Are we on course for indyref2?

Brian Taylor
Political editor, Scotland
@tannadiceladon Twitter

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So is that it, then? Are we definitely set on course for an early rerun of the independence referendum? Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Fans of Evelyn Waugh's fine novel, Scoop, will recall that phrase is a circumlocution. It means, in practice, no. Without being too precise about it.

The reason for this Boot-like vacillation? There is seldom much that is certain about politics. And these Brexit times are particularly redolent of disquiet and imprecision.

These notes frequently comment upon the Lewis Carroll nature of contemporary discourse.

You know, why is a raven like a writing desk? Why is a decision of the Scottish Parliament to refuse consent seen as granting it?

But, to be clear (OK, to approximate clarity), Nicola Sturgeon has not set out detailed plans for a second independence referendum. Not in yesterday's interview with the commendable Robert Peston. Nor anywhere else.

Indeed, questioned about the timing of such a repeat plebiscite, Ms Sturgeon simply restated her determination to wait until there is, in turn, "clarity" (that word again) about the potential Brexit outcome.

Some might say: loadsaluck, FM. But Ms Sturgeon anticipates that - "hopefully" - we may no longer be seeing through a glass, darkly, by the time summer has given way to the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. In short, autumn.

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To be clear (OK, this is becoming a habit), she has said that again. And again. And again. Indeed, she has said almost nothing else on the subject since she backed down from demands for an early rerun poll.

Why the caution? Because, as this column has constantly noted, the offer of independence is founded upon a presumption of Scottish national confidence. It is not based on flight. These pre-Brexit days are not a propitious period for making an offer based upon confidence.

But hang on? Isn't she about to publish the long (and I mean long) awaited report on Scottish economic growth, conducted for her party by the estimable Andrew Wilson et al?

Isn't that in her own words an opportunity to "restart the debate" about independence? Chums, it is, it is.

But that does not, of itself, mean that an early referendum is either scheduled or inevitable. Nor does it mean it is ruled out.

Rather, it strikes me as being a strategy of "prepare and decide". You remember, the policy adopted by the Treasury when Tony Blair wanted to take Britain into the Single European Currency - and Gordon Brown didn't.

Britain prepared for the prospect of currency alignment. Then G. Brown won the argument - by setting out five tests for membership. Britain stayed out of the Euro.

Incidentally, you know the more common Treasury strategy when dealing with anything they don't like?

Firstly, they say it is too costly and will damage the balance sheet. Then, they say it is too bureaucratic and will waste years. Then, if still thwarted, they say: look, we really hate this, weren't you listening the first two times?

So Nicola Sturgeon is preparing, prior to deciding. Two distinct phases. That strategy has another huge advantage. It is exactly in line with the aims and ambitions of the wider pro-independence movement.

Like the SNP membership, the broader movement is not universally demanding an instant referendum. Far from it. But, just like the party, they do want intelligent debate, activism and campaigning now. On the key questions that were tricky last time. Like the currency.

Nicola Sturgeon hopes that will be a consequence of this week's Growth Commission report. But, to be clear again (a new record), we have been here before too.

In September 2016, Ms Sturgeon announced the "biggest listening exercise" in her party's history when she instigated a consultation on the subjects of Brexit and independence.

What was that if it was not "restarting the debate" about independence?

So, in sum, Nicola Sturgeon wants to refresh her party's approach to independence. She wants to tackle now, ahead of any polling, the toughies which resulted in defeat for her cause in 2014.

But that does not mean she has definitively declared that the referendum is on. Yet

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