THERE has been a lively reaction to my column last week suggesting that the “golden independence legacy” of 2014 is in imminent danger of being squandered.

As ever, some comments were supportive and some hostile. Of those who disagreed, some were cogent, but others just the repetition of nostrums with little basis in fact; a triumph of hope over statistics.

“Ah,” say the true believers. “In fact, there is a cunning plan being carefully hatched to strike at the time of maximum indy support, that furthermore, poll ratings have never been higher for the SNP, for the SNP’s record in government and that all is for the best in the best of Scottish worlds.” Save for finding a crock of gold at the bottom of the garden, every single wish fulfilment straw is being grasped.

Trouble is that there is not a shred of evidence to back up a single one of these claims.

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Firstly, on party support. The SNP pulled off the extraordinary feat of winning an absolute majority in a PR system 10 years ago. The results in 2016 and this year have been strong, but not strong enough to repeat that scale of majority.

This year, the “both votes SNP” mantra succeeded in only securing the safe return of a bunch of Unionist B-raters and left the SNP relying on the backing of the Greens, whose enthusiasm for independence is as lukewarm as big oil’s support for COP26.

Secondly, on platform. Back in 2011 the SNP were strong enough to stand on their “record, team and vision” of running Scotland. Now the record on education, health and the economy is at best shaky and, in addition, the prospect of a headlong rush into GRA is a looming iceberg. Even the ace card from the election, which was Nicola’s excellent presentation of the coronavirus crisis, is beginning to look threadbare with Scotland now clearly and sadly the worst performing home nation amid the latest tide of infection.

Thirdly, on independence support. Much has been made of a single Panelbase poll last week showing indy support at 48%. The problem is not a single poll. Actually, 12 out of the last 17 polls have shown a narrow Unionist lead. On any reading, we are a distance away from the double-digit Yes leads of late last year, or even the Panelbase poll showing independence ahead in November 2014.

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Cast your mind back to that time just after the referendum. It was clear that “buyers regret” from September was powering both the SNP and independence support forward. If you had been told then that Scotland, within seven years, would be dragged out of Europe on English votes and that Boris Johnson would be installed as the Prime Ministerial embodiment of a buccaneering Brexiteer, what then would have been your reasonable expectations of a further freedom surge – 60%, 70%, or more?

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The transformative experience in Scottish constitutional attitudes actually occurred during the referendum. Virtually alone among such campaigns, it resulted in a surge of support for change. Since then, the indy movement has been running on the wind generated electricity from 2014. Now it is in serious danger of the batteries running flat. This brings me to my final point – and the clincher.

There has been no preparation of any substance for a renewed independence referendum. Since Andrew Wilson’s “no Growth” Commission, there has been virtually no paper or serious piece of work commissioned by the SNP or Scottish Government. There was one rather good paper on European options published at the back end of 2016, which was promptly forgotten about. Apart from that, there was January’s Michael Russell’s 11 steps to freedom – even Moses only brought 10 commandments back from Mount Sinai.

Now that Mike is providing “political direction” to independence with a “modest increase in staff at HQ”, we surely need to move to the edge of our seats, get the popcorn in and await the fireworks – or not, as the case may be.

This last weekend came further indication of lack of preparation, when Dr Elliot Bulmer delivered a withering critique of the lack of groundwork to evolve a written constitution for our new Scottish state.

Given current cases involving freedom of speech and fundamental human rights – both north and south of the Border – we are in a time where constitutional protections for the citizen have never been more required. The now-blatant political meddling of the younger royals would suggest that it is time to examine the arrangements for head of state, either to put a constitutional monarchy back in its proper non-political box or to formulate other arrangements. And what are the equality rights which a constitution should determine which do not encroach on the hard won protections of others?

All in all, it is a debate which is necessary. It is one which Alba embraced in the election campaign with a paper from former MP Jim Sillars. However, just now it can be added to currency, Europe, and borders as yet another issue which indicates that the SNP is postponing the constitutional exam because they haven’t done the independence homework. Alternatively, the lack of homework and campaigning points to the fact that they have no intention of forcing the issue in early course.

The present Scottish Government does not just have independence on a back burner – it is nowhere near the oven. The evidence suggests an independence campaign which can only generously be described as below the radar, and it is not at all encouraging for those of us who believe that there shall never be a better strategic political opportunity to reclaim national freedom than now.

And if you don’t agree with now, then please tell me when.