Nicola Sturgeon Ipsos MORI
Nicola Sturgeon showed the SNP has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to taming the Tories Getty

Do you recall the pre-election "scare" about the prospect of a British prime minister being forced to do things (or not do things) by the ghastly SNP? It was all true.

Nicola Sturgeon flies to London to decide the SNP's position on fox hunting in England, and within hours David Cameron has surrendered without a shot being fired, or even a fox being ripped to shreds. The only inaccurate thing about that famous Tory election poster was that it depicted Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond's pocket, rather than Cameron.

Getting people to reach that conclusion is, of course, one of the purposes of the SNP's decision to vote on a non-Scottish matter. Nothing has changed – the Tories still have an absolute majority, and in most parliamentary votes, the SNP will be on the losing side.

But there are a few issues on which Sturgeon does hold the balance of power, either due to there being a large number of likely Tory rebels, or a small number of rebels plus the DUP. If she had stuck to a self-denying ordinance on one of those issues, it would have been a criminal waste of an opportunity to change the narrative about the meaning of the general election result.

As Sturgeon said on the radio: "David Cameron is not the master of all he surveys." It's hard to see how anyone could reasonably argue with that assessment now. But it's intriguing that Cameron has acquiesced so readily with the SNP's practical demonstration of his weakness.

Tory majority fails to wield any power

By abandoning the scheduled vote altogether, he is unambiguously conceding Sturgeon has a hold over the government – exactly the scenario a Tory majority was supposed to avoid. He is also failing to press home the case for English votes for English laws, because the SNP has managed to wield power without even voting on an English-only issue.

Fox hunting protesters
Fox hunting protesters revealed their joy at the vote being postponed IBTimes UK

That last point might seem like a technicality but I lost count of the number of times that unionist commentators taunted the SNP about having "reneged" on the commitment in its 2007 manifesto to hold an independence referendum.

It only reneged in the sense that it didn't bother putting the matter to the vote, after the three largest opposition parties made clear they would block it. And yet the fact that the vote wasn't held did turn the symbolism on its head, and the same will be true on fox hunting.

Whenever a government minister sanctimoniously claims Scottish MPs have been dictating to the English, the SNP will be able to truthfully respond: "We haven't done a thing. You ran away from the vote because you couldn't carry your own backbenches."

Not that the government would have had a leg to stand on anyway. If the vote had gone ahead, the SNP, Labour and Tory rebels would have won a famous victory, and there would have been raucous cheering in the Commons. That would have provoked outrage in certain sections of the London press about the Scots gloating over their ability to overturn an English and Welsh majority on an England and Wales-only issue.

Scotland issues and English votes

But do you know what? It's just a couple of weeks since Scottish MPs voted by a crushing 56-3 majority in favour of full fiscal autonomy. That, by definition, was a Scotland-only issue. And yet the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem whips used English votes to overturn that majority.

There was rather a lot of cheering when the result was announced. I'm not sure it's really tenable for the cry to be "we are a United Kingdom parliament!" when Scotland's constitutional future is being decided, and then "the Scots must butt out of our affairs!" when the matter in hand is the right of the English aristocracy to dress up and do unspeakable things to defenceless animals.

Nevertheless, there's plenty of synthetic outrage on offer. The truly exquisite thing about the SNP's decision is that it has led to the Tories overplaying their hand. We're now told that there is even greater determination to press ahead with EVEL, so English MPs can never be overruled in this way again.

But it's simply a fact that the current EVEL proposals would not prevent this happening again, because a majority vote of all MPs would still be required to change the status quo, even on English-only matters.

Are the Tories now going to make the proposals vastly more radical to meet the expectations they have raised? If so, we're well on our way to a de facto federal system. That would be a rather splendid bonus prize for the SNP. It seems that, when you do the right thing on animal welfare, you don't have to wait for heaven to get your reward.

James Kelly is author of the Scottish pro-independence blog, SCOT goes POP! Voted one of the UK's top political bloggers, you can hear more from James on Twitter:@JamesKelly