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If Nicola Sturgeon wants a new referendum, now is the time to set the timetable

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‘Managing expectations” is the SNP’s favoured locution in describing its current thinking about a second referendum on Scottish independence. “Profound vagueness” would be a less charitable take. It was evident whenever any of the party’s high command was faced with a microphone over the course of last week’s conference in Glasgow. Nicola Sturgeon elevated it to an art form in her keynote speech to the faithful on Tuesday afternoon.

Press and delegates alike are accustomed to greeting the first minister’s discourses at these occasions with something approaching acclaim and her address this year lacked none of the polish and eloquence they have recently come to expect from her. She is the only UK political leader who exudes authority, leadership and the poise of a statesperson.

She needed all of this and more. Effectively, she was telling her audience to “quieten down at the back there”. Much of the pre-conference chatter had been about the timing of a second referendum. Her emissaries would have told her that a significant percentage of SNP members were becoming fidgety about the absence of any clear indication from the party’s leadership that another referendum was imminent.

They are buoyed by four years of opinion polls continually indicating that the 45% who voted Yes in 2014 remained intact. Indeed, this number would seem to be at the lower end of the predicted outcomes. The usual unionist players who downplay the numbers of pro-independence rallies and their significance this year are missing something important. Those people of all ages, colours and creeds who have spent entire........

© The Guardian