So we've now seen Nicola Sturgeon's heavily-trailed essay, which apparently marks "the start of a new independence campaign". The piece can be summarised as "the government I lead is wonderful - no, seriously, it's truly, truly wonderful, oh and it's time to debate independence". No date is announced for the independence referendum, and indeed the word "referendum" isn't even used at all as far as I can see, which is a bit worrying given that we're supposed to have been guaranteed that there will be a referendum within the next nineteen months at the absolute most. However, the referendum promise is at least obliquely acknowledged with references to people "wanting a say" on Scotland's constitutional future, and the SNP being "committed to offering that choice". To the extent that there's any meat at all, it's the announcement that the Scottish Government "will shortly begin publishing" an updated prospectus for independence.
I suppose if you were opting for the maximally charitable interpretation, you would say that perhaps the SNP are paying attention to the optics of doing everything in the correct sequence. So first we'll see the prospectus for indy, then perhaps there'll be a renewed request for a Section 30 order, then there'll be legislation for a referendum in the absence of a Section 30, followed presumably by a high-profile Supreme Court verdict on whether the legislation is within Holyrood's competence. But that would be a very, very optimistic expectation given the long history since 2017 of the SNP starting these much-hyped pushes towards independence, only to allow them to quietly fizzle out within a few weeks.
On that very point, I've received some interesting feedback relating to the Scot Goes Pop #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock. The person said that they understood what I was trying to achieve - it's like an each-way bet that attempts to help shame the SNP into keeping their promise this time, but also with the aim of forcing SNP leadership loyalists to notice if that promise isn't kept, in the hope that they might then take some action (either by pressing for internal change within the SNP or by moving across to a different pro-indy party). But, the person added, he wasn't sure that would work, because this particular scenario is different to the earlier promises that a referendum would be held in 2018, or in 2019, or in 2020, or in 2021. This time there really is a justified expectation that some sort of action will be taken. It's not that the referendum will actually be held - it probably won't be. But the SNP at least seem minded to legislate for a referendum, safe in the belief that the Supreme Court is likely to strike it down, and only then will they refuse to take any further concrete action for the foreseeable future. And because of the theatrics of a televised Supreme Court case, most SNP members and supporters will be satisfied with that - they'll think "we wanted something to be done, and it has been". If I then persevere with the Countdown Clock, people will just say "what are you talking about, they did their level best to hold the referendum in 2023".
That may well be a perfectly plausible scenario, but actually if we ever get to that point, I'd be almost inclined to say "mission accomplished" as far as the Countdown Clock is concerned, because I'm far from convinced that the SNP will even hold their nerve sufficiently to push matters as far as legislation or a Supreme Court showdown. Based on past precedent, there's a very real chance that they'll gratefully grab hold of any convenient excuse that comes along for delaying the whole process yet again, and that'll be when we very much need to confront SNP leadership loyalists with the uncomfortable truth that yet another promise has been broken.
At least if we get to the point where the Supreme Court have said Holyrood can't hold a referendum, we'll be a bit further forward, because it will kill the whole bogus narrative about how we have to keep delaying a referendum until we're "certain to win" (impossible) because we "only get one more shot". After a Supreme Court defeat, the only game in town will be a plebiscitary election, and elections come up once every five years, not "once in a generation". The likes of Pete Wishart will no longer get away with pretending that the independence cause is a piece of china he's balancing on his head, heroically trying to prevent it from being destroyed forever.