THERE’S a case to be made that the seeds of failure for political projects are sown at moments of resounding electoral triumph, rather than at moments of defeat.

Both Tony Blair and David Cameron can testify to that. Could it be that Nicola Sturgeon is making the same mistake, and that the excessive caution she displayed in her long-awaited “next steps” speech will lead to her squandering the opportunity presented by the historic SNP landslide of December 2019?

Her message to SNP members certainly seemed to amount to “game, set and match” for the faction within the party calling for an independence referendum to be indefinitely delayed.

The phrase “there are no short-cuts to independence” looks set to be the stick with which dissenting voices are repeatedly beaten, with the implication being that they are all hotheads who risk ruining the patiently prepared strategy of the leadership through rash actions that will never bear fruit.

But it’s worth pondering at this crucial strategic crossroads whether the emperor has no clothes, and whether the leadership’s critics are actually the ones with the more hard-headed and realistic plan for bringing independence about.

Essentially their call is for Nicola Sturgeon to do exactly what Alex Salmond was intending to do for his first several years in government – legislate for a consultative independence referendum without a Section 30 order, and then attempt to face down any legal challenge if needs be.

Admittedly, it’s not hard to see what might go wrong with that approach.

In theory, the UK Government could pre-empt a Referendum Bill with its own legislation to categorically deny the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum – although there would be a heavy political cost to doing so, because it would be tantamount to an admission that Unionists have been bluffing all these years and that there was always a chance that Holyrood already held the necessary power.

More realistically, there could be a legal challenge and the Supreme Court might rule in Westminster’s favour.

But there’s just a chance that they wouldn’t, and that a scrupulously legal referendum would go ahead.

It would be hard for the UK Government to simply ignore a Yes majority in a vote that was endorsed by the Supreme Court.

At the very least it could bring the Tories to the negotiating table with a view to holding an agreed referendum.

There’s a possibility the strategy might fail, then, but there’s also a clear route-map demonstrating how it might succeed. Contrast that with the fuzziness of the leadership’s own plan for bringing about a referendum. It seems to go like this: if we just build support for independence to a much higher level, the UK Government’s objections to a referendum will eventually melt away.

And that’s it. It’s murderously difficult to take that kind of magical thinking seriously. In truth, the likelihood is that the Tories would double down on their intransigence if any referendum started to look like a foregone conclusion for Yes. Then what would we do? The leadership don’t seem to have an answer.

The caricature of the restive Yesser who wanted Nicola Sturgeon to declare UDI in her speech is mostly wide of the mark.

I think people just wanted to see her maintain the momentum towards an indyref, and perhaps to warn that a reckoning was coming and that 2021 would be the last time the SNP sought yet another mandate for a Section 30 before exploring other options.

As it is, Alister Jack must be only too delighted that the SNP leadership have needlessly offered succour to the Tory narrative that there is essentially no route to a referendum over the next few decades.

From his point of view all London has to do is just keep saying no, and Nicola Sturgeon’s disagreement with that assumption seems to be half-hearted and qualified at best.