objections to such a brutal move, not least that nationalists would brandish it as evidence the Scots are indeed an oppressed people. However, the purpose would be to make the Scots think harder about the consequences of going it alone and to save them from themselves.

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