So just a few miscellaneous thoughts about the BBC's latest reporting on where the indyref2 saga goes from here. I know some people always get irritated with me if I take the BBC's account of anonymous briefings on trust, but let's just assume for the purposes of this blogpost that the report isn't entirely a work of fiction.
* First of all, it's encouraging that the expectation is still that Nicola Sturgeon will shortly renew her demand for a Section 30 order. There was a brief spell a few weeks ago when the mood music from one or two key people in the SNP seemed to suggest that even the Section 30 request might be subject to an indefinite delay, so I'm relieved that doesn't appear to be the case after all.
* There's no mention (as far as I can see) that the Section 30 request will be accompanied by an announcement of an intended date for the referendum. On the other hand, there's no indication that it won't be. My own view is that specifying a date would be highly desirable, because it would bring into sharper relief the fact that Westminster are attempting to obstruct an exercise in Scottish self-determination.
* Obviously the indications from Tory sources that Theresa May will deny a Section 30 request are no great surprise. We may have all been shocked two years ago when the Prime Minister reversed decades of British government policy by announcing that Scotland no longer had an unconditional right to democratic self-determination, but we now fully understand that the United Kingdom has become Scotland's prison, and the only question is what action we are going to take on our own initiative to escape.
* I'm heartened that the SNP leadership have clearly been giving serious consideration to that question, but I'm troubled that they might be coming up with unwise answers. We seem to be looking at the next Holyrood or Westminster election (whichever comes soonest) being used to produce an even more emphatic mandate for a referendum than the mandate we already have. Essentially that means that unless a snap Westminster general election happens to be called prior to May 2021 (something we have very little control over), the current mandate for an independence referendum will be allowed to expire. That seems to me a wholly unnecessary admission of defeat - albeit defeat only in one battle, rather than the whole war. But if it's really deemed necessary to seek a renewed Holyrood mandate, surely consideration should be given to doing so via an early election held well before 2021. Yes, that would be a drastic step, but if we're serious about Brexit being an emergency situation, there's nothing inappropriate about taking emergency action. If an early election is called for the express purpose of securing an indyref mandate, and if that mandate is duly secured, it would arguably become politically much more difficult for Westminster to continue saying "no".
* Nevertheless, there is a chance they will continue to say "no", and we need to have a Plan B ready for that eventuality. The Glasgow SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter suggested a few weeks back that we should respond to every successive rejection of a Section 30 order by just "campaigning some more for a referendum". That is not a sustainable position - if we go to the people asking for yet another mandate for a referendum, we have to be clear that if the mandate is secured we will expect it to be respected this time, and that we won't just keep going round in circles forever. That would mean moving forward to an alternative method of winning independence if there is a further refusal to grant a Section 30 - probably either a consultative referendum or a decision to use the next available election to seek an outright mandate for independence. Why the SNP leadership appear so squeamish about those options is beyond me, given that they would both be perfectly legal (a consultative referendum could only take place if it was upheld by the Supreme Court). And as it happens, the SNP have already moved beyond strict constitutionality anyway - as I understand it, Mike Russell has said that the Scottish Government does not accept the legitimacy of the EU Withdrawal Act as it affects the devolution settlement, even though there is no dispute that it is the law of the land.
* In a perverse way it's helpful that an SNP source from the 'delay' lobby was more specific than usual in claiming that we won't be ready for a referendum before 2025 at the earliest. Leaving aside the fact that this seems to be a random date plucked out of thin air, it makes abundantly clear that at least one of the 'delay' parliamentarians does not take seriously the manifesto commitment he or she was elected on to hold an independence referendum in the event of Brexit. I don't think any SNP voter who read that pledge would have thought they were in fact voting for a referendum six years after Brexit, and four years after the parliament they were electing had been dissolved.