THE Plan B route to Scottish independence is seriously flawed, and potentially dangerous, but it’s hard not to have some sympathy with the frustration that lies behind the idea.

Plan B calls for a vote on independence by autumn 2020. Should the UK Government fail to grant a referendum, a pro-independence electoral victory would mandate the Scottish Government to negotiate with Westminster to enable Scotland to become independent. In other words, kick the door in and just go for it.

The idea was put forward by Angus MacNeil MP and Chris McEleny, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council who once ran for party deputy leader. The SNP has refused to debate the plan at this year’s conference.

READ MORE: How an independent Scotland could remove Trident 

The pair say they are disappointed and have called on the Scottish government to show leadership on this issue, adding that conference must be given a roadmap as to how the leadership believe they will deliver independence.

The confusion about the future is understandable. The party leadership continually talks up independence, but nothing much happens. The Tories say they will refuse any referendum – how would the Scottish government answer such a rebuff? Clear answers are needed. Plan B isn’t a solution, but the motive behind cooking up the plan is an understandable need to move forward, rather than remain in stasis.

There are many lessons for the SNP to learn here when it comes to the handling of the independence question. Firstly, the growing divide between the party’s pragmatic, well-appointed, professional and managerial class, and its more populist wing, is becoming ever more apparent to the general public each day.

Splits are showing, rancour is detectable. Some see this divide along Sturgeon-Salmond lines, with Sturgeon representing those who seek a way forward through consensus and debate, and Salmond representing the more populist, rambunctious, us-and-them crowd. Certainly, backing for Plan B seems to come from the SNP’s "deep base", with lots of echo-chamber support among the social media contingent of the party – which again is dominated by populist voices and populist tactics.

This is a problem of the leadership’s own making. Unlike the Grand Old Duke of York, most politicians cannot continually march their followers up and down the hill indefinitely – people begin to lose trust and faith. It feels that in the highly controlled SNP, that is starting to happen.

READ MORE: Calls for SNP to outline alternative proposals for independence if new prime minister blocks referendum 

The word “independence” has become like background static in the Scottish political conversation – it’s constantly heard. However, little is done that seems to signal progress on the issue and so people look for answers themselves if none are provided.

In those terms, it’s unsurprising that Plan B has been presented. However, that said, it’s a good thing that Plan B has also been rejected.

I’m not a member of the SNP, but I do support independence, and so I worry that Plan B would have serious and detrimental consequences for the Yes movement. The idea might galvanise the hardcore SNP base, but it would repel many more than it would attract.

Plan B sets up an immediate dynamic of aggression between London and Edinburgh. Scotland would find itself discussing its constitutional future in a bear pit, when it should be decided calmly and logically.

It would also make Scotland look duplicitous and exploitative – the Scottish government was elected on the pledge that it had the right to hold a referendum if a significant change in material circumstances occurred, like Scotland being taken out of Europe against its will. We need to wait and see what the results of Brexit are. We cannot metaphorically hold a gun to Westminster’s head with a threat of wildcat action over our constitutional future until we know what that future holds.

Nor is there enough meat on the bones of Plan B. It smacks of someone reading their history books over the 1918 general election in Ireland and trying to transplant it to Scotland. In 1918, Sinn Fein swept the board, turning the map of Ireland green, and used the success to declare an Irish republic on the mandate, triggering the Irish War of Independence.

Of course, there wouldn’t be violence if Plan B happened, but there would be outright animosity from unionists. You can bet that such moves would be described as bullying and illegal. It would alienate moderate unionists when the tactic should be to woo and persuade them.

Plan B would also make any future election about nothing but independence. It would render all policy redundant – the public would feel a vote for the SNP had nothing to do with jobs, hospitals, schools or policing, and everything to do with the constitution. That’s a dangerous route to go down for a political party, and for a country which wishes stable, competent government.

However, although Plan B is a flawed and damaging proposal, it is also far from a good look for the SNP to refuse even discussing the idea at conference. It smacks of fear – do leaders think the delegates will vote a different way from the hierarchy, as they did over the currency issue?

It also hints at emptiness. If the party leaders don’t like Plan B then what’s their plan? Is there a plan beyond repeating the word “independence”. How will they get around Westminster opposition to a second referendum? The populist deep base of the SNP is getting tired of being strung along – something the leadership may soon find a difficult problem to deal with, albeit a problem of their creating.

There is a way forward though. The heart of the matter is essentially this: what to do if a new Tory PM says no to a referendum in the face of Brexit. The answer, of course, is to keep your dignity and go to the courts. Let the Supreme Court, or the European Court (as we’d still be members of the EU at this point) decide on the issue of a referendum.

In a court of law, the truth would be on Scotland’s side. If the Scottish government is elected on a manifesto espousing a referendum in the face of material change such as Brexit, and London denied that referendum, then it’s hard to see any court flouting the democratic will of the Scottish people – no matter what the present incumbent of Number 10 said.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year