I didn't see Nicola Sturgeon's press conference this morning, but if she's been accurately reported as refusing to rule out the possibility of the SNP going into the 2016 election with a pledge to hold a second referendum, then I think that's a wise move. Yes, there'll have to be clarity by the time of the election, and that clarity is likely to involve ruling out a referendum for the forthcoming five-year term, or at least ruling it out on the strict condition that the UK does not leave the European Union. But it would nevertheless be foolish to hastily take the theoretical possibility of an early repeat referendum off the table at this stage, for the following reasons -
1) The unionist parties are trying it on, with Willie Rennie even invoking John Smith's famous "settled will" phrase to try to make out that the referendum has decided the constitutional question for good. Given that "settled will" implies a will that is not subject to fluctuation or change, it's a very odd kind of settled will that sees the Yes campaign ahead in two opinion polls over the last fortnight of the campaign, and the No campaign flapping around in panic to try to rescue the situation. However silly Rennie's claim may seem to us, it's very important that the notion that last week's vote represented some kind of final word on the matter is not allowed to take root in the public consciousness, and the best way of combating it is to make clear that no options on a future referendum have been ruled out for now.
2) The SNP will presumably be going into next year's UK general election seeking an explicit mandate for full Devo Max. But even if they win a majority of Scottish seats (a tall order, and that's why I think they should seek out an electoral pact with the Greens and others if at all possible) they would still need some kind of leverage to press that mandate home. The Conservative government were able to ignore the clear mandate that the Constitutional Convention blueprint secured in the 1992 election, because they felt under no kind of threat. But if the SNP are saying "look, we don't want to hold another independence referendum, but if you refuse to even enter into negotiations over the clear mandate for Devo Max we have just received at the general election, what choice will you be leaving us?", then that might well constitute a degree of leverage. The London government know that an early repeat referendum would be likely to fail unless there was a credible pretext for holding it, but they will also realise that their refusal to take a mandate for Devo Max seriously might just constitute such a pretext. It's like a chess game where both sides are trying to predict what their opponents will do several moves in advance.