SO, was that it, then?

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed indyref2 legislation would be produced in April 2021. There was a forced effort by Unionist politicians at Holyrood to sound wounded, aghast, surprised and a bit furious. There was a level of slightly contrived euphoria by independence supporters online (we have been here before). And then the story basically disappeared without trace, wiped off (nearly) every front page by the Covid crackdown in the West of Scotland and the rebellion amongst Labour MSPs that threatens to unseat Richard Leonard.

Whit? Being knocked from the top slot by a serious Covid development is one thing – being bumped by Scottish Labour is like being overtaken by a tractor.

All in all, the long-awaited official Scottish Government commitment to draft legislation for indyref2 was hardly the upbeat, triumphant moment most independence supporters had anticipated. But then very little is as expected these days thanks to the gloom and planning chaos created by Covid.

So, should Yessers be worried that an important milestone in the journey to indyref2 commanded so few column inches?

On the whole, I think not. Firstly, a second poll is now seen as so inevitable, news organisations find it hard to get excited. Opinion polls are showing a consistent lead for Yes, the media have watched the two leaders in action during Covid and come to their own conclusions about where good governance lies (clue – it ain’t Westminster) and the frequency of Boris trips north only confirms that the British Government is seriously rattled. The Tories don’t understand why the independence dial – stuck for so long – has suddenly shifted during lockdown. But they do understand that a second poll in the face of a convincing SNP victory next May is now unavoidable.

Messrs Johnson, Gove, Ross, Jack and Galloway can huff, puff, mutter about “once in a generation”, insist that “now is not the time” and state categorically and emphatically there will be no second independence vote – but we all know the Prime Minister’s style. He’s not a man given to ... unnecessary work. So, the (relatively) frenzied energy he’s currently expending on Scotland, gives the lie to all his bluster.

READ MORE: Tory peer demands new rules for next Scottish independence referendum

The endgame of the union has begun.

Turning a blind eye and deaf ear to Scotland was easy when the polls were negative, the media hostile, and the possibility of better, fairer self-government merely theoretical.

That’s changed. Covid has not only road-tested devolution – it’s effectively given independence a dry run too by forcing national governments to take the gravest of public health decisions, under the unforgiving gaze of frightened voters, sceptical journalists and outspoken key workers.

It’s a terrible situation and there is no upside to the loss of thousands of lives, and no silver lining within the economic devastation that will arrive when the furlough scheme ends. But in a terrible economic storm, folk want the most competent captain.

And even if you abhor the politics of personality, it’s perfectly clear that person is Nicola Sturgeon. Why wouldn’t the Scots want someone of her calibre running every aspect of their culture, society and economy? That thought sits like a bubble o’er the heids of so many London-based commentators, it’s almost visible.

Indyref2 is no longer an assault to the senses. It is now seen as simply inevitable. That is a result.

Secondly, as the case for independence starts gathering political momentum, the opposition has started to seriously fall apart.

By the time you read this Richard Leonard may no longer be Scottish Labour leader. Whoever succeeds can hardly hope to turn the party’s fortunes around in nine months – especially if s/he continues to see no need for a rethink on independence in the face of Brexit, Covid, welfare brutality at Westminster and shambolic decision-making at

No 10. Of course, the new Scottish Labour leader can try to outdo the permanent air of insult adopted by the prickly Scottish Tories.

Earlier this week on Radio Scotland, John Lamont MP nipped John Beattie’s heid for asking perfectly reasonable questions about his leader’s deliberate twisting of remarks by NFU Scotland’s Jonnie Hall. Picking a fight with BBC presenters and farmers leaders – is this the best strategy for the party of the establishment? Jings, they’ll be going 15 rounds with the fishermen next.

Meanwhile, in London Rishi Sunak’s honeymoon period is about to end. Politico reports pelters from every wing of the Tory party over his draft budget plans and increasing alarm about hostility from the traditionally pro-Tory press.

“The Sun has badly beat up the budget every day this week. The Mail has followed suit, and … the once Brexit-backing Sunday Times’ relationship with No 10 is soured. We basically just have Conservative Home left,” sighs one Tory wag.

You almost feel sorry …. naw you dinnae.

Critical scrutiny of the parties opposing Scotland’s right to choose is more helpful to the cause of independence right now than a thousand perfunctorily written pieces about a fairly predictable indyref2 timetable.

But finally, and perhaps controversially, this week’s indyref2 announcement just isn’t more important than news about the pandemic.

I know that seems to be conceding the latest Unionist line of attack – “how can the SNP even think of independence during a pandemic?”

Now, it’s perfectly true that the Tories condemn Nicola Sturgeon for making indyref2 plans during the pandemic, whilst applauding visits by Boris Johnson to promote the Union. It’s always been one rule for the British Government and another for the Scots. And consistency has never been a Tory strength. Agreed.

But it would be a mistake to deny the primary importance of the pandemic in the lives, emotions and priorities of Scottish people, right now. Look at the “most read” stories the day after Nicola’s indyref2 announcement. In every online paper, news of the latest Covid restrictions took the top four places – even in this independence-supporting paper.

Today, with almost a million folk in the west of Scotland facing new restrictions and the Covid reproduction number rising dangerously in some areas, the pandemic is uppermost in every mind.

So, Nicola Sturgeon has been absolutely right not to rise to the bait, not to criticise Boris Johnson’s midge-stricken Highland holiday, not to lower herself to the personal attacks that rain down on her every day. That’s what you expect of a stateswoman, who’s preparing to take the whole electorate on a difficult journey very soon.

Because folk aren’t daft.

Scots know that mitigating Westminster’s misdeeds isn’t enough, pleading for powers to borrow isn’t acceptable and the once popular devolution settlement is now like an auld, out-grown school jaiket – tight and restrictive.

Professor of International Economics, Mark Blyth has become another convert to Scottish Independence. He put the case for a swift indyref2 very well last week; “The UK growth model is unsustainable and Scotland can do better than simply subsist on inter-regional transfers.”

Quite. Scotland has been rushing to the scene of accidents for long enough. Once the pandemic’s stabilised, it’ll be time to head instead for the source.

To recognise the primacy of controlling Covid right now is not to betray the cause of independence but to steady the ship first. And surely that makes perfect sense.