The National:

FROM where I sit, “does Nicola Sturgeon really want independence ?” comes into much the same category as “is the Pope a Catholic?”

That the question is currently being posed by the commentariat is a product of these febrile times, where many people believe we are finally in some sort of end game. A belief with the twin underpinnings of a looming Brexit disaster zone, and a looming assault on the very foundations of devolved government.

Add in the onrushing Scottish election, now just ten months distant, and you have the perfect recipe for widespread hyperventilation. And all this played out against the backdrop of an unforeseen and unpredictable health crisis which, of necessity, has consumed much of the Scottish government’s day to day bandwith.

So let’s step back for a moment and attempt a cool audit of where we are on the road to a dream now shared by over half the electorate at large, and by a massive majority of those Scots to whom tomorrow belongs.

On the plus side, the polls continue to favour the Yes camp at a time when, to put it charitably, there is not much of an Indy campaign underway. Yet it would be churlish not to acknowledge that the FM’s demeanour during this period has been an undoubted factor in persuading voters on both sides of the border that she is a serious politician wrestling competently with the most serious issue of our times.

She is perfectly cast for the role of leading medical consultant in a pandemic, just as the Prime Minister is hopelessly at sea navigating the same challenge. When your shtick has been perfected for jolly wheezes like Olympics, it garners few admirers attempting crisis management.

In politics, timing and temperament need to be synchronised to ensure success. Luck helps too, and Boris Johnson got luckier than he deserved when the demise of May preceded the pandemic.

It’s true too that if the FM were inclined to take a couple of days out of Covid briefings to climb aboard an indy bandwagon, her unionist opponents would have a field day.

Then again, she’s not that way inclined. And therein lies the anxiety shared by many people, myself included, that this is a boat, and this is a time, we can’t afford to miss.

So it’s also a time where the heavy lifting has to be done by the wider Yes movement; by those stalwarts of any party and none who long more than anything for an escape route out of an ill tempered, increasingly racist Britain and out from under a quite frighteningly short sighted and incompetent British government.

READ MORE: Scottish independence: Are Tory voters warming to the idea?

A more pertinent question to be asked of Nicola Sturgeon is whether she possesses the killer political instinct to convince the UK Government that the gun is at their head, not ours. That Dr No will no longer be allowed set the rules of the game.

Salmond, brash gambler, astute strategist, pulled that off in 2014 with Cameron. He put in a huge shift getting to movement to there. However the notion that he should be brought back for an encore at the head of a new list party is both fanciful and impractical.

As for how our limited PR system should work: let the voters decide how to deploy their twin franchise. It’s what they call democracy.

The stakes are way higher than 2014. The cost of losing more desperate. The timescale agonisingly tight. Let’s all keep our eyes on the prize.