WE really are through the looking glass when the beknighted guru himself, John Curtice, is telling the SNP to up their game on an independence campaign.

The BBC’s favourite pollster sent this surprise shot across the bows to the party of government after Sunday Times polling apparently showed a four-point dip in support for Yes since pre-election in April.

Oh dear.

The stats make for very interesting reading. Just over half of those polled think there should be a second referendum held within the next five years, while 46% think there should not be another go at the big constitutional question within the same timeframe. The number of members of the current SNP parliamentary contingent in that latter category was not measured!

Curtice also pointed out that these results would suggest not just a “cooling of the independence ardour” but also of “lowered expectations” of the SNP’s intention to go for independence any time soon. Famously, the late Baron O’Neill of Clackmannan, one of my predecessor MPs for the Wee County, said that the task of the Labour Party was “to lower the expectations of the Scottish people”. It seems that the new SNP are now at the same miserable game.

READ MORE: Wee Ginger Dug: This is how the SNP can quieten the critics over indyref2

The extent of the fall in independence support is debatable. Yes at 48% is actually just a 1% indy dip since the most recent Panelbase poll, conducted by the highly informative website Scot Goes Pop, a change which takes us into the realms of the statistically insignificant. However, I do think “lowered expectations” is the most damning phrase I’ve heard yet to describe the current impasse on independence.

Curtice’s interpretation of these polling figures matches those of a disgruntled indy movement led one too many times up the hill, only to be marched back down again with tails between legs.

The traditional party of Scottish independence is now in the awkward position of being upbraided by an impartial, if rather establishment-orientated, numbers man that they’d better get their act together on a campaign for sovereignty or that ship will sail into the wild blue Brexit horizon.

Rumours have been flying around for months that so-called “senior sources” in the SNP have already hung up their hat on the likelihood of another referendum in this Parliament, regardless of pronouncements by Mike Russell, the new political director of the SNP’s independence unit.

That’s pretty embarrassing for Mike, one of the heavyweights to have left Holyrood at the end of the last session, to be tasked with the responsibility of organising something that many admit may not see the light of day for quite some years hence.

Post-pandemic is a vague target – especially when Covid-19 looks set to stay ever with us, despite vaccinations and the brilliant performance by the NHS.

If there is to be no indyref2 before Johnson gets his jotters at Westminster, then that at least might give this new Russell Unit plenty of time to prepare a prospectus for Scotland as an independent country, standing on her own two feet on the European and world stage. Because reading between the maths, you can’t sell a house to someone who hasn’t seen the inside and checked out its credentials in terms of solidity, roof security, damp, dry rot etc.

So, why would support be going up for Yes when the dominant party of independence has little idea of what it would look like in terms of currency, defence and borders?

These are the big questions that remain unanswered, indeed, even unaddressed by the SNP. In fact, in the brief seven weeks of the election campaign, the upstart Alba produced more in terms of policy on independence than the party of government has managed in seven long years.

THERE is another fundamental reason for the dip in independence support. People sense that the Scottish Government’s heart is simply not in it. Other far more important matters seem to occupy their thoughts, some very marginal and far-fetched indeed, others put on the back-burner while we grapple with the global virus.

Incidentally, other governments seem to manage to do Covid and handle vital issues at the same time – it’s certainly not stopped Westminster keeping their eyes on the “prize” when it comes to Brexit.

Johnson and co’s methods are of course not to be replicated in Scotland; we need to do this properly, laying out in black and white our plans for an indy Scotland, which means examining all the good aspects as well as the bad. We must not make the same mistakes as Westminster. We must not rely on double-decker slogans and arithmetically challenged pledges like the Brexiteers.

Meanwhile, in never-never land, our Scottish Parliamentarians are fully occupied by issues which are, at best, tangential to independence. I couldn’t have dreamed in my wildest dreams a few years back that saying a woman has a vagina would be a wildly controversial statement. The simple truth is that the party of independence has dropped the ball on their historic and core purpose.

​READ MORE: Kevin McKenna: Tartan and Irn-Bru not enough to save this Union, Your Majesty

But here we are. And, thanks to a letter sent by MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, if we were in any doubt whatsoever about the chances of Johnson granting Scotland a Section 30 order on another referendum, Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary of State, leaves us in no doubt with his reply. It’s a big fat “no” all the way.

So all these leadership loyalists who booed the plan B exponents at SNP conferences have some explaining to do. The golden legacy of 2014 is wasting away. The locusts have been allowed to feast at our independence grain store. We are being taken backwards, not forwards.

That, in my estimation, is one helluva dereliction of duty and it shouldn’t really take the bold Sir John to point it out.