DURING the independence referendum I had a stock campaign speech on what might come to pass with a No vote. Reminiscing about how my parents had once loathed Ted Heath, I recalled how when Margaret Thatcher arrived he was seen as an old buffer and often the real Parliamentary opposition.

She in turn was despised, even more so it has to be said, but her successors carried out privatisations from rail to water that even she hadn’t contemplated. No tears were shed when she lost power but those who followed were even further to the right. Would it be the same with David Cameron, I speculated? Would we look back nostalgically at his tenure and perhaps even fondly at him? I’d said it could be Boris Johnson as leader which it isn’t, though perhaps, just not yet if some Tory Party opinion polls are to be believed. But Mr Cameron is now looking positively benign.

Under Theresa May the UK has lurched to the right with Cruella de Vil masquerading as Esther McVey in the DWP and the incarnation of Dr Strangelove in Gavin Williamson at Defence. Britain has been damaged, visibly diminished and faces potential catastrophe as a result of Brexit and her premiership. Sadly, those warnings I made are all coming to pass, although I confess, I never thought it would be as bad as this. It is reason to continue campaigning vigorously, but neither an independence referendum does it bring nor victory does it guarantee.

So, as Lenin postulated, what is to be done?The closeness of the result last time made a further referendum inevitable – only the timing remains at issue. Therein, though, lies the dilemma for Nicola Sturgeon as pressure mounts from within to go early while the obstacles to it from without increase. She’s undoubtedly chastened by her precipitous call to arms that saw MPs lost and a hasty retreat called. Now many are growing restless again and calls for an early second one are coming even from some senior party sources. I had little sympathy for her on the last occasion when I felt she was foolhardy, with the price paid by others. But I sympathise with her now and think her caution is wise.

Demands by more radical elements and even from some normally more thoughtful individuals deny the reality of the difficulties faced. It’s not just that the circumstances are unclear on what independence would mean with regard to the EU and the rest of the UK, but the ability to call one is greatly constrained.

There’s no clarity on Brexit nor is there likely to be for some time to come. The most likely outcome isn’t a No Deal but continued negotiations as everyone plays for time to avoid mutually assured destruction and Mrs May seeks to find some fig leaf for her supposed Brexit, even though it means continued membership in all but name.

The EU isn’t going to rush to fast track Scottish membership but will play a long game to keep the UK in. In any event from a Scottish perspective knowing the lie of the land is essential as voters will expect it to be detailed and the thought of a hard border with England is very hard to sell. Equally a Section 30 order from Westminster is unlikely to be granted. There’s enough on the Tories’ plate with Brexit without another Scottish referendum cluttering it. Given the hard-line Unionist stance adopted north of the Border it’s inconceivable that they could accede anyway.

Simplistic suggestions about just holding one are absurd. Where, the church or village hall? Staffed and resourced by whom? Local authorities implacably opposed to flying the saltire never mind hosting a referendum?

Marching here, there and everywhere for independence is all well and good. I’ve been on plenty marches in my time and there’s a role for them in highlighting the cause and boosting morale. But there’s also the danger of marching for marching’s sake. Years ago, I recall Alex Salmond rightly mocking lapel badge socialists who sported a badge for every cause, other than that of their own land.

Now many have taken up the cause of independence and march in every city, rather than knocking doors in their own communities. It makes them happy and that’s fine. It doubtless inspires a few watchers but equally it can also irk or alienate others.

But just because you’re marching doesn’t mean that you’re any closer to a referendum, let alone to winning it. And that’s where Nicola Sturgeon needs to show real leadership. The referendum will be held when it can be organised and with the best chance of winning. When that will be neither she nor anyone else knows, but it isn’t immediate. It may come about in extremis as the UK sinks with a hard Brexit but that’s unlikely given the circumstances, but the option is always preserved. In the interim – and it’s hard for some newer and eager members to appreciate – all that can be done is build the base and wait.

The day job is vital and the First Minister needs to ensure her newly reshuffled cabinets deliver competent government and a clearer direction. Her administration so far has been managerial, if not insipid. Stability is required in key areas and some new ideas need to be implemented, not distant dreams parroted.

But to the party rank and file she just needs to tell them to trust her. She’s waiting for the chance and will take it when it comes. In the interim as she gets on with her job, they need to play their part. There needs to be less marching and more engagement on the doorsteps; listening to what people are saying, not telling them what you want them to think.

So far, the party has been remiss in campaigning and providing direction, which is why others have filled the void with marches and other activities. Leadership needs to be shown shown with party HQ building the organisation from the base up not being seen as the First Minister’s fan club. That needs to change, as much work needing to be done has been sadly neglected.

Sometimes politics isn’t fun, it’s grunt work in hard-pressed communities and in difficult conditions. But it’s what urgently required, as that is the battleground.