DE facto or no tae de facto. That is the question.

Should the SNP treat the next General Election as a proxy indyref? Should it be the next Scottish election instead or should there be a vigorous new campaign for independence? Many folk find themselves betwixt and between because there are large problems with each option.

The downsides of failing to win 50% of the vote in a General Election have been outlined by Stewart McDonald MP. Stewart argues that even if indy-supporting parties win 50.1% of the vote in 2024, there’s no guarantee the British Government will respond and no likelihood the Unionist parties would regard the election as a showdown between independence and the status quo.

This is obviously true.

There is no guarantee running and winning an epic race will result in a gold medal. The referees in this British constitutional marathon are flaky, biased and well able to haul blatant losers on to the winners’ podium. But if the SNP dare and win, get organised and try, put independence front and centre without equivocation or apology – if they do all that and get 50.1%, who thinks that won’t pile the pressure on to a new (probably Labour) Government?

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And whether the result guarantees independence, it would create momentum. Something Yes hasn’t had since September 2014.

Besides, the main issue in winning a general or Scottish election isn’t the weakness of the independence proposition, or even the height of that 50% Becher’s Brook, but the sheer improbability of the SNP doing the needful and building a vibrant, common platform which FOR ONCE creates unity and puts a positive vision for independence above every other political goal.

Ironically, this deficiency in the de facto plan also sits at the heart of Stewart McDonald’s “build a campaign” alternative. Namely, the SNP’s inability to play ball with other Yessers or devise a daring, co-ordinated long-term independence strategy.

Take the independence policy papers which roused a modicum of excitement last October, then stopped and were instantly forgotten.

Or the last few months when two fairly seismic constitutional moments prompted no plan of action from Scotland’s governing party. It’s not just that the SNP were busy, distracted by Gender Recognition Reform Bill controversy or uncertain how to handle the Supreme Court verdict. It’s that one decade involved in the business of government makes the business of campaigning feel quite alien to the SNP’s top flight.

Indeed, McDonald’s talk of a “miasma of impatience” on Good Morning Scotland yesterday kinda gave the game away, portraying campaigners as wild men and women of wonga, itching to storm the barricades with a gutsy Highland charge bound to end in failure. That’s exactly the same contemptuous characterisation of the Yes movement made by those who oppose independence altogether.

I’ll tell you what impatient Yessers have been doing – surveying the SNP and concluding the following:

The SNP’s ability to make common cause with other parties and Yes groups is zero.

The SNP’s ability to excite people about independence is also virtually zero.

The party’s track record campaigning outside election campaigns is not great.

And our own ability to keep going indefinitely, starved of resources, belief and a deadline may also be approaching zero.

So, of course it would be better to have the next referendum when polls are consistently sitting at 60%. Of course, such a stiffening of public resolve is the only thing likely to focus minds at Westminster and break the current impasse.

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It’s also possible that disquiet over the SNP’s domestic record may affect turnout and voting in 2024. So maybe not the ideal occasion for an indy showdown.

But, but, but.

How does Yes get to 60%?

It’s fine for MPs to talk of civic assemblies they haven’t started, campaigns they haven’t backed, TV ads they haven’t bought and cross-party/all-party activity they won’t promote, let alone embrace.

Talking big about a joint strategy is fine, but has the unfortunate ring of Gordon Brown’s “near as possible to federalism”. A good-sounding idea that never quite gets delivered.

And that’s why many folk favour the de facto referendum plan.

They look at the SNP and see, among the weak points, one thing they’re pretty good at – winning elections.

So instead of backing a renewed campaign the party will likely botch, punters back a variation of the elections they tend to win.

So, though it sounds good, there may be little grassroots enthusiasm for McDonald’s campaigning alternative – it’s like watching a dog-fearing postie buy tickets for Crufts.

To mix animal metaphors completely, indy strategy is all about choosing horses for courses. And the SNP are built for winning elections – on their own, against all-comers, excluding fellow independence-supporting parties. Now, to be fair, the Scottish Greens are just as prickly and Alba also ruffle feathers everywhere except in their own corner of the coop.

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Also, to be fair, previous attempts to bury the hatchet have come badly unstuck – think Better Together and Stronger in Europe. Parties are electoral machines, so their instinct is to accentuate political differences, not bury them – otherwise, how will they get elected?

This grim, competitive reality has only one upside.

Cooperation between Yes parties is so unlikely, it would have a massive galvanising effect if it actually happened. True, there might be a miasma of resentment among SNP members forced into bed with Alba, the Greens and Yes groups. Maybe such a Yes alliance would be a really bad idea. But maybe, swithering voters need to see just such sacrifice, effort, intent and business as totally unusual – in short, a political miracle on the independence front – before they start listening again.

In short, without an SNP-led change in the political temperature, the range of options before delegates in March look equally difficult and politically dangerous.

Someone once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Apparently, it wasn’t Einstein. So, if the SNP think they can come out of the March meeting with another empty promise about a summer of action, please forget it.

MPs have hard jobs, but also income, researchers and similarly employed comrades to help them contemplate another five years of effort. Or 10 years. Maybe they think more fiery speeches will do the trick – highlighting the ever-worsening Tory mess at Westminster.

And fiery is good.

But the case for independence is not just the case against Westminster. It must be more. It has to be visionary and reactivate thousands of Yessers who feel semi-dormant. It has to inspire hope and belief. And that means action and strategy far bolder than anything we’ve yet seen from the SNP.

Something closer to the sweet-smelling miasma that swept Scotland in 2014.

And many Yessers think the buzz around an election campaign is the closest we’ll get – and the closer, the better, because volunteers don’t know how much longer we can sit constantly semi-ready for action.

For sure, this isn’t the best way to choose an independence strategy. It’s a bit like myself at the moment, so troubled by sciatic pain that my shopping choices are strongly dictated by what’s nearest to the door. That’s not a vote in favour of the door, or the muffins, but a reflection of the difficulty involved in venturing any further.

So, anyone opposing a de facto referendum – Westminster or Holyrood – must produce a detailed programme of joint action, lest their campaigning alternative looks distinctly like yet another trip into the long grass.