This is meant to be the independence election. Yet it has already followed a well-trodden path towards avoiding the subject completely.

Of course, politicians are debating plenty of related subjects – referendum timing, the personality of leaders, simple versus supermajorities and the MSP total (if any) that will compel Boris Johnson to grant another Section 30 request.

But just as discussing the route to the polling station is not the same as casting a vote, so discussing the wisdom of “wildcat” votes is not the same as discussing independence itself. Y’know. What life would be like in the long, medium and short term if the nation of Scotland voted to become a new state. What advantages there might be. Which trading bloc (EFTA or the EU) might Scotland decide to join. Which broken British social and financial systems might be recast, which disastrous Thatcherite privatisations undone, what democratisation begun once Westminster’s “winner takes all” template in welfare, defence, foreign relations, economy, energy infrastructure and trade is completely removed from our politics. And yes, which currency Scotland would use, how much debt incurred, and what kind of risk and disruption encountered along the way.

On these big issues that lie at the heart of a proposition backed by three political parties, scarcely a word will be said during this misleadingly named “independence election” campaign.

That will please some people – but the half-hearted gumming of independence side issues and referendum logistics could leave us all with the worst of both worlds. Not sufficiently indy-free for opponents of constitutional change, but not full-blooded, vivid, detailed or real enough for everyone else.

So, let’s be honest. This is a proxy independence election – all about the journey, not the destination.

True, Douglas Ross does manage to attack independence at every opportunity, there is endless speculation about Alba’s likely impact on the scale of SNP victory, and some voters are annoyed that Nicola Sturgeon is spending any time planning Indyref2 while the pandemic is still upon us.

But voters must know the SNP leader by now. If re-elected, she’ll be flat out dealing with the pandemic for as long as it takes – in the same wholehearted way she’s done for a year, in striking contrast to Boris Johnson.

So, let’s be honest. All these questions – while diverting – are just political window-dressing.

If the SNP, Greens and Alba believe we need an independence referendum within the lifetime of this new Parliament to build back better, then Scots deserve some straightforward, honest discussion of that core question.

Will Scotland tackle climate change and Covid recovery better as an independent country or as part of the United Kingdom? It’s the debate voters are having among ourselves – with no broadcasters or politicians bold enough to lead the way.

I’d give my eye teeth to hear or see it on the box. But that will not happen. Not on BBC Scotland anyway. Its first leaders’ debate was an unfocused, superficial, sloganencouraging and unrevealing encounter.

Meanwhile, the world weariness of some BBC Scotland journalists is increasingly hard to conceal.

Last week, one reporter volunteered that she hated election campaigns and was just looking forward to the final results, while another made daring mention of “the I word” in an election report as if independence was some unspeakable, embarrassing mad aunt locked in the political attic. So much, so normal.

But might Alex Salmond enter the ring and stir things up? The Alba leader is contesting his exclusion from BBC debates but the corporation has successfully resisted many legal challenges to debate line-ups and I doubt it will cave in now.

Besides, Mr Salmond’s inclusion might not deliver a greater independence focus, given the inevitable distraction and muddying of waters created by two bitter rivals standing on one TV platform.

Furthermore, comments by Anas Sarwar suggest Nicola Sturgeon might not be alone if she simply refused to appear with the former SNP leader.

But let’s not be naive. It’s not just the broadcasters – it suits every political party to avoid the actual subject of independence as well.

Scottish Labour has started its Holyrood campaign on the front foot. It won’t want to risk that impetus by diving deep into issues like low pay, precarious work and brutal benefit regimes which can only be tackled by wrestling power from Westminster. Douglas Ross faces an even bigger challenge.

Managing to look awkward atop a large Army vehicle last week, every appearance reminds voters that while the MP for Moray is physically larger than Ruth Davidson, the new Scottish Conservative leader is nowhere near as comfortable in his own skin or politically bullet-proof.

So, Douglas Ross will be happy to keep making swipes at “separation” without being drawn into real debate about the benefits of the union.

Willie Rennie would have to lay aside the publicity stunts with giant deckchairs and badgers to become the union’s most passionate advocate and while the Greens must persuade Yessers they really back independence after acquiring more profile for their stance on gender rights, they also have to put clear green water between themselves and other indy parties on the list.

So, with relatively few bites of the media cherry, the party will probably major on the green recovery. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has a record to defend and a wariness of half-launching any independence campaign without final, settled positions on currency, deficits and borders.

Still, she may have to try if Alex Salmond lets rip at his policy launch tomorrow. Of course, the Alba tail cannot wag the SNP dog.

But since Ms Sturgeon has had five post-Brexit years to devise new independence strategies, it may seem strange to voters if she doesn’t leap at the chance to unveil them. Still, as things stand, it’s unlikely any political leader will be put through their paces on what’s meant to be the biggest issue facing Scots. Shame.