The latest desperate tactic of unionist politicians and journalists is to attempt to deligitimise the Greens' forthcoming vote in favour of an independence referendum by suggesting that it is somehow a betrayal of their own Holyrood manifesto from last year. A frequently-heard claim is that the manifesto committed the party to only back a referendum if "one million" signatures had been collected demanding one. That is completely and utterly untrue. For one thing, you will search that manifesto in vain for the figure "one million", because it's not mentioned anywhere. There isn't even a commitment that ANY signatures at all have to be collected - all that is said is that the Greens' "preferred way" of triggering a referendum is by an "appropriate number" of people signing a petition. The phrase "preferred way" was an implicit acknowledgement that the Greens were going to continue to be a minority party within a parliament elected by proportional representation, and that holding a referendum would therefore require listening to the "preferred ways" of other parties, and then reaching an agreement on which one would be adopted. Absolutely nothing in the manifesto precludes the Greens from backing an option that is not their own first preference.
As far as the one million figure is concerned, it's true that Patrick Harvie was asked what an "appropriate number" might be, and one million is what he came up with. But the unionists can't have it both ways - if they're going to treat a manifesto like a sacred text and beat a party over the head with it, they actually do have to look at the words that are contained within it, and not at extraneous material. There is no definition provided in the manifesto for the phrase "appropriate number" - it could be a million signatures, it could be twelve. It could certainly be a low enough figure to be achieved comfortably within an afternoon or two.
As I understand it, the Greens' own explanation of their current stance rests primarily on the part of the manifesto that stated in general terms that if a referendum is to happen, it must come about by "the will of the people". The will of the Scottish people as expressed in the referendum last June is to remain within the European Union, which is no longer compatible with their earlier desire to remain within the United Kingdom. A second independence referendum is therefore the only way of resolving the incompatibility, and determining what the will of the people actually is when faced with a straight choice between the UK and the EU. That logic looks watertight to me.
I think most of us would agree that it would have been better if the Green manifesto had used stronger wording, and had explicitly referred to the possibility of an early referendum being triggered by Brexit. Nevertheless, the wording was more than adequate, for the following reasons -
* It acknowledged the prospect of a second independence referendum, and committed the Greens to campaigning for a Yes vote when it takes place.
* It did not exclude the possibility of a referendum taking place within the 2016-21 parliament.
* It imposed no specific pre-conditions on Green support for a referendum within the 2016-21 parliament.