SEVEN weeks after Nicola Sturgeon targeted October 2023 as the date of a second referendum, the campaign has, thus far, been curiously subdued. The First Minister – how can I put this kindly? – has adopted a relaxed approach to the approaching storm. Others less charitable than me might describe her approach as soporific.

Perhaps Ms Sturgeon is deploying a stealthy and astute tactical ploy to throw her opponents off guard or lull them into a false sense of security. It could even be a political Trojan Horse scenario: pretend you’re something you’re clearly not; gain the trust of your foes and then suddenly launch a lightning strike with all the means at your disposal.

Under this strategy it seems that any mention of independence or even a referendum has been forbidden. What’s more: few in the wider independence movement seem to have been informed that a campaign is underway or even if one is expected to begin any time soon. One activist who more or less devoted a year of her life in 2014 to the first independence campaign told me that no-one in her political circle could be sure one way or the other.

Ms Sturgeon though has kept herself busy during these last few weeks. She has shown remarkable poise and astonishing tranquillity in the face of adversity as Scotland and the UK teeter on the brink of the worst economic crisis in 50 years. Her insistence on behaving as though nothing out of the ordinary has been happening is a wonder to behold and a lesson to us all.

The First Minister even became all coquettish regarding her own future, telling an audience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last week that she might not even be around to lead the SNP at the 2026 Scottish election.

Ms Sturgeon has lately become the uncrowned queen of the Edinburgh Festival. There she was on-stage with the former Conservative candidate, Iain Dale, providing coy billet-doux about life in the political fast lane. She told us she wouldn’t ever speak to Alex Salmond again and revealed that Liz Truss seemed more interested in making the cover of Vogue magazine (just like Nicola) than discussing politics.

Later, in yet another Fringe appearance, the First Minister called Boris Johnson “a disgrace to the office of Prime Minister” and that it would have been “far better to have Theresa May as she always knew her stuff. She knew her brief.”

Perhaps the passage of time has mellowed Ms Sturgeon. In 2019 during an interview with – you guessed it – Iain Dale at – wait for it – the Edinburgh Fringe – she said that talking to Theresa May “was soul-destroying”.

The First Minister also seemed to dismiss speculation that she wouldn’t be targeting a big job on the international stage when the time comes to step down as First Minister. This is just as well. Any global leader or Brussels Eurocrat would never be sure that any conversations with Ms Sturgeon wouldn’t end up as material for her annual Edinburgh Festival gig with Iain Dale.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson might be entitled to point out that the First Minister’s low opinion of him didn’t preclude her from getting into lock-step with his lockdown strategy in those crucial first few months of Covid-19. She even added a twist of her own by sending thousands of vulnerable elderly people to near certain death in Covid-infected care homes which had become de facto mortuaries.

And look; here she is with Alan Cumming, Scotland’s favourite luvvie, after his one-man Fringe show, a thoughtful etude re-imagining the life and work of Robert Burns as a sinewy dance routine.

“I feel Burns is asking people to look again at something they thought they knew or understood,” the actor/philosopher said later on social media. “Similarly Scotland is asking itself again who it is, what its values are and how it wishes to be perceived in the world. It’s truly an honour to be part of the Scottish cultural landscape and able to make work that both challenges and celebrates who we are.”

Here, hang on a minute. Do you think the wee thespian was actually signalling the start of the independence campaign? That statement signalled more intent about the possibilities of independence than anything the First Minister and her party loyalists have produced in the last few weeks.

And now here’s our First Minister with Basil Brush, whose hard-nosed interview techniques have reduced even the most seasoned political veterans to quivering wrecks. Mr Brush displayed all his vulpine cunning as he tweeted afterwards: “OCH AYE! bless my soul look! ….Two small feisty gingers together!! BOOM! BOOM!” The wily presenter’s tweet put some recent interviews by the First Minister’s pet journalists to shame.

Perhaps aware that neither she nor her party had provided much in making the case for independence in recent weeks, apart from a couple of white papers stating what we already knew, the First Minister suddenly clicked into gear. “The Unionists are showing why we need to become independent,” she said yesterday. At the Fringe. “Politicians fighting to save the Union need to make a positive reason for it. You are desperately giving us a reason on why we need independence."

Of course, she’s spot-on here. It’s just that, well … while she’s been posing as patron of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, thousands of public sector and private sector workers have been fighting for sustainable wages and taking strike action. Her party’s new business partners in the UK’s energy sector have all announced multi-billion-pound profits. Record numbers of Scotland’s most vulnerable people are still dying each year from drug addiction. And the educational attainment gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider each year.

If Nicola Sturgeon is exploring a route-map out of frontline politics then you might be forgiven for wondering if her cultural peregrinations are the beginning of her farewell tour. Fittingly, it’s stopping at all her favourite places and darlingest people … where she knows she’ll get an easy ride and will never be measured against her own targets.

Alternatively, she might just be refreshing herself before firing up the Yes movement for a serious tilt at independence. A ha ha ha! Boom Boom!

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