A warm welcome to 2022, the year in which - if Nicola Sturgeon keeps the promise she made to the SNP conference - the "process will be initiated" to enable an independence referendum to be held by the end of 2023. Since the conference, Mhairi Hunter and Pete Wishart have both underscored that promise - Hunter by saying that the result of the 2024 Westminster election is essentially irrelevant because a referendum will have been held by then, and Wishart by saying a referendum will definitely be held in the first half of this parliament (meaning by November 2023) without any caveats about Covid or the way in which Boris Johnson reacts to a Section 30 request.
A cynic might suspect Hunter and Wishart rehearsed their words carefully, because people have started to notice how casually the previous promises on indyref timing were "explained away". If the likes of Hunter don't at least go through the motions of making their remarks about the 2024 election congruous with the Indyref 2023 promise, it would be assumed that they're implicitly regarding the promise as every bit as insincere and empty as the promise to hold an indyref before Brexit.
Leadership loyalists say - "there's not long to wait until we find out whether the promise is genuine, so why not hold your fire?" But the problem is that they said exactly the same thing about the pre-Brexit promise, and when that promise was broken they just pretended it had never been made, and moved on to the next one. On past form, if there is no referendum by the end of 2023, they'll move on to saying "there's not all that long to wait until we find out whether the promise to hold a multi-option referendum involving a Devo Max option before 2031 is genuine, so why not hold your fire until then? What's the matter with you?"
So here's my New Year challenge to the loyalists, and indeed to the whole Yes movement - by all means believe that the current promise is the real deal, but make that belief falsifiable, as scientists would say. We've been given benchmarks by which we can judge whether the promise has been kept by specified dates, so stick to those. Don't shift the goalposts yet again if the target dates are missed. The process must be initiated by the end of this year, and a referendum must actually have been held by the end of next year. If that happens, I will gladly eat humble pie and look forward to the referendum campaign with relish. If not, there will simply be no rational basis for believing any subsequent promises on independence or a referendum from the current SNP leadership.