Pete Wishart is one of the de facto leaders of the 'indefinite delay' faction within the SNP, and judging from his latest blogpost he seems to have been put on the defensive by the results of this blog's Panelbase poll from about ten days ago that showed, by a clear majority of 56% to 44%, that the Scottish people think Holyrood should go ahead and legislate for a consultative referendum if the UK government continue to refuse to grant a Section 30 order. Pete rehearses a number of objections that we've heard many times before, but let's go through a few of them anyway. (For clarity, I'n paraphrasing him below, rather than quoting directly.)
'The new support for Yes is incredibly fragile, and we will lose all of those converts with talk of UDI, dissolved unions and wildcat referendums.'
First of all, it goes without saying that "UDI" and "dissolved unions" have nothing - absolutely nothing whatever - to do with a consultative referendum, and so those are pretty blatant straw men on Pete's behalf and should be totally disregarded. The use of the word "wildcat" is also absurdly inappropriate for a referendum that is legitimately legislated for by the Scottish Parliament, and that is either upheld by the courts or isn't subject to a legal challenge in the first place. But to turn to the substance of the point, Pete has made unsubstantiated claims in the past (usually based on vague doorstep anecdotes) about the impact that certain supposedly 'hasty' actions would have on support for independence. We're fortunate in that we now have polling evidence with which to test those claims, and frankly that evidence very strongly indicates that Pete has got it wrong. A mere 4% of the people who are currently minded to vote Yes (and who are now, don't forget, a majority of the electorate) told Panelbase that they are opposed to legislating for a consultative referendum without a Section 30. By contrast, 10% of current No voters support the idea, so if anything we might actually gain more support by being bold!
'If we legislate for a consultative referendum, the UK government won't challenge it in the courts, but will allow it to take place and then boycott it.'
Apparently we're now expected to believe that a good reason for not legislating for a referendum is that the UK will allow it to take place on a legal basis. On the logic put forward in Nicola Sturgeon's Brexit Day speech, that would actually be an argument for proceeding without delay, because the main objection she raised was that the courts might rule against her.
However, back in the real world, Pete is almost certainly wrong. There would be a legal challenge. Everything about the UK government's recent militant behaviour points overwhelmingly to that conclusion. That means we'd get clarity on the legal position, and the referendum would only take place if the Supreme Court upholds it as the law of the land. In those circumstances it would be considerably more difficult for the unionist side to boycott it, and even if they did, there would be major doubts over whether a boycott would actually detract from the legitimacy of a scrupulously legal vote. The onus would be on us to maximise legitimacy by delivering a high Yes turnout - if we have more than 1.8 million Yes votes, we'd be able to point out that we almost certainly would have won even without a boycott.
Incidentally, I am not remotely convinced that No voters would dutifully boycott as a bloc. I think a decent percentage of them would turn out and vote, particularly if the perception is that the boycott is a Tory project.
'We'd need more than 50% of the total electorate voting Yes to claim victory.'
No we wouldn't. See above. Nobody is going to assume there would have been a 100% turnout if the boycott hadn't taken place.
'After a Yes victory, the UK government would legislate to retrospectively make it illegal.'
So let me get this straight. The UK government wouldn't challenge a referendum in court. They wouldn't legislate to prevent it happening. They would let it take place, and allow Yes to win, and only then make the whole process illegal.
Come off it, Pete. This is just silly.
'People say that victory in a consultative referendum would make the UK government engage, but they haven't explained why this would happen.'
I really, truly don't know whether to laugh or cry at this juncture. Pete is a leading member of a faction who would have us believe that if we just do absolutely nothing for a few more years, if we just twiddle our thumbs and take no steps to obtain an independence mandate, then all the obstacles will vanish and independence will fall into our laps at some unspecified but long-distant point. He has never explained (indeed he has never even come within light-years of explaining) how and why the sheer passage of time will lead to the UK government conveniently surrendering, and yet he's now criticising others for not explaining why the UK government will change its attitude? It's brazen, I'll give him that. Nobody can know with certainty what will happen, but I do believe that a Yes vote in a consultative referendum (on a sufficient turnout, that is) would be a massive shock to the London establishment and that it would be difficult for them to simply ignore it. I might be wrong about that, but I'd respectfully suggest that my own belief is somewhat more plausible than Pete's strategy of "let's take no action and then Boris will cave in for no apparent reason in a few years' time".
'There would be pressure to declare UDI after a consultative referendum, and if we did that it would weaken our international standing.'
So what if there's pressure? Just resist the pressure. Does anyone seriously believe that any SNP leader would declare UDI in the foreseeable future? Does anyone believe that even Alex Salmond would have done it? I don't. It's a complete red herring.