As you know, I think Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP leadership do not expect or intend to keep their signed-in-blood "no ifs, no buts" promise of an independence referendum in 2023. However, the fact that they are continuing to ramp up expectations of what will probably prove to be a phantom referendum is a very good thing, because that makes it much harder for a reckoning to be avoided. Harder but not impossible, mind - the SNP leadership have a track record of gratefully grabbing hold of any big news story that randomly comes along as an excuse for further delay. But the likelihood is that the rank-and-file SNP membership will go into next year in the genuine belief that a referendum is imminent, and that means the leadership will have to factor in the danger of mass disillusionment - and perhaps mass defections - if members later feel they've been 'had'. So, at the very least, the leadership are going to have to make it look like they made a serious and credible effort to deliver a referendum and were unexpectedly thwarted by forces outwith their control.
And that can no longer mean simply asking for a Section 30 order, pretending to be shocked when Boris Johnson says no, and then saying "this is totally unsustainable, vote SNP yet again in 2024 to tell Boris Johnson that he is doing something totally unsustainable". To Nicola Sturgeon's credit, she has finally released us from the Section 30 trap, and says that a referendum can go ahead without the permission of London Tories. So the failure of Johnson to respond to a Section 30 order will no longer be an acceptable excuse for inaction. What Sturgeon has not done, though, is release us from the "legality" trap - she's still drawing an utterly bogus distinction between a "legal" and a "non-legal" referendum. (In reality, the UK is not Spain and there is no such thing as an "illegal vote" here. There are certainly votes that have no legal standing or recognition, but that doesn't prevent people from organising them.) So the excuse for a lack of a referendum next year is now more likely to be legal in nature - "we tried, but we underestimated the conservatism of the Supreme Court, we can do no more for now".
And, unfortunately, there is probably still enough goodwill towards Sturgeon among the SNP membership that they would accept that as a good enough excuse for the time being. But such a sequence of events would still move us forward, because after a defeat in the Supreme Court any further talk of holding a referendum would then be seen as a dead end (barring something improbable such as a post-election deal with Starmer), and the debate would move on to the timing of a plebiscitary election. Pete Wishart would hate it, but that's where the conversation would go. So, on the whole, today's events are a positive development.
SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK
There are just 205 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)
There are just 555 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)
(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)