"The Yes movement is now made up of three camps:
1) Those who 'know' an indyref will not be held.
2) Those who 'know' an indyref will be held and are already trying to 'win' it.
3) Those who want to make sure the mandate for an indyref is actually used.
I'm in group 3."
But judging from the replies it seems that I was being rather naive and that there's a fourth group of independence supporters who don't want a referendum to take place at all, because they're worried about losing it. The snag, of course, is that without a referendum or equivalent democratic event, Scotland will never become independent, and it can therefore be argued that people who oppose a referendum are only 'independence supporters' in a very nominal sense.
I honestly thought we'd moved beyond this. A couple of weeks ago the SNP and Greens won a mandate to hold a referendum in this parliamentary term, and that mandate was not conditional on Yes reaching a certain level of support in the opinion polls. I assumed the only remaining questions were whether the SNP could be persuaded to keep their word, and whether they would just take "no" for an answer if the obstructionism from London continues. But it appears that there are still people who think the SNP's number one objective should be - and is - to avoid losing a referendum by not even attempting to hold one unless the polls show a fantastical level of Yes support that no-one sensible actually believes is attainable. We could reach the 2040s without having held a referendum, and the Pete Wisharts of this world will be patting themselves on the back saying "we dodged a bullet there", all the while missing the actual point of salience that Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom - in other words, exactly the same outcome that holding and losing a referendum would have produced.
Perhaps the time has come to stop asking these people what their mythical "perfect moment" to hold an indyref would actually look like. The more important question is: how long do we wait for the "perfect moment" to arrive before we say "that's long enough" and act anyway? There surely has to be some cut-off point if the referendum policy isn't a fiction. I would suggest that moment will come, at the absolute latest, when any further inaction would make it difficult or impossible to hold a referendum well before 2026 - and given the potential obstacles that may need to be cleared, that leaves little room for delay before at least setting the ball rolling. Any notion of quietly letting the mandate expire must, this time, be regarded as an absolute non-starter.
And let's not forget what the rationale of that mandate is. What pro-independence parties have said to voters, quite rightly, is that Brexit drove a coach and horses through the basis upon which people voted against independence in 2014, and that Scotland now has a right to revisit its decision. Regardless of whether people vote Yes or No, their right to choose is what matters. If what the SNP leadership were really thinking was that Brexit would only be useful if it produced a decisive Yes surge, and that people's right to choose wasn't so important if that didn't happen, then voters have been misled quite seriously. Remember that some EU citizens made decisions to stay in this country specifically because Nicola Sturgeon had reassured them that a referendum was coming, and that it would provide an opportunity for an independent Scotland to remain in the EU. That pledge has already been semi-dishonoured because full-fat Brexit has been allowed to occur without an indyref. If we let another few years go past, the notion that a referendum is in any sense a response to Brexit will look obviously bogus.
Another point that a number of people have made is that the implied logic for saying that a referendum has to wait until after Scotland has recovered from the Covid crisis is that we are better placed to recover within the UK - essentially a unionist argument. If we're saying we don't need independence to recover, how on earth are we going to convince people that we need independence after we've recovered?