Perhaps it’s a case of the mid-term blues, but Scottish politics seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut right now. Nearly two years ago, it looked as if Brexit would serve to re-ignite the independence debate, but instead it’s entered political deep freeze, sustained by little more than platitudes and increasingly eccentric publications from inside the Yes movement.

On Saturday, the First Minister delivered a speech to a gathering of the SNP’s National Council which illustrates the point. To be fair, Nicola Sturgeon has to make lots of speeches, but even so this one was strikingly self-deluding and banal.

“We know”, she declared confidently, “that Scotland’s full potential will only be realised when we have the normal powers of an independent country.” But, added the SNP leader, “not being independent yet has not stopped us doing our best to improve the lives of the people of Scotland.” Why, of course.

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The most recent Scottish Government budget, continued Sturgeon, had “reignited” a debate about the kind of country Scotland wants to be. The First Minister then congratulated the SNP for being the first party in most of her lifetime to have the guts to increase income tax. Fair enough, you might think, before you recall that for a decade the SNP itself was one of the parties lacking those guts.

Then came some hoary old chestnuts about the wicked Tories, who are busily dismantling the welfare state (as they’ve been, it seems, since 1979), more unpopular than Margaret Thatcher and now “back to thinking they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it”.

The SNP has been using this mildly disturbing line since last year’s general election, presumably in the belief that some sort of tribal anti-Tory folk memory will take hold of No voters and move the dial when it comes to support for a second referendum and, ultimately, independence.

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This, however, smacks of what Americans call inside baseball analysis, an account of Scottish politics so steeped in mythology, minutiae and contrived logic that outsiders couldn’t hope to comprehend what members of the Nationalist faithful are banging on about.

It’s also fuelled by optimism, a Micawber-like faith that something will turn up. Not unreasonably, the First Minister believed a differential Brexit vote to be that something in June 2016, but within months it became clear it had divided the Yes movement rather than made independence more likely.

Also ineffective was the Scottish Government demand for continuing membership of the Single Market rather than the European Union. Even a Prime Ministerial veto – Theresa May’s cry of “now is not the time” – didn’t make any difference; Scots did not rise up, as anticipated, against wicked Tories telling them they couldn’t have another festival of democracy.

And if neither Brexit nor “now is not the time” didn’t move the independence dial, it seems unlikely the current attempt to weaponise the Clause 11 debate will fare any better. On this, the SNP have a reasonable point (about where powers previously shared between London/Brussels/Edinburgh fall post-Brexit) which they’ve spun out of all proportion.

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford claims the Prime Minister wants to destroy devolution while Mike Russell actually claimed during last Wednesday’s Holyrood debate on the Continuity Bill that the Tories wanted to have a veto over every action decided in the Scottish Parliament, a blatant piece of hyperbole intended to generate righteous indignation among sections of the electorate.

It works, of course, up to a point. A few days ago, the Hands Off Our Parliament group formed a human chain around Holyrood in a symbolic gesture of protection. Agnes Thomson, one of the organisers, told BBC Scotland (which, naturally, was accused of not covering the event) she’d decided to stage the protest after hearing that “they’re going to take our powers and try and close parliament down”.

Now, no one is trying to close down the Scottish Parliament, but the SNP rightly calculate that a “defending devolution” posture will play well beyond hard-core Yessers, thus Labour and Liberal Democrat support at Holyrood last week and broad approval among the commentariat. There may be wisdom in crowds, but I remain unconvinced that the National Farmers Union will demand SNP membership cards if the Scottish Government is deprived of full control over food labelling.

There’s also a hint of frustration in all of this, and therefore increasing desperation in tactical and rhetorical terms. In an extraordinary article, Common Weal’s Robin McAlpine took aim at Nicola Sturgeon’s stance on the Salisbury poisonings and re-wrote the SNP’s foreign policy history to suggest she was letting the side down. The First Minister, he stormed, had “never hid [sic] her disdain for what you might call the ‘Wings/RT/Wee Ginger Dug’ section of the movement.” That, I would contend, suggests the SNP leader fully comprehends how damaging that section can be to her constitutional ambitions.

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Talking of Mr McAlpine (who has many good qualities), he’s recently pulled together voluminous Common Weal research in the form of “a practical guide for Scotland” called How to Start a New Country. The book rejects Scottish exceptionalism and claims to be realistic, but its chapters are pure inside baseball stuff, packed with so much conjecture and arcane detail that it’s virtually unreadable, not to mention tactically redundant. Bring back the White Paper, all is forgiven.

One suspects it will only get worse. As a second referendum looks more and more unlikely before the 2021 Holyrood election (and even beyond that), the increasingly large gap between Nationalist rhetoric and reality will be filled with increasingly desperate hyperbole and fantastical analysis. Hold on to your seats, it’s going to be a cliché-ridden ride.