TO many pro-Brexit voters, it’s not complicated. “We just need to get on and get out” is the refrain of the market stall holders and the taxi drivers that the news programmes love to go to for a soundbite. On the newspaper comments pages, there are self-styled negotiators aplenty offering their profound expertise. I saw one comparing Brexit negotiations to getting a better deal from a satellite TV company – you just tell them you’re leaving, and they’ll soon throw in a sports channel or two for the same price.

But it is complicated – and not least for those of us who want independence. Brexit has proven to be a live lesson in power, politics, law – and the gloriously unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of people. Armando Iannucci would have difficulty distilling Brexit into a coherent plot. Machiavelli himself would have struggled to figure all the possible permutations and be confident of emerging on top.

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But if there’s one person who has had a better grip of things since the beginning, it’s Nicola Sturgeon. To her credit, she has always made her case based on the consequences for the livelihoods of people in Scotland and the UK, rather than on cold, calculated political self-interest. Many in the Yes movement assumed that Brexit against the majority opinion in Scotland would be a slam dunk for the independence cause. Some prominent activists were demanding a second referendum by September of this year.

But we were nowhere near knowing what the lie of the land was by then. And without clarity over where the UK is heading, that refrain we heard over and over again in 2014 – “we need more information” – would have grown into a deafening roar. Yes, we would have mobilised the committed to turn out and cross their ballot. But we would have fallen short of victory, with calamitous long-term consequences for our cause.

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And that’s still where we are right now. Tens of thousands of us are feeling impatient and I’m one of them. But if we jump the gun, we will live to regret it. I’ve argued for a new referendum before the 2021 Holyrood elections and I hope and expect that will happen. But we need clarity.

To those who are impatient for a second independence referendum to be called now, I ask them, what would we be saying? In 2014, the SNP produced a detailed white paper, yet were still accused of not providing enough clarity. How could Nicola Sturgeon, through no fault of her own, provide any greater clarity this time around, slap bang in the middle one of the most unpredictable times in the history of these islands? Rushing into an independence referendum right now would be like setting off on a mountaineering expedition in an impenetrable blizzard without GPS, map or compass.

If Theresa May is defeated in Westminster on December 11, another referendum on Brexit may well be the only way to bring the process to a conclusion. Up until now the Labour Party has pursued an entirely selfish strategy focused on getting Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street while abdicating any responsibility for guiding us out of this mess. But with a general election requiring a two-thirds majority vote of no confidence in the government, that strategy was always doomed to failure. Recent statements by John McDonnell suggest that the party will end up backing the People’s Vote instead.

If that happens, it will be a tortuous process. A UCL Constitution Unit report suggests that it would take at least 22 weeks for legislative scrutiny and proper preparation of a new referendum. And that’s without navigating the political minefield around the wording of the question.

Lord Adonis and Tony Blair have called for a no-deal Brexit to be excluded from ballot paper. In my view, that’s anti-democratic and would fuel the fires of the far right. Others have suggested two questions: the first dealing with the broad principle about staying or leaving; the second, if required, a choice between May’s deal or no deal.

This would be more clear-cut and democratic than a three-question referendum conducted under the single transferable vote system. But it’s not straightforward, and it would exclude other options, including the SNP’s fall-back position of a Norwegian-style relationship with the EU. Of course, before there can be another referendum, Westminster would need to extend Article 50 and the EU27 would need to unanimously agree that extension.

All that is possible, probable even. But it would put a second independence referendum on ice for a further spell. And if it led to the reversal of Brexit, the independence movement will have lot of hard thinking to do. I was always nervous of tying the question of independence almost solely to EU membership. What if there is another EU referendum and the UK votes to remain? All our eggs could end up scrambled in the basket.

The case for independence was compelling before Brexit was on anyone’s radar. And it will still be overwhelming whatever happens on the European front between now and next summer.

Last week, for example, new figures were published revealing that in 2017, 934 people died from drug misuse – a national tragedy. Around 61,500 people – bigger than the size of the crowd at yesterday’s League Cup Final – are “engaged in problematic use of opiates and benzodiazepines in Scotland”. In response, the Scottish Government launched a progressive new strategy that recognises that drug misuse is a public health problem and would allow people to safely consume injectable drugs in a health care

environment. But it’s hamstrung by a Westminster parliament which controls policy and is stuck in a conservative mind-set failing our communities.

Whether we are in the EU or not, the nature of the relationship between Westminster and Scotland needs to be understood. It is quite a different arrangement from the EU – where sovereign nations opt in and can serve notice to leave without permission.

Westminster blocks us from doing things like legalising safe injecting rooms when the EU would not. If we are going to throw ourselves into another independence referendum, we need to start focusing on the problems we face – in or out of the EU – and the powers we need to solve these problems.

Brexit has blurred that focus. It has stunted and marginalised all other political discourse. By this time next year, hopefully we will have left these dark days behind us and can start moving towards a brighter, better future.