‘OK, now that most scientists, not to mention politicians, accept Covid-19 will be with us forever, when are we going to have our independence referendum?”

Cameron McNeish’s recent tweet said what many Yessers are thinking.

Few would accept the pandemic is over just because Boris Johnson says it is. And most are uncomfortable with the PM’s dangerously over-hyped Freedom Day and casual acceptance that infections might then top 100,000.

But even the SNP’s more guarded road-map leaves Scots free of most restrictions by mid-August.

So, if both governments are on the verge of declaring a new “normal”, where we learn to live with Covid, then the SNP’s self-imposed indy-purdah will also come to an end. Inevitably there will be pelters from Douglas Ross, even though he’s nailed his colours to Boris Johnson’s mast and has urged a speedier, England-style “un-lockdown” in Scotland as well.

Meanwhile, reasonable Scots will acknowledge that Nicola Sturgeon has indeed ignored everything else to focus on the Covid crisis for a year and a half and will not ease up while parts of Scotland have Europe’s highest infection rates.

But planning for COP26 is going full steam ahead, so it’s reasonable to assume that indyref2 strategy is quietly developing too.

Thus, even though the summer months are usually devoid of political activity, this year could be different. Much depends on energy levels within the SNP – and I’m talking about the members, not just the leadership.

READ MORE: What would happen if there is a court battle over indyref2?

A postponed spring conference will be held this September, doubtless focusing on the forthcoming COP26 conference and all matters green. Perhaps there will actually be a green minister in government by then – who knows?

But September is also the date by which Mike Russell has pledged to come up with independence policy updates on issues like currency, borders, deficits and EU membership. He’s spending the summer re-connecting with the wider Yes movement and aims to present tangible campaigning goals by September. That date again. Which sounds promising.

Indeed, you might surmise that the proposed deal with the Greens is not just about looking cool for COP26 but creating a united front for indyref2 and some time and space for the campaign by easing the strains of governance on a minority administration.

In short, you might think Nicola’s readiness to hold hands with the Greens and clear the legislative decks is a sure sign that she plans to hold indyref2 next year, as promised – spurred on by rumours that 2023 will see an early General Election as Boris tries to capitalise on any post-Covid/vaccine bounce, pre-empt criticism from the Covid inquiry and stop Labour from settling under Keir Starmer.

You might be further heartened by Mike Russell’s recent article which noted that the new Referendum Bill – which the SNP manifesto made “a binding commitment” to enact – “does not depend on the goodwill of [Boris] Johnson to secure its passage at Holyrood nor to be implemented thereafter. Nor does it need any help with decisions on franchise or question from Michael Gove – all that is decided and in place”.

Indeed. We are locked and loaded – awaiting permission for take-off.

And bearing all this in mind, you might feel confident that a cunning plan and a May 2022 date will be announced in September, without the need for party members to agitate, organise or otherwise break sweat.

And you might be wrong.

It doesn’t take Alba’s constant reminders to realise that – Mike Russell’s efforts notwithstanding – the SNP’s strategy cupboard and war-chest are essentially bare. The 50%-plus support for independence during Covid has fallen back somewhat. Now, you could think that’s impressive, given that no active campaigning has taken place for years. You could believe that a different approach would have propelled support much higher. Or you could be the kind of politician who looks at the scale of the task ahead and hesitates.

It’s the job of Yessers everywhere to prevent this last option.

Indyref2 must be held in 2022. Or there won’t be space for one this parliament.

So, the stakes are very high. Nicola needs to name the day in September and that’s where the SNP membership comes in.

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Unless all activists really have left for Alba, SNP branches must act during the next 14 days to guarantee that a 2022 indyref timetable is debated and locked in at their September conference. Branches could submit the same brief motion, welcoming the draft Referendum Bill published in March and tying the party to its “first half of the parliamentary term” timeline.

Or whatever wording suits. It’s a free world.

But timing matters – so does a sense of urgency and agency.

BRANCHES have until July 23 to submit motions – yip, just a fortnight. Then a shortlist is drawn up by the conference committee and circulated to all members a few days later. Delegates must then be in position to rank the resolutions by August 20.

So basically, motions to confirm 2022 as the year of indyref2 must be debated, approved and submitted in July branch meetings. Delegates must also be chosen now to propel any selected motion to the top of the conference agenda once the list emerges from HQ.

SNP branches must get purposeful and organised right now – or acknowledge they are essentially passengers in a top-down party that demands nothing from the rank and file but admiration and subscriptions.

Will such a “joint” motion definitely get chosen by a risk-averse conference committee – even if it’s submitted by every one of the SNP’s 200 branches? Who knows? But making the effort public would apply pressure. Indeed, since SNP branches have no way of getting in touch with one another directly – except via HQ – social media may be the only way to get the ball rolling.

Some will feel this is washing dirty linen in public. But it’s a bit late to worry about that. A wing of the party has departed for Alba and the Holyrood inquiries exposed the party’s deficiencies for all to see.

Others might prefer to hang fire until the November conference – when COP26 is over and the election of office bearers and NEC members takes place.

But really, why is it either/or? Activism is a habit. Using the democratic procedures of the SNP is like using a set of muscles: best kept in action all the time to be truly effective in an emergency.

Outwith the indy-supporting parties, the grassroots is also getting organised. Now Scotland is back under new management with a newly elected committee. Many big names have gone, replaced by activists who aim to create an “extremely democratic” vehicle for the Yes movement, to counter timidity and to focus on a Green New Deal which requires a second independence referendum as soon as possible.

All roads are leading to May 2022.

But Yessers need SNP members to get weaving so that September delivers no disappointment but a cast-iron commitment to a 2022 referendum that will clear the democratic air and let Scotland finally progress.

Which will it be?