FINALLY, the end of Schrödinger’s Election approaches, an election where independence is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Infuriatingly, all we’ve heard is the word "independence", but we’ve seen none of the detail. Like it or not, this is the "Independence Election"; Thursday’s vote sets the stage for constitutional crisis. That much we can depend upon. The Holyrood vote is essentially a proxy poll on indyref2. However, we end this election – arguably the most important in the nation’s history – with no substantive discussion about what independence really means.

The notion of independence permeates this election. In a nutshell, the narrative has been fairly straightforward: if there’s a majority of Yes parties in Holyrood, Scotland’s Government will ask the Tory administration in London for a referendum once the pandemic is fully over. Unionists say no, now isn’t the time.

That dynamic has locked the electorate into casting our votes along constitutional lines. We’ve seen the manifestos – they’re flamboyant, poorly thought-out, badly priced wish lists. The parties don’t care; they know this really isn’t an election about policy – or rather the parties have made sure this won’t be an election about policy. It’s all about that phantom indy.

When it comes to what independence means, though, the SNP gets a little hazy. The party has clearly chosen not to level with the people before we vote. In one way, that’s entirely understandable. The SNP doesn’t want to spook anyone, it wants to pacify the centre. Electoral logic demands that discussions about what independence really means – economically, socially and politically – are kept off the table by the SNP.

There’s two problems with that, though – firstly, it’s deceitful. Don’t force people to make decisions without the full facts at their fingertips. Secondly, this sleight of hand, and dearth of detail, has backfired, allowing opposition parties to attack independence on their terms. With no discussion about finance, it allowed Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest, to say the bank would shift its HQ to London post-independence. With no discussion about separation, it set traps for Nicola Sturgeon, with the First Minister branded "delusional" after touting, to Ireland’s media, Ulster’s Brexit protocols as a possible “template” for independence; all in the afterglow of street violence in Belfast over the same issue.

Read more: Alex Salmond's Trumpian Alba Party could kill Scottish independence

The SNP has turned independence into the Scarlet Pimpernel. By avoiding detailed discussion for politically expedient reasons at the ballot box, the party allows anyone to imprint anything they wish onto independence, for good or bad. A longitudinal look at polling, however, shows a fall in support for the SNP, and more severely for independence, as the consequences of the party’s cack-handed prestidigitation around the constitution.

The SNP has attempted the impossible – to both make this election about independence (by setting the narrative that a Yes majority means calls will be made for a referendum), and not about independence (by staying closed-mouthed about what leaving the Union means). The people don’t like that – we see through it – and it’s allowed an early Project Fear Mark 2 to lay down roots.

Clearly, adopting the hardline "independence first, last and always" position of Alba wouldn’t have been a better path. It stinks of extreme nationalism. Nor do the majority of people want to see constitutional upheaval in the teeth of pandemic.

Alba’s position has been independence first, last and always

Alba’s position has been "independence first, last and always"

However, a middle path was possible. The SNP could have clearly said this election is evidently about the constitutional future of the country (while playing up the effrontery of Brexit and Scotland’s right to self-determination), and also, crucially, given its vision of that future, without behaving like Saltire-wrapped obsessives. Providing a new, fresh prospectus for independence wouldn’t have undermined attempts to frame Thursday’s vote as one about domestic issues and Covid recovery. The SNP appears, insultingly, to think Scottish voters cannot hold two divergent thoughts in our heads simultaneously.

It’s a phoney, duplicitous election. There’s a sense of boredom too, as most of us have made up our minds on the constitution.

The SNP may not have wanted to talk much about independence, but it should have. The prospectus for independence hasn’t fundamentally changed much since 2014, but the world is hugely different. While Brexit, and the sense of it as an attack on Scottish sovereignty, plays well for the Yes movement, the prospect of EU re-entry and the possibilities it presents around borders pose hard questions. As does currency, as does Nato, as does settlement with the rest of the UK – as does a myriad other matters.

If we accept that, like it or not, this election is a proxy on the referendum, then we’re being asked to vote blind. If your vote on Thursday will shape Scotland’s constitutional future, then Yes parties need to tell you what they imagine that constitutional future will look like.

Read more: ‘Wheesht for indy’ is trying to normalise Alba, but it could leave Scotland in the gutter

There’s always been some in the independence movement who’ve been plain sleekit - and I say that as a Yes voter. The underhandedness of those who’ve pushed a ‘wheesht for indy’ strategy, around any criticism of the SNP, the broader Yes movement or the case for independence itself, is creepy and dangerous. ‘Wheest for Indy’ now seems party policy. It’s an insult to pretend this election isn’t really about independence but Covid recovery - when it’s clearly not, and Thursday’s vote will lead us into constitutional crisis - while simultaneously denying voters the facts of what independence means today.

This election should have been handled honestly as one which will decide Scotland’s future in all respects - both post-Covid and constitutionally - because that’s what it is in reality. Scotland has been mistreated by the UK government - Brexit was an assault on the express will of the people. The right to self-determination in the face of such insult and disrespect is a natural and fair choice to be laid before the electorate. To say that honestly - and, importantly, to set out a detailed and updated vision of what that means - doesn’t undermine the message that fighting Covid must obviously come first.

What we have now is a nation voting for its future with no clear idea - beyond emotional gut instinct - what that really means in the world of 2021, a very different world to 2014.

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