If the future of our country wasn't in danger of being adversely affected, it would almost be funny to watch the succession of usual suspects from the SNP's "do nothing" faction queueing up to pen newspaper articles in which they use tortuously coded language in an attempt to coax Nicola Sturgeon into backing down on her plan to actually try to win independence. Stewart McDonald's effort is even more cagy than Marcus Carslaw's, to such an extent that you might be forgiven for thinking for the first half of the article that he is actually expressing support for the Sturgeon plan. However, this apparently loyal cheerleading is just waffle calculated to win a hearing for McDonald's real views, which all come in the second half, and which essentially amount to "independence should remain a safely distant ideal, rather than something that might actually threaten my Westminster career in the here and now".
Let's decode what he's actually saying...
"Any strategy on independence must be flexible..." - This seems to hint at a degree of resignation that the de facto referendum plan will at least be nominally adopted by the special conference, so instead he wants to sabotage it with some sort of get-out clause to pave the way for a U-turn further down the road - which of course he will be constantly demanding.
"...rooted in a keen understanding of public opinion and appreciate the need for loser's consent" - This appears to mean that he thinks (just like Carslaw) that if there is a narrow majority in favour of independence, the minority who oppose independence should have an absolute veto on the wishes of the majority being implemented. Losers' consent is of course an important concept in any democracy, but the onus is generally on the losers to provide that consent, rather than on the winners to accept that they cannot govern in the absence of it (unless of course there's some sort of credible doubt over who has won and who has lost). Put it this way: when Donald Trump and his followers failed to provide losers' consent after their 2020 defeat, that was certainly a problem, but the solution to that problem was not for Joe Biden to give up and say that he couldn't govern without Trump's "permission", which would never have been forthcoming.
"With the courage to lead generously, we can win" - Giving your opponents a veto on election results they don't like is, in fairness, a form of "generosity". In fact, as generosity goes it's really rather excessive.
"One option that has been widely covered since the Scottish Government’s decision to go to the Supreme Court last year is that of a de facto referendum: using the next UK General Election as the platform to settle Scotland’s constitutional future. Such a departure from the referendum option that my party has long held would be a major one, and one that must not be taken lightly or birthed out of frustration" - That is really quite an astounding paragraph. I've heard of politicians trying to rewrite the past, but McDonald seems to be trying to rewrite the present. Nicola Sturgeon has already firmly announced a de facto referendum as her decided policy - in fact she did so several months before the Supreme Court announced its verdict. But McDonald is insulting our intelligence by portraying the policy as just one of many "options", albeit one that has been mysteriously "covered" more than the others. (My guess, Stewart, is that the coverage is because Ms Sturgeon has already announced it as policy. Just a thought.)
"Indeed, the combination of the court judgement and Westminster intransigence must not force us into seeking an answer to the wrong question, or down paths that won’t ultimately allow independence to be lawfully delivered...For many years we have separated a vote for the SNP and a vote for independence. If we are to ditch that patiently crafted position - central to delivering 16 successful years in government and mainstreaming our cause - then we should do so only on sound, solid merit, not a throw of the dice. It will be difficult to get back if we lose" - I defy anyone to read these words and come to any other conclusion than that McDonald thinks there shouldn't be a de facto referendum, and that the SNP should maintain the strategy of using elections to seek a referendum. However, elsewhere in the article McDonald openly states that a referendum, and I quote, "seems impossible". It's rare for a siren voice to admit that it's trying to lure people onto the rocks, so McDonald should be commended for his refreshing honesty in admitting that he wants his party to reject a de facto referendum in favour of something that he knows to be "impossible". Even more commendable would be to admit the real nature of his motivation for attempting to sabotage the independence campaign in this way.
"The independence movement’s overarching task remains the same as it was before Lord Reed declared the court’s unanimous verdict: building majority support for independence" - On an average of recent polls there already is a majority for independence, so McDonald's belief that "building" is still needed seems to hint at a supermajority requirement - something that Marcus Carslaw also wants to impose. That's just another form of the losers' veto.