For those that heard Nicola Sturgeon's speech, the title of this blogpost may seem like a statement of the bleedin' obvious, but I gather from a tweet written by Ipsos-Mori's Mark Diffley that some MSM outlets only took a few minutes to completely misrepresent what she had said -
"Funny seeing how this is being reported as #indyref2 being withdrawn - not what I heard at all"
As I said the other day, I was fully ready to say I thought Nicola Sturgeon had made a terrible mistake if she reversed policy on an independence referendum, but I'm delighted and relieved to say I'm not going to have to do that, because the speech ticked absolutely every box I was looking for -
* Ms Sturgeon stressed that the SNP won the general election in Scotland and that this reinforced the mandate for a referendum initially received in the Holyrood election of May 2016.
* She upheld the policy that a referendum should be held at the end of the Brexit process.
* By stressing the mandate to hold a referendum within the current Holyrood parliament, she strongly hinted the vote should take place before May 2021.
* She gave a clear timetable (autumn 2018) for making a decision on the timing of a referendum, which removes the concern that today's decision is going to later mutate into an 'indefinite postponement'.
* She undertook to step up campaigning for independence even before a referendum is called - the complete reverse of assumptions that the topic is going to be "parked".
* Although she acknowledged that the Tories losing their majority reopened the possibility of a soft Brexit (which presumably would remove the need for a referendum altogether), she didn't pretend that this was a remotely likely outcome - I think her exact words were "however slim".
* Most importantly, she didn't renounce the decision on a referendum taken by the elected Scottish Parliament a few weeks ago, and she didn't revoke the request made for a Section 30 order on the basis of that vote. (She did note that the resolution of the request has become less urgent, but it remains active.)
As far as I can see, the one and only change in the SNP position is that the referendum bill will not be brought forward in the immediate future, but instead a decision about its exact timing will be taken next year. That is a change of process, not a substantive change of policy, and I have no great problem with it. (Although it's heartening to see Patrick Harvie and the Greens acting as a counterbalance against the unionist parties and media by keeping the pressure up for the speediest possible progress.)
G A Ponsonby said the other day that he had no concerns at all about what Nicola Sturgeon was going to say, but he had great concerns about what the media were going to pretend she had said. I now see his point entirely. The media and unionist parties have a problem, though - they clearly want to say Nicola Sturgeon has performed a "humiliating U-turn" on an independence referendum, but they also want to say that Nicola Sturgeon has "ignored the wishes of the people of Scotland" by "doubling down" on an independence referendum. I have a feeling some people out there are intelligent enough to spot that those two claims are not actually consistent with each other.