SUMMER ended abruptly on Monday with the first Scotland Tonight programme of the new autumn season. The programme was an exercise in political stocktaking – asking where the long hot summer has left Brexit, Theresa May, Britain’s economic future and the prospects for a second independence referendum. A comment I made seemed to resonate with Yes-leaning viewers. I suggested a steady 45-47% support for leaving the UK was pretty remarkable given there’s been no campaigning by the party of government on the issue since 2014, which is a shame because Brexit has left many No voters realising the Britain they knew simply doesn’t exist anymore. Or words to that effect.

It wasn’t a particularly earth-shattering observation. But what’s commonplace to read in The National or hear in a Yes, SNP, Common Weal, Green, WFI meeting, an All Under One Banner march or an impromptu chat with folk on the street is still pretty unusual to see and hear on network TV. That says something about two important entities in public life – broadcasters and the SNP.

It’s been a frisky old week for BBC Scotland, with its head of public policy Ian Small responding in the pages of The Scotsman to a column I’d written days earlier.

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I was trying to discuss the concept of political balance – something I had to try to deliver daily during 25 years as a BBC journalist, much of it as a live radio presenter. I wrote: “BBC Scotland has struggled to accept that independence isn’t a ‘phase’, a single issue where balance matters only during an active referendum campaign. Instead, it’s the new most important fault-line in Scottish politics and is ‘led’ not just by party politicians but by bloggers and locally organised groups all over Scotland. The media generally prefers one big event happening somewhere to many small events happening everywhere – but the latter is infinitely more powerful and transformational.”

There was no response on that point from Ian Small.

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This issue about groups, bloggers and the AUOB marches matters because they are part of the dispersed “leadership” of the Yes movement. Yet it suits all sides to insist that only political parties take initiatives worthy of broadcast coverage and – more importantly – critical analysis. Ian Small highlighted comments by BBC Scotland political reporter Nick Eardley when he tried to correct me by attaching pictures of web pages with pictures of AUOB marches. Purlease.

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This phenomenon is worthy of serious analysis on Reporting Scotland –the only place Scottish viewers get political analysis since BBC Scotland has done away with the rest of its TV current affairs output. There are plenty of big questions to tug at – who are All Under One Banner? Does their emphasis on a speedy declaration of indyref2 put them at odds with Nicola Sturgeon?

These are valid questions. Yet most media coverage pulls its punches. It doesn’t analyse what these tens of thousands of people are doing and thinking – it just shows some pictures and maybe a few interviews, then moves on to cover the latest Fraser of Allander report in great depth. They make real news, you see.

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The National:

Of course BBC programmes are still popular with most folk across the UK. But if BBC Scotland is not aware that 45% of its viewers have all but abandoned watching Question Time, they are living in a parallel universe.

And now Jeremy Corbyn supporters are getting equally hacked off thanks to the contrast between the Today programme’s preoccupation with Labour’s anti-Semitism row and the kid-glove treatment applied to casual racist Boris Johnson.

It was real concern about these demonstrations of bias that caused #BBCSwitchOff to trend fourth worldwide earlier this month.

But still from the BBC – no response.

Come on guys! We can all trade insults till the cows come home and it’s certainly true that general disaffection with BBC Scotland means indy supporters may miss occasional gems. After the Grit Orchestra’s fabulous performance of Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture at the Edinburgh Festival on Tuesday night, many folk in the audience were talking about the brilliant BBC Scotland documentary about Martyn’s life broadcast two years earlier. The weekend editions of Good Morning Scotland are also consistently excellent.

But that doesn’t get BBC Scotland round bigger ongoing balance issues. I’d like to ask senior managers if they can accept that Scotland could become an independent country. Not that it will, but that it could. If they can’t, there’s a problem because the broadcaster is out of sync with most Scots. If they can, their openness to a range of different possible futures for Scotland isn’t showing in the range, vigour or tilt of TV programmes they help produce.

But there’s another factor.

Since BBC balance relies so heavily on political parties, the SNP’s unwillingness to even mention the “I” word is doubly problematic. Right now, the chaos of Brexit has disillusioned and disorientated many previous supporters of the Union. Yet without a chink of light showing through the gloom, they have nothing to walk towards. No alternative future to embrace or consider.

That’s a miss by the SNP. The recent history of our neighbours shows that moments of disruption can be very productive for small nations. Finland became independent 100 years ago in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Iceland declared independence in 1944 when “motherland” Denmark was occupied by the Germans. Of course, Scotland will take its own path. But we cannot have a good crisis unless the present period of uncertainty also contains clear visions of a better future along a different path.

Part of the reason Aunty fails to keep independence as a constant strand in its thinking is that the party created to achieve that goal rarely mentions it. There’s nothing much we can do about BBC output – though taking up the offer to speak to BBC managers is worthwhile. But with a National Assembly this weekend and a national conference next month, surely the SNP can step up a gear or hand the baton over to a properly organised and funded Scottish Independence Convention?