AT least the Tories and their Unionist glove-puppets in Scottish Labour are being honest when they insist that a referendum on independence must be a once-in-a-generation event. They don’t want Scotland to be an independent country and campaign relentlessly to prevent it ever being so. They really do believe that Scotland is too wee, too poor and too reliant on England ever to determine its own future and aren’t bashful about saying so.

The leadership of the SNP seem increasingly to believe that Scottish independence is a once-in-a-generation event too. It’s just that they are – how can I put this delicately – "less than transparent" about it. After all, the lucrative business of winning elections at Holyrood and Westminster must always come first and all the fat salaries and expenses and sweeteners that accrue from these. To keep this gravy train well-oiled and all its familiar trenchermen fed and watered they need to keep the punters believing that they are serious about independence.

This has been a seven-year project demanding wily resourcefulness and delicate cunning. How do you keep the troops believing that you’re serious about independence when everything you’ve done would seem to suggest that you’re not?

During the Second World War, the British and their allies deployed a bewildering assortment of artifices to confuse the Nazis about intended targets for invasion. The most ingenious of these was Operation Mincemeat to disguise the invasion of Sicily. A dead body, dressed as a British officer, was placed in the sea off the southern coast of Spain. It was found to be carrying classified documents indicating an allied invasion of Greece and Sardinia. The notionally neutral Spanish duly passed these on to Nazi intelligence and the game was afoot. As the Germans concentrated all their resources in and around Greece the allies landed in Sicily relatively trouble-free.

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The SNP leadership have effectively operated their own version of Operation Mincemeat to dupe supporters into thinking that another referendum is just around the corner. You could call this one Operation Bull***t. Thus far it’s been a resounding success, delivering election after election and a lengthy series of polls indicating majority support for independence.

Yesterday, the SNP dusted it down and cranked it up again. They’re calling this one the "Independence Taskforce" and all the usual tropes and idioms associated with this ongoing grift are on display. It will have "strategic direction" and be "the final piece in the jigsaw". It will "lay the foundations" of a future independence campaign and "fire up" the wider Yes movement. There will be "materials" for campaigners and "policy papers". You can bet your sweet fundament there will be policy papers and many of them.

Keith Brown, SNP deputy leader, has been entrusted with making sure the latest ruse flies, principally I suppose because he has to be seen to be doing something when there’s no actual conferences to warm up. Mr Brown says that a taskforce leader will be appointed and work with existing staff and "strategists" at SNP headquarters “with more staff to be added if the party achieves successful results in Holyrood in May”.

Mr Brown went on to insist “the staff at SNP HQ do an amazing job, with a huge membership to look after. On top of the vast amount of administrative, member care and support work they have been putting on world-class events, off and now online, as well leading on digital political messaging”. Perhaps they fit all that in when they’re not redacting documents for the Salmond inquiry or dreaming up ways to nobble the NEC and undermine Joanna Cherry. What a hard-working bunch and hats off to them.

For the time being, we’ll set aside any questions about what the SNP, whose main purpose I naively thought was always to be an independence taskforce, has been doing since September, 2014. In this time we’ve had "The National Conversation" and the ‘"Summer Independence Drive". Then there was the "Economic Case for Independence" that was intended to go to every home in Scotland (what happened to that?). We’ve also had something called a "Social Justice Commission" that, as yet, hasn’t delivered the sliver of an idea or fresh initiative.

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More than four years ago Nicola Sturgeon was telling us all breathlessly that she was about to “pull the trigger on an emergency independence referendum”. Some emergency. The First Minister and assorted cabinet lackeys have been telling us for years to “get set”, “get ready” and “prepare” for what they all insist is the “inevitable” referendum.

The only things "inevitable" about this grand deception are these: that whoever is chosen to head the new taskforce can relish a well-paid sabbatical and that it won’t make any discernible difference. Nor will it involve any of those recalcitrant “Common Weal” types who always insist on proposing proper policies rather than trading in moonbeams and unicorns. Yet, who knows: perhaps this latest subterfuge will be contrived in such a way as to account for that missing half million in "ring-fenced" contributions for the independence referendum.

Much more worthy of consideration is the route-map to independence published by Chris McEleny the previous week. Mr McEleny though, being sincere in his desire for independence and working-class will never be afforded house-room within the Nicola Sturgeon fan-club.

Sadly, for true supporters of Scottish independence, the wretched conduct of the main unionist parties will ensure there is no meaningful scrutiny of this taskforce. The persistent corruption and gangsterism at the heart of the British state is set fair for a lengthy tenure. In Scotland, if the Labour Party chooses Anas Sarwar as its new leader, it will maintain its spell of electoral insignificance, already a decade long, for another five years or so. If you don’t think so then read Mr Sarwar’s vapid and incoherent mission statement in Saturday’s Guardian.

How often can the SNP leadership keep proceeding with this chicanery? I suppose while they’re all guaranteed their gold-plated lifestyles on the public slate, free from any worthwhile opposition they’ll keep dreaming up new ways to dupe their supporters into believing they’re serious about independence.

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