SO, pending a Covid variant that’s like The Day of the Triffids, our politicians, the First Minister included, are now telling us we need to ‘learn to live’ with the virus. Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Nice of them to let us know, though. Thanks for the heads-up.

Of course, Covid isn’t over – just ask all the people dying in hospitals around the planet – but then, hey, this is a world ruled by politicians, not one where ordinary folk call the shots. With the speed at which Number 10 organises impromptu rule-breaking parties, no sooner had Nicola Sturgeon told us to suck it up and just get on with plague life than she was out there talking about another referendum.

She’ll ‘do everything in her power’ to hold indyref2 in 2023. Clearly, there’s a touch of the old cognitive dissonance at play here as the FM knows she hasn’t really got any power at all to call referendums. Like it or not (and personally I don’t like it) that’s a matter for Westminster, not Scotland.

But is there a path which can be forged to take Scotland towards another referendum? And is the FM the woman to hack her way through that path and win? Clearly, much of the weight of the independence campaign will fall on Sturgeon. She’s created an effective presidential system where she’s at the centre of politics – so for good or bad, Sturgeon is the person who must sell independence to the people.

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Firstly, Sturgeon has to measure her approach. Even many independence supporters – myself included – dry heave at the thought of more bitter fighting. Politics is so endlessly, miserably divisive that pining for the days of the Cold War is almost understandable (I only half joke). Brexit, constitutional rage, and the Kulturkampf have exhausted the public. Only the serially demented look forward to another political confrontation and the ugliness it brings.

With that in mind, Sturgeon should play it cool. Style matters, not just content. Don’t be dogmatic, be empathetic. People are tired of politicians lecturing us, leading us by the nose, and carving out our futures to shape their political fortunes. Scottish voters want to feel included in what is about to happen not manipulated or herded.

So Sturgeon needs to let the people know she’s aware that most of us are tired of fighting. Frame another referendum as a necessary hard slog to get the country to a better place. Don’t assume any of us want this battle right now.

Style also matters when it comes to how Sturgeon projects the notion of independence to the people. Be positive, not negative. Don’t simply harp on about how wicked and useless Westminster is – voters who might switch to Yes (the key constituency that must be wooed) know that already. Tell them how great the future could be.

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That leads on to the second point: ruthless honesty. If you’re going to say how great the future will be then you better not lie. The people aren’t stupid. We’ve seen the results of Brexit; we’ve seen the chaos of borders in Ireland. We don’t want that here – including those of us who want independence. So how do you square that circle?

This brings us to the renewed prospectus for independence. When these mysterious tablets descend from Mount Sinai, it better be worth it – it better answer the hard questions. I voted Yes in 2014 and would like to again – but I won’t use my vote to damage Scotland. I don’t want Scotland to follow the dumb, ideological path of English Brexiteers. So we need straight answers on borders, currency, debt, pensions, the future of our armed forces and international relations. If there’s going to be pain – tell us. Let us take that into account, and weigh the costs versus benefits. Voters won’t take kindly to being treated like children.

But all of the above is essentially about winning a referendum – which is a bit cart before the horse. The Scottish government needs to work out how to hold a vote first. Frankly, Johnson (or whoever takes his place, sooner rather than later) will only grant a referendum if it’s guaranteed they’ll win. Passing legislation and fighting a court battle to hold a referendum could quite easily end in failure for the Scottish Government.

So thirdly, there’s one course Sturgeon can follow which will put both political and moral weight behind her when it comes to another referendum: govern well. If the SNP starts to govern competently (it hasn’t done so for years) independence support will mount. Depending on Tory chaos in London isn’t enough. Only good governance can drive independence polling into the 50s and keep it there for any prolonged period of time. If that happens, pressure on London to resist becomes increasingly unsustainable. Obviously, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that Johnson or his successor would heed such moral pressures; all it would definitely assure is the ceding of the higher ground to the Scottish Government.

Fourth and last, there’s that old devil called Luck. If Sturgeon’s stars align, she’s better with Johnson in office than out. He’s such a good recruiting sergeant for Yes he should wear a handlebar moustache, redcoat and pith helmet. Some more ‘reasonable’ Tory leader – I use the word advisedly given the present incarnation of English Conservatism – would play against independence.

The best thing for Yes would be the UK government imploding so spectacularly an election is triggered and Labour rides to power dependent on parties like the SNP. A deal would be done and the path to indyref2 laid more easily. Chances of that? As slim as Slim Shady.

Indeed, it may well be Red Wall Tory panic over the cost of living crisis which finishes Johnson rather than Covid knees-ups. Therein lies the greatest dilemma for Sturgeon. She’s reigniting financial uncertainty around independence (and as always economics will be the decider) just as ordinary families face crucifixion through food, fuel and tax rises. Within a few months, many people are going to be very scared for their financial future. How does the First Minister salve those fears? Would honesty, integrity, vision and luck be enough?

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