THE Brexit vote tossed all the pieces into the air and we are yet to see where they will land.

One thing we can be certain of is that the vote to leave the EU fundamentally changed our expectations and perceptions of politicians. We both revere and vilify them as never before.

In using legal prowess to cut a path through the arcane procedures of the House of Commons, Dominic Grieve and Joanna Cherry have emerged as unlikely heroes – or baddies, depending on your perspective. A recent poll for Sky News showed that only one in seven people trust Parliament on Brexit.

That lack of trust cannot be separated from the widespread perception that the public are not being told the full story – or even the synopsis – from those in power. As “Downing Street sources’’ release briefing and counter-briefing – often contrary to Government policy – the effect is a dizzying upending of reality.

Will they do what they say they will, and do they even want to?

As we pin our hopes on the wisdom of our elected representatives while also doubting their intentions, the cracks in the pillars of our democracy worsen.

It looks a lot like the rules have changed, and that the conventions that previously governed the honesty of politics have been gradually eroded.

One politician who has emerged relatively unscathed from the Brexit process thus far is Nicola Sturgeon. Ironically, her greatest political challenges at present come not from the electorate, but from critics within her own party.

There is internal strife over her approach to a second independence referendum, tensions which have been exasperated with every juddering lurch of the Brexit crisis. The constant ticking of the countdown clock, as we have edged nearer to each deadline in the Article 50 process, has ramped up the disgruntlement and impatience within the SNP.

As Ms Sturgeon took to the airwaves for a mammoth media round on the second day of SNP conference on Monday, she set out her short and long-term priorities on Brexit and independence.

She wants to see Boris Johnson fulfil the obligations placed upon him by the Benn Act to request a three-month extension if Parliament hasn’t passed his deal – or given its support for no-deal – by October 19. It is her hope that the opposition parties will manage to get their act together and that a General Election will follow soon after.

She also confirmed that indyref2 will be “front and centre’’ in the SNP’s campaign in the upcoming General Election. With the SNP projected to win the most seats in Scotland, she hopes the momentum is with her party to negotiate over holding another vote.

Her strategy relies on Labour forming a minority government with the support of opposition parties. The price of the SNP’s support will be for prime minister Jeremy Corbyn to grant a Section 30 order so a referendum can be held.

However, there is a widespread expectation that any such request would be refused, either by an emboldened Mr Johnson returned as prime minister with a majority – or a witless Mr Corbyn who refuses to give ground to earn the SNP’s support. If that scenario materialises, the undercurrent of party dissent could threaten to burst its banks.

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A “Plan B” to counteract this, supported by SNP councillor Chris McEleny and others, would see a pro-independence majority at the next election being taken as a mandate to enter straight into independence negotiations with the UK government.

Ms Sturgeon holds no truck for this muddy proposal, or indeed any deviation from the “gold-standard’’ route to independence that was pursued in 2014. In one interview recently she pointed out that the Westminster voting system makes it possible for the SNP to win the most seats in Scotland, but on a minority of votes. In an age of relentless spin and endless loophole-searching to rig the system, her candour was refreshing.

Lets not forget; the catalyst for the runaway train of crisis we have seen since 2016 was a leader – in David Cameron – who bowed to pressure from a minority in his party to seek an answer to a question that, at the time, very few were asking.

It is easy to see why the naturally-cautious Ms Sturgeon would want to avoid the legal and constitutional headache that Plan B would bring.

She believes that the knee-jerk refusal from Unionist parties to allow a second independence referendum is untenable and that it would be a democratic outrage for Westminster parties of any colour to deny Scotland the right to have a say on its future. While compelling, this argument does rely heavily on the politics of yesteryear: where manifesto commitments and election victories meant something, and political reality had an impact on events. In the Brexit Britain of today, it is unlikely that a desire to be – or be seen to be – fair and reasonable will be enough to compel Mr Johnson or Mr Corbyn to concede to the SNP’s demands.

But Ms Sturgeon is an experienced political operator and it is inconceivable that she will not have planned for that eventuality. Perhaps too quietly for some, perhaps in too guarded a manner to quell the disquiet from her party, but she will have planned nonetheless.

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Given that, it would have been wise of her critics to wait at least until that key moment before declaring that they had lost faith in her ability to secure a second referendum.

If some in the SNP got their way, they’d have her abandon moderation and diplomacy during the Brexit crisis. After all, Mr Johnson fights dirty, so why shouldn’t she?

Some may see her unwillingness to play the game under the new, gloves-off, Brexit rules as weakness. Others now question whether she really wants independence at all. In doing so they undermine one of their party’s greatest assets – a leader who hasn’t lost a sense of perspective and public duty.

You get the sense that a chunk of SNP supporters long for the bombastic days of Alex Salmond, believing that in the current political climate, bullishness and bul***t is power. They should be careful what they wish for.

When the time comes for Scotland to decide its future, voters will be asked to put their trust in the arguments made by politicians. Having a leader who still plays by the rules and isn’t prone to party-political flights of fancy will be an asset for the campaign.

For that reason, Ms Sturgeon’s critics should be wary of deciding that their captain is a dud or declaring the game over before it has even begun.