It’s priceless. One minute the SNP don’t have a mandate for a second independence referendum because Nicola Sturgeon went quiet about independence in 2019 (despite her clear manifesto pledge) and highlighted other things for the final weeks of the campaign.

The next minute, the SNP stand accused of talking about nothing but independence, to whip up division – cynical agents provocateurs.

Which is it?

One minute Scottish Labour boss Anas Sarwar condemns the Scottish Government for o’erstepping its limits by contemplating a referendum without Section 30 powers. The next, estimable Labour MSP Alex Rowley suggests a referendum should have a Devo Max option on the ballot paper, even though delivery is most definitely beyond the reach of both Holyrood and Her Madge’s Official Opposition.

Still, Alex Rowley’s intervention is a welcome contribution to a debate that’s already reached boring technical stalemate – doubtless to the delight of many unionists. The former deputy leader of Scottish Labour says pro-UK parties should abandon the “never” approach to independence and set up a commission to examine options for change because his party is “out of step” with the wider Labour movement.

Out of step is putting it mildly, as I discovered during BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme. Rachel Garrioch – co-chair of Labour4IndyWales and a county councillor in Monmouthshire – responded to my own surprise about Welsh Labour organising pro-independence events: "I don't think I could be more openly pro-indy. It's a different political environment in Wales. We [Labour] have appointed a Minister for the Constitution, his brief is to look at how Wales goes forwards. Welsh Labour prefers a federal model for the UK but a year out from #indyref2 we need to consider [that] the future may be very different."

So Scottish Labour could copy Wales, freshen up, accept that a third of members (at least) support another referendum – and push Alex Rowley’s multi-option ballot line.

They could, but there’s one massive obstacle in Anas Sarwar’s ferocious opposition to any deviation from ‘Just Say No’. And another in the tougher question which then awaits. Is home rule deliverable by any UK Government – honestly? And since it’s an option no British political party currently backs, is it fair or responsible to have it on the ballot paper?

The status quo is possible. Independence is possible. Well-organised parties with substantial support advocate each option. But Home Rule? In 2014 Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian: "Westminster's claim to undivided authority over the country? Dead and buried." The upshot, after a No vote, could be "a system of government as close to federalism as you can have in a nation where one part forms 85% of the population."

So where is it? Where is the merest sniff of it? Nowhere in Whitehall where Boris Johnson is steaming in the opposite direction with a Bill of Rights that aims to dismantle the human rights framework that blocked deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda last week.

Johnson’s Bill of Rights will replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) which “plays a unique role” in the constitutional arrangements of the devolved nations and the Northern Ireland peace settlement in particular – according to a joint Commons committee.

But still no consultation with the devolved nations is planned. And we’re meant to believe this Westminster government is likely to deliver a tax-raising, treaty-signing, energy-resource-controlling, powerfully-devolved parliament like the Faroese Løgting?

Ok – maybe Alex Rowley isn’t expecting the impossible – Tory delivery of Home Rule. Just the unlikely – Labour taking it on, minus the heavyweight cohort of Scots Labour MPs that made devolution unavoidable for a half-hearted Tony Blair.

We still await the report of Gordon Brown’s Constitutional Commission, initiated by Sir Keir Starmer two years ago. And even if UK Labour takes an unexpected turn and makes federalism the top priority of its first (and perhaps only) five years in power, what are the odds on the next incoming Tory government taking back control and cancelling any new arrangements?

Those odds are very high. As high as the odds against Keir Starmer blowing his slow courtship of Middle England by ‘pandering’ to the whingeing Scots and ‘imposing’ an apparently unwanted federal tier of governance in England.

The Devo Max cavalry ain’t coming. But who cares? It seems it’s perfectly acceptable to promise what cannot be delivered on one side of the ‘national debate’ but a crime against democracy to explore the limits of Holyrood’s powers for an advisory referendum to break the logjam – like previous referendums held on Brexit and the AV proportional voting system.

Similarly, it’s quite OK for unionist leaders to break promises without consequence. After all, Boris did say he would ‘die in a ditch’ if Britain didn’t leave the EU in October 2019. We didnae.

Meanwhile Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have ‘once in a generation’ and ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ thrown back in their faces constantly with the suggestion their words are immutable tablets of stone. Even though Alex Salmond told Andrew Marr the timespan was ‘just my opinion" and that his government ‘cannot bind its successors’.

And the Smith Commission report on extra powers for Holyrood, stated "nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose."

So, which is it? Should a political leader’s words be taken literally – or not? More to the point, can any party politician sign away the democratic rights of Scottish voters? Obviously not.

It wouldn’t matter if Alex Salmond promised no further referendum for 300 years – he has no authority to make such a pledge. No politician does. So why are we focussing on this low level, predictable, crushingly boring stuff? Simply because it stops us getting to the real question.

Can Scots create the kind of society we want within the UK? If the answer’s no, then no middle exists. And that’s why, difficult as it may be for Labour, a straight choice is the only responsible option for another independence referendum.

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