You might remember that in the early days after September 18th, some people on the moderate wing of the SNP were shooting down anyone who even dared to raise the topic of a second independence referendum. Although I didn't agree with Yes supporters being told what they should and shouldn't say out loud, there was a big part of me that did feel the SNP were just going to have to "take their medicine" for a prolonged spell. It seems quite strange in retrospect, but I even suggested in an International Business Times article that the party should categorically rule out pushing for independence for two full Holyrood terms, unless something drastic happened, such as Britain leaving the European Union.
So what has changed since then? Just about everything, actually...
1) The SNP membership has increased several-fold to 115,000. Most of those new members have not joined with a view to seeing the constitutional question neglected for the next decade.
2) The Smith Agreement has been reneged upon by the UK government in several key respects. That's not something that can simply be allowed to pass, given that the No option in the referendum was so explicitly tied to the Smith process.
3) The SNP's performance at the general election was in itself a game-changer. Nobody thought in late September or early October that anything even remotely close to 50% of the vote or 56 seats was a possibility. Sometimes you have to press forward when history beckons so obviously, regardless of the timetable you originally had in mind.
4) The UK government are going out of their way to act as if the general election changed nothing, and have rejected out of hand each and every amendment to the Scotland Bill that has been tabled by the SNP. Such utter contempt for the verdict of the Scottish electorate requires a firm response.
5) Brexit may still look unlikely, but it no longer seems quite as fanciful as it did last autumn, and there is now a clear route-map which might just take us there.
6) It seems that EVEL is about to be introduced, and in a manner which shows total disregard for the democratic and parliamentary process. This by definition will constitute a "material change" in circumstances, because it will alter the basic "deal" of the United Kingdom - henceforth Scottish voters will be second-class citizens. Remember that Westminster retains absolute sovereignty over Scotland, and can abolish the Scottish Parliament on a whim at any time - so the oft-heard line about English MPs having no say on domestic Scottish matters is absurdly inaccurate. But in future, Scottish MPs will no longer have a say on matters that have a direct financial impact on public services in their own constituencies. This new inequality is utterly intolerable, especially when an English parliamentary majority has just been used to veto Scotland's democratic will for Full Fiscal Autonomy.
Now, I'm not saying that any of these material changes are necessarily sufficient to warrant an unconditional manifesto pledge for a second independence referendum, but they do warrant something substantial. It already seems very likely that there will be a conditional commitment to a referendum in the event of Brexit, but I wonder if we might also see a move towards a referendum on FFA itself. Another possibility might be to use the Holyrood election to seek a mandate to negotiate FFA with the UK government - with an explicit indication of what the consequences will be if Cameron ignores that mandate.