GAME on.

Indyref2’s been wheeled out of the sidings and though folk weren’t exactly dancing in the streets after yesterday’s long-awaited announcement by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland is probably just 18 months away from a second bite at the independence cherry.

This means Yessers can expect discussion of strategy, campaigning and hopefully some sharing and co-ordination between the SNP leadership and the grassroots Yes movement. There’s no fully-fledged Yes movement sitting in the wings, but key independence players haven’t been sitting on their hands either.

Today The National is offering substantial organisational “perks” for new subscribers – the promise of recruiting a video-maker and a media rebuttal service to the team if an extra four and a bit thousand Yessers subscribe to the paper every day. The Scottish Independence Convention is also set to reveal its new name and the identity and remit of its first paid coordinator.

READ MORE: Indyref2: First Minister sets out plans for vote before 2021

This weekend, the SNP faithful will meet in Edinburgh for a conference that will sizzle in comparison to previous gatherings – not only over the vexed currency issue, but also because strategies for independence can now meaningfully be discussed. And next weekend, the All Under One Banner march in Glasgow looks set to beat Edinburgh’s record attendance last year.

So I wouldn’t be too worried about the absence of a party atmosphere after yesterday’s statement at Holyrood – does anyone remember the formal start of indyref1? And yet it changed our lives.

Essentially, Nicola Sturgeon surprised everyone who predicted she’d kick the indyref can a bit further down the road and instead gave us a date (even if it’s a “use-by” date) for a second independence referendum which “should” happen before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021. But – only if Brexit happens first.

Now as well as the slightly tentative “should” not “must” in her wording, that linkage with Brexit is a wee bit worrying.

Unionists will claim it’s proof the First Minister was grinding her independence axe all along and never had a real intention of keeping the whole UK inside the EU. Good luck with that, Fluffy. It’s obvious to anyone watching the last three chaotic Brexit years that the SNP leader has gone well beyond the call of duty to keep Britain inside the EU or at least the single market.

No, the bigger concern is surely that hitching indyref2 to Brexit runs the risk of handing this all-important decision about Scotland’s future to the chaotic and frankly warped impulses of Westminster politicians.

Is Sturgeon offering to revoke indyref2 if Westminster revokes Article 50? Her wording carefully avoids anything so specific – but if so, it would be a bit of a hostage to fortune. Of course, being dragged out of the EU fulfils the all-important condition of “material change” and bolsters the First Minister’s moral case for getting a Section 30 order.

But her statement makes it clear that Nicola Sturgeon intends to play a supremely straight bat as indyref2 takes shape. She WILL apply to the British Prime Minister (whoever that might be in 2020) for a Section 30 order to enact the referendum legislation being formulated now and doubtless passed by Holyrood later this year.

She DOES want to hear constructive suggestions from opposition politicians about resolving Scotland’s democratic deficit by mechanisms other than independence – which is a bit weird and gives the appearance of inviting Labour to come good on Devo Max, even though that woefully inadequate option is now hopelessly out of step with the public mood.

Some folk may still be hesitant about full self-determination for Scotland, but no-one can seriously believe either Westminster party is set to devolve meaningful powers which cannot be wheeched back a la Theresa May’s power grab, once the going gets rough.

Doubtless this “offer” is intended to prove that opposition parties won’t engage and haven’t got a single alternative proposal to make in the face of Westminster’s destructive grip on Scotland. It does sit oddly in the midst of an indyref2 declaration, agreed.

But then the main target of Sturgeon’s speech was not Yessers but soft No voters, and she’s intent on persuading them that conciliation is the name of the game, and that HOW the independence offer is formulated matters much more than it did last time around.

Indeed, the First Minister surprised many by announcing a citizen’s assembly process to help decide what kind of independent country Scotland can become, how to overcome challenges like Brexit and what further work is needed so voters can make informed choices about Scotland’s future.

This very process was suggested by Joanna Cherry MP in the wake of a constitutional conference in Oxford this February, where the Irish use of citizen’s assemblies was explained in great depth.

The National: Joanna Cherry has become the third high-profile MP to rule out a bid for the SNP depute position (Jane Barlow/PA)

The concept may be unfamiliar in Scotland and sounds a bit home-spun. But in Ireland it’s been nothing short of revolutionary – finding popular solutions to previously intractable moral issues like abortion and conferring upon them a sense of civic legitimacy, generally missing in the formal political arena.

In 2013, a Constitutional Convention met eight times in Dublin to help produce legislation on equal marriage. It echoed the public mood so well, the final proposal got 62% backing in a referendum two years later. In 2018, another randomly selected Citizens Assembly recommended removing the eighth amendment of the constitution, banning abortion in almost all circumstances.

Despite fears the Citizens Assembly had gone too far, 66.4% of the population backed their stance in the subsequent referendum, proving ordinary voters could successfully resolve issues which had defeated politicians.

The 99 assembly members were chosen at random to reflect the Irish population in terms of age, gender, social class and geography. They included pro-lifers, pro-choicers and undecideds and heard from people on all sides of the abortion debate, including medical, legal and ethical specialists, and folk giving personal testimonies.

Members had the chance to discuss among themselves, listen and reflect on the views of others on five weekends, over five months up until late 2016. It’s like slow democracy. And it worked very well in Ireland. So could it work here?

READ MORE: First Minister launches plan for Citizens' assemblies

Last summer, the SNP held four National Assemblies which let members think through issues including the vexed question of currency. The gatherings weren’t properly resourced, weren’t randomly selected and didn’t meet long enough to hear and debate evidence from a wide range of experts. And the outcome wasn’t binding on the SNP.

Such a participation-lite approach isn’t acceptable for the new citizens assembly process – and I’m sure the SNP leadership knows that. But equally, the spirited, directed and converted Yes movement must give space, respect and trust to these new players in the constitutional process – whatever they conclude.

Successive Holyrood governments have created a substantial consultation culture that contrasts with the “might is right” approach of Westminster – but handing voters the power to frame Scotland’s new constitution will open up a whole new energising democratic dimension – if we do it right.

Some Yessers may fear the citizen’s assemblies will just delay the long overdue strategy for independence. There’s no need for that to happen. All “sides” in the Irish process were free to campaign – indeed the arguments they raised helped shape the questions posed and evidence sought by citizens assembly members.

There may be ifs and buts around Sturgeon’s statement but politics is volatile, the collapse of May’s government and Westminster’s two-party system could come sooner than anyone expects and Yessers know it’s all there to play for.

What we need is the freedom to campaign – soon.

Then tired as we are, battered as we’ve been, independence supporters will get out and do what we’ve always done best.

Connect with our fellow Scots and focus on the future of this country – not the tattered, vain-glorious past of our neighbours.