As I've noted a few times over recent days, the SNP leadership have clearly decided that using a Westminster election - as opposed to a snap Holyrood election - as a plebiscite vote is not even up for discussion, and have no intention of telling us the real reason why they're so determined to go down that road. To the extent we're hearing any reasons at all, they're just 'truthy' sounding excuses that don't stand up to the remotest scrutiny. So for the sheer hell of it, let's speculate as to what the real explanation might be. Here are a few obvious possibilities that spring to mind...
1) They're worried that if a Holyrood plebiscite election goes catastrophically wrong, they might lose power altogether (something that can't happen in a Westminster election). This is not a completely unfounded concern, because electorates in western countries are more volatile than a few decades ago, and if things start to go wrong in the middle of an election campaign there is the danger of the wheels coming off completely - as they did for Iain Gray in 2011, for example. But it still doesn't make sense to give in to that worry, because the purpose of the SNP having power is to use that power to attempt to bring independence about. It's not the function of the independence campaign or of the independence cause to keep the SNP in comfortable, risk-free power for its own sake.
2) They're worried about the symbolism of Nicola Sturgeon resigning as First Minister, as she would be required to do to trigger an early Holyrood election without a two-thirds majority vote. If so, they're being absurdly risk-averse, because from a procedural point of view there really is nothing that can go wrong. The SNP and Greens in combination have enough seats to prevent any alternative government from being viable. Any unionist government that might technically take power on a minority parliamentary vote would find itself humiliated in a confidence vote within a matter of days.
3) They've decided to make a virtue out of necessity by using the clamour for a 'Plan B' to help the SNP win seats at a potentially tricky general election. Although this would be a very cynical motivation, it's the most interesting one, because it would suggest they've war gamed it (perhaps with the help of private polling and focus groups), and come to the conclusion that the SNP would do better in a plebiscite Westminster election than in a regular Westminster election. And ultimately anything that's in the self-interest of the SNP in a plebiscite vote is also in the interests of the independence cause. Perhaps they think Yes-supporting Labour voters (the Cat Boyd Paradox) would be more likely to switch to the SNP if independence seemed to be genuinely on the ballot. Maybe they reckon the BBC and other broadcasters would be more open to giving the SNP fair access to leaders' debates if the election is presented as a de facto referendum on independence.
But if that is their thinking, it further underscores what I said the other day about the absolute imperative of closing down any suggestion that the plebiscite election is just a ruse and all you're really looking for is a Section 30 order. If you don't have absolute conviction that the election is an outright decision on independence, don't expect Labour voters or the BBC to believe it either - and if they don't believe it, they simply won't change their behaviour in the way you're banking on. One of the most extraordinary spectacles I've ever witnessed on British television was the edition of Newsnight on the day Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the plan of using an election as a de facto referendum if the Supreme Court ruled against her. Astoundingly, it never even occurred to Kirsty Wark to pose the question of whether the UK Government would respect a mandate for independence at a plebiscite election and would then agree to negotiate an independence settlement. Instead, she just took it as read that the plebiscite plan was nothing more than yet another attempt to gain a Section 30, and only considered the question of whether that ploy would have the desired effect if the SNP won a majority. Angus Robertson, who was one of her guests, did nothing to challenge that narrative.
If this strategy is to have a hope in hell of working, the implicit surrendering has got to stop right now.