There’s an episode of Father Ted in which the simple but endearing Father Dougal gets stuck on a milk float booby-trapped with a bomb. The finest clerical minds in Craggy Island convene to devise a solution and as they discount each increasingly far-fetched fix, the well-meaning Father Beeching pipes up: ‘Is there anything to be said for another Mass?’.
Nicola Sturgeon evidently studied at the Beeching Seminary for Crisis Management. Every time there’s an SNP conference looming, her advisors agonise over how to string along the Yes faithful a little longer, until the boss sighs: ‘Is there anything to be said for another Indyref 2 statement?’
The Scots Nats gather in Edinburgh tomorrow for their Spring conference and, what do you know, Sturgeon has delivered a statement on Indyref 2. She has not, as has been reported, announced another independence referendum for 2021. Instead she strung along her followers once more with a heavily-caveated pledge to call for a fresh vote sometime in the next two years, subject to certain circumstances. In the meantime, her government will legislate the framework of this non-existent referendum and set up a citizens’ assembly where ordinary members of the public can suggest improvements to devolved governance. (‘Isn’t this literally your job?’ would not be an unreasonable response.)
Is there anything to be said for this Indyref 2 statement? If you’re a political commentator, absolutely. It is a piece of strategy and artful in its own way. It gives the impression of doing something which it factually does not. In theory, it buys Sturgeon some respite from her hardliners and distracts the opposition once more from her record in government. What, though, if you are one of those Scottish nationalists being taken for a ride? There are some indications that even true believers are beginning to call time on Sturgeon’s triangulations.