DO you like haggis?

What a range of answers that question prompts. It’s deceptively simple, but ask a group of Scots and a staggering spectrum of opinion emerges, much of it preceded by more questions.

What type of haggis are we talking about, veggie or meat? Is it the swanky stuff (acceptable) or the stuff they used to serve at school (rank)? Do haggis samosas count? What about haggis fritters? What if you love haggis suppers, but the merest whiff of a Burns Supper brings back traumatic memories of granny’s cooking? What then, eh, what then?

You can see where I’m going with this. Binary questions are hopeless when it comes to understanding what people want or like, because the answer is often loaded with caveats and exceptions. Do you like haggis? Mebbes aye, mebbes naw. And as for haggis, so it is for massive constitutional change.

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But any forthcoming independence referendum is still set to offer us a simple binary choice.

If, after everything we have learned from Brexit, we still forge ahead with that approach, we need to have a plan for dealing with the messy fallout when it proves once again to be far more complex than advertised. And that means thinking now about thresholds and confirmatory referendums – because the problems of the future are already in the making.

Just look at the question. The Scottish Government wants to reuse the one from 2014, with its yes/no options, but the Electoral Commission is pushing hard to review it.

The Commission say that, with their reputation as sticklers, having their rubber stamp on the question should reassure people that it’s clear and neutral.

Trouble is, there’s no such thing as a neutral question any more – not that everyone agrees on – and a neutral question is the last thing either side appears to want anyway. The Scottish Government is avoiding the Electoral Commission as if it were an embarrassing ex. The Commission rejected a yes/no format for the EU referendum in 2016, in favour of leave/remain, so might the SNP leadership want to avoid the risk of that happening here?

Of course they would. The word “yes” is gold dust for any political campaign: Barack Obama took the White House in 2008 on a wave of optimism powered by the slogan Yes We Can.

Optimism is everything. Boris Johnson’s entire re-election campaign is predicated upon it, and in challenging circumstances, it seems to be working. In 2014, the independence campaign drew its slogan from the very ballot paper itself and watched their poll ratings surge, while the pro-UK side, left with the downbeat alternative, had to find ways of making it sound, if not positive, then at least slightly less gloomy (“No thanks”).

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No wonder, then, that pro-Union campaigners seem to favour the alternative wording leave/remain. With this format, suddenly the boot is on the other foot, since Remain has far more positive connotations in Scotland than Leave. A poll done with the new wording published this week by Scotland in Union produced the strongest pro-UK result in years, at 59 per cent. Tory MSP Murdo Fraser tweeted “Leave/Remain and a two thirds majority required. Bring it on,” concluding with a winky face. At least he realises how nakedly self-serving the idea sounds.

Even if you could find an unbiased question, you are still left with a binary choice, a device so inadequate to the task of assessing public opinion that it makes polling boffins want to tear out what’s left of their hair.

We ignore the lessons of 2016 at our peril. The Brexit referendum has turned out to be almost meaningless as a measure of what sort of relationship the people of Britain actually want to have with the EU. Hard, soft, medium: there are as many forms of Brexit as there are cheeses in Lidl, but the EU referendum delivered a narrow victory for Leave on the basis of a version that wasn’t even on the shelf. Since then, the Government has moved to a position so extreme that it cannot possibly be said to have a mandate from the people. Just because someone wants haggis in principle doesn’t mean they want it dipped in white chocolate and served on a bed of candy floss. Who wouldn’t prefer fish’n’chips if that’s the other choice?

There are similar problems with independence. The Scottish referendum campaign was much more respectable than the EU one, but it still involved the sale to voters of a wish list, not a set of reliable judgments (think of the currency union stramash). This is inevitable, since neither the EU nor the UK government will start serious negotiations with the Scottish Government until after any poll. So if Scots voted yes in a second referendum, and the negotiations did not go as the Scottish Government had predicted, Scots could end up being dragged down a path that even many yes voters never wanted.

Obviously the more honest the campaign is about the likely difficulties it faces, the better, but even in that ideal world scenario, the unknowns are going to loom large.

So should voters be asked to consider the delta of options that sprawl outwards from a yes vote? Do we want a gradualist version, keeping the pound and only joining the EU if it doesn’t lead to a hard border with the UK? Or do we want a clean break and a fresh currency within five years, regardless of any economic consequences? Where does EU membership come in?

This would require a multi-part referendum, but no one seriously thinks that’s a goer. It’s a turn-off for voters, and in any case, a multi-part question might also produce stalemate, with no option winning a majority.

And so we come back to the simple two-way choice and the risk of huge, systemic change brought about by a wafer-thin majority. Even Nicola Sturgeon won’t want that. So is there a way of making it work more effectively?

Here’s a thought: how about a binary question, tested by the Electoral Commission to ensure it’s as clear and neutral as possible, but if the pro-independence side win with less than 55 per cent of the vote, then a confirmatory referendum is held to approve whatever shape independence finally takes?

With a decision so momentous, it surely doesn’t hurt to ask twice.