Remember when, not a terribly long time ago, the right-wing London commentariat were up in arms about a supposed suggestion from Theresa May that the Scottish Government would be given a "veto" on the UK's Brexit negotiating stance? That always seemed a wild over-reading of what she actually said, but she certainly went out of her way after her first meeting with Nicola Sturgeon to paint a picture in Scottish minds of forthcoming serious and prolonged discussions between London and Edinburgh, that would endeavour to arrive at a "common UK position" Sturgeon could sign up to.

Many pro-European unionists in Scotland were cock-a-hoop, thinking their worst nightmare had just been "triangulated" away. Surely this was a signal that May was preparing the ground for a relatively soft Brexit, and veto or no veto, surely there was no way that Sturgeon could show her middle finger after being afforded the courtesy of substantive consultations that led to her being granted most of what she wanted? Once she had given her reluctant endorsement to the UK negotiating stance, the theory went, she'd have no possible justification for calling a second independence referendum.

This all sounds rather fantastical in retrospect. Scotland has come to understand May a tad better since then. It turns out that the consultation process the Prime Minister had in mind consisted of the Scottish Government being given the space to explain its priorities for the Brexit talks... and then being allowed to turn on the TV, watch the Conservative party conference and discover via a series of not-especially-coded messages that those priorities were to be totally ignored. The "common UK position" will be whatever the London Tories decide it is – and they've decided upon a hard Brexit.

Scotland wanted to remain within the single market. Instead, May plans to remove the UK from the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction, which effectively precludes any possibility of single market membership.

Scotland wanted to protect the interests of EU citizens currently living in our country. Instead, we find that Liam Fox cheerfully feels able to talk about those people as bargaining chips rather than as human beings with basic rights.

Scotland wanted to maintain free movement of people. Instead, free movement will end and –as an exciting added bonus – mildly fascistic "foreigner lists" will be chucked in.

If all else failed, Scotland wanted to explore the possibility of a special status that might allow parts of the UK that voted Remain to keep their links with the EU. Instead, May has haughtily decreed in the finest traditions of London imperialism that the 62% Remain victory north of the border matters not a jot, and that everything must happen as "one United Kingdom". For viewers in Scotland, Remain not only means Brexit, it means Extra-Super-Strength Brexit.

Today, we've learned in concrete terms what the consequences of that will be for real people. A study by the Fraser of Allander Institute estimates that Theresa May's hard Brexit will wipe £8m from the Scottish economy within ten years, reduce wages by £2,000 per person, and destroy up to 80,000 jobs. Even the softest possible Brexit would only be a case of damage limitation, with up to 30,000 jobs being lost.

Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Andy Buchanan/ AFP

Those horrifying numbers, together with the revelations of the Tory conference, bring an extended summer of delusion to an abrupt end for unionist commentators. With the sun still shining, with Team GB enjoying a gold rush, and with support for independence slipping back to pre-June levels (i.e. "only" 47% or 48%), there was an increasing tendency to talk about Brexit as if it was just the latest failed separatist wheeze. The difference between "membership" of the single market and "access" to it was a theological point that was of no interest or relevance to the person on the street. Nothing had changed, and nothing much was going to change.

An understanding will grow that every knot untied between Scotland and the EU is at the cost of prosperity, jobs, and basic human decency.

The reality, of course, was that nothing had changed for the very simple reason that Britain was still a full member of the EU and hadn't yet got around to clarifying what Brexit would actually look like. From now on, it will become ever-more apparent to the public that Sturgeon was not playing games when she stated that her efforts to preserve Scotland's links with Europe, which might well culminate in a second independence referendum, were about protecting the interests of Scotland and its people. An understanding will grow that every knot untied between Scotland and the EU is at the cost of prosperity, jobs and basic human decency.

The Tories have made the strategic call astonishingly simple for Sturgeon. Had they made at least a cosmetic attempt to meet her halfway, there would have been some concern in the SNP leadership that calling a new indyref could have been successfully portrayed by opponents as an act of reckless opportunism. As it is, it's abundantly clear that the recklessness is coming entirely from the direction of London, and as a result the case against offering the public the emergency antidote of an indyref is rapidly falling apart.

Absolutely none of the hardening of the Tory stance in recent days was made necessary by the 23 June mandate. With almost half of the UK population and two of the four constituent nations voting Remain, the obvious compromise position for fulfilling the Leave mandate while respecting the minority view and attempting to bring the UK back together was to seek a soft Brexit. Even Daniel Hannan recognised that logic.

It turns out that "respect" and "unity" are alien concepts for May, and consequently a second vote on Scottish independence is now near-inevitable. No-one can say for sure that Sturgeon will win it, but make no mistake – she'll be fighting it on much friendlier terrain than the first.

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