There is one (near) certainty in the path towards a second independence referendum.

Not the Supreme Court but the next General Election, which will unquestionably be fought on a clear, unequivocal platform of independence by the SNP, an outcome that’s within Nicola Sturgeon’s ability to deliver and having been made publicly, cannot now be un-made.

Of course, that doesn’t get a second referendum home and dry.

Some question the high bar set by the First Minister of more than 50% of votes cast. It’s not yet clear if that target must be met by the SNP alone or by a combination of independence-supporting parties.

There will be a lot of pressure on Alba and the Greens to stand down and more on the SNP to break the one-singer-one-song habit of a lifetime, create common cause and stand in a Yes Alliance together with candidates of other parties.

Neither seems likely, which is a shame. Extraordinary acts of selflessness by politicians are so unusual, they would signal business as usual has well and truly been suspended.

So yes, it will be hard to meet the 50% plus threshold – not quite louped by the SNP in their 2015 General Election landslide – and even then, it’s possible the next Prime Minister will ignore the outcome, especially if s/he can cavil over a turnout lower than the referendum’s 85%.

Of course, none of this is fair. But we aren’t living in a fair country – that’s why so many Scots want out. The question is how the Yes movement should respond? Time can be spent pondering the next likely occupant of Number Ten - Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer or someone else. Another unaccountably attractive energy-sapper is pondering the precise percentage of Yes vote that will successfully o’erleap the Becher’s Brook of Westminster disdain.

But these are rabbit-holes Yes campaigners must avoid, because there are far bigger fish to fry. Firstly, we now have an independence avenue and a rough timescale of 2023/24. Sure, it’s more of a rocky mountain climb thanks to Westminster intransigence – and the soundtrack is more like a difficult second album than the breath-taking debut of the Yes campaign last time around.

But with the latest poll showing an even split in support for Nicola Sturgeon’s October date and 47% support for the SNP in a ‘de facto referendum’ scenario, it’s already game on. So there is an avenue, and Yessers are either on it or carping from the side-lines.

Secondly, independence supporters must resist responding to the game-playing of the other side – shameful though it is – because he-said-she-said politics just switches people off. Dwelling on process issues will kill independence stone dead and that’s just one of the tough lessons to be learned about effective campaigning. Being right isn’t the same as being rated. Being tholed isn’t the same as being heard.

Mountains of persuasive facts and figures may yet not persuade.

What’s needed is a narrative to clothe the facts, figures, precedents, rights and mandates and tell a compelling story about Scotland’s alternative future.

The language of independence must change because the landscape for voters has changed thanks to Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, climate crisis, rule-breaking, corruption, and unapologetic crony capitalism by Boris Johnson’s government and the economic isolation created by Brexit.

What do Yessers want from independence? Escape from or mitigation of all the above – it is a persuasive argument but it has to be actually made – which means ignoring the temptation to race down rabbit-holes of process dug by the opposition.

Instead, the SNP must build a new independence narrative that’s more than a series of effective rebuttals to questions on borders, pensions and currency. We need a convincing story of how Scotland uses independence to recover from Brexit.

Yes, despite the dullness of the EU, it may well be the deciding factor in what follows. According to Prof John Curtice on the BBC’s Sunday Programme, the sustained boost in Yes voting has occurred since the 2019 ‘Get Brexit Done” election which changed the character of independence support profoundly.

In 2014, younger folk were marginally more likely to vote Yes – now the ‘very sharp age gap’ extends to the under 40s, two-thirds of who back independence, with over 65s still wary – a demographic split that precisely mirrors the Brexit vote.

Graduates were generally No voters, but also Remainers. So, most are now open to independence as the only route for future access to jobs in Europe.

Meanwhile, the 2014 gender gap has gone – Sir John thinks that’s also Brexit-related. Hitherto uncertainty attached only to leaving the UK but now it’s attached to leaving the EU as well – bobbing about behind the rudderless, leaderless, friendless Good Ship Britannia.

Essentially, uncertainty exists on both sides of the argument and voters know they’re choosing between two risky, constitutional packages – even if politicians prefer to ignore that stark reality.

One package is independence within the EU – attractive to those who think Brexit is more economically damaging than independence. The other is continuing membership of the UK.

Neither delivers a land of milk and honey – voters must decide which is least risky. This is the narrative or bigger picture Nicola Sturgeon should continue to build – urging voters to decide which union offers Scotland the best shelter and the most productive, respectful membership deal.

The pressure group Europe for Scotland is already at work on that EU option. It’s urging EU officials and politicians to come off the fence and state publicly that Scotland will be welcomed back swiftly post-independence, to stop false assertions distorting the next vote – and that’s a hopeful path, given the EU’s recent and rapid award of candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine.

This ‘tale of two unions’ might not be popular amongst those who voted Yes last time. But it may be where swing voters are today. And the side that’s first to drop the phoney process war may also be first to reach them.

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