At their party conference in June, the next deputy leader of the SNP will be announced.
The vacancy arises after Angus Robertson stood down following his General Election defeat last year.
Three candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to be Nicola Sturgeon’s number two. All of them have recognised that the key to winning any election is to appeal to the core concerns of the particular electorate.
Not, in this case, the wider populace of Scotland. Not even SNP inclined voters. But to Nationalist Party members.
And to the rank and file nothing comes closer to the top of their concerns than independence.
Which is hardly surprising since separation is the raison d’etre of the SNP.
Sure, being in Government is important. Trying to win a fourth term in Bute House matters and is a challenge.
Incumbency isn’t easy. The goal of more government is alluring. But the idealism of independence trumps all.
And thus, whatever the public appetite is for more constitutional wrangling, it cannot be ignored by the wannabe deputies. Their members need to know where they stand. Not on the ultimate destination, but on how to get there. And, it would seem, more importantly, when to get there. It needs to be soon, the candidates have decided.
So the timing of Indyref 2 has taken centre stage. Within the party there has been much agonising and gnashing of teeth over events in 2014. About the tactics. The presentation of their prospectus aka the White Paper.
About the lessons which need to be learned and a realistic view taken about the public’s attitude to doing it all again any time soon.
But such pragmatic thinking is largely absent from the runners for deputy. Because their principle concern is not about how Scotland views the issue, but how members view it.
And they perceive a need to play to their hopes and fears. And that means portraying another independence vote as a near probability rather than a more distant possibility.
And so, we learn, it could be as soon as next year. Never mind that the polls show this as unpopular and unlikely.
They calculate that this is what their members need to hear.
The candidates in turn need to present themselves as the voice of grass roots fundamentalism.
I don’t write this as a criticism. Merely a reflection of the difficult path which all those who seek elected office need to tread.
But I do question the choice they have made. Because, for me, it takes a too simplistic approach. It assumes that a more pragmatic, realistic appeal to common sense would fail. But that is not necessarily true.
Marching Scotland back to the ballot box next year, or even the year after that, is a long shot. Not a pipe dream, but hardly likely.
And despite the more vocal proponents of separation having a disproportionate voice on social media, I’m prepared to believe that most know the truth: there is little public appetite for a re-run anytime soon.
That to concentrate on Indyref 2 could backfire on the party with voters who have had enough of referendums. Who consider the matter settled and for whom even Brexit hasn’t shifted their opinions on Scotland’s place in the U.K.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice to the aspiring Number 2s. Tell it like it is, rather than how you think your members want it to be.
You might just get a pleasant surprise. And a new job. Pragmatism might just triumph at the polls.
Talking of referendum reruns, Brexit is not immune.
As we enter a crucial six months during which the final deal will be thrashed out, disputes and arguments grow in volume about what Brexit should mean. And there is a renewed push for the Brexit terms to be put to the people.
Not, the proponents of such a new plebiscite argue, a reversal of the decision to quit. Just the need for a public endorsement of the terms.
However, this is fantasy politics. What if we said no? Would the EU keep our membership open whilst we haggled on?
What would the vote even mean? A rejection of the terms might be because they were too harsh for Remainers. Or too soft for Brexiteers. Or a mixture of both.
In any case, when we went to the polls, we were told that we were making a binding decision. So it is up to our Government and Parliament to carry that out. And sort it out.
We are a parliamentary democracy. We cannot have an endless round of referendums on the terms. Not this time any way because both votes, Indyref and Brexit, were explicitly on the principle, not the detail. That was the basis in which we were asked to vote.
Which brings me to what I believe to be the consequence of both Brexit and the Indyref.
Because the reality of what they would mean in hard, pragmatic, political and economic terms were never clear.
The outcome could be whatever the protagonists could pretend it could be. From currency unions to NHS funding, from border posts to custom unions, the facts were whatever each side wished to assert they would be.
And thus, in any future such constitutional conundrum, I wonder if the ground rules should change. That any plebiscite should only be on the final deal.
Certainty assured, idle speculation removed. That if a party wins a majority in an election on the promise to negotiate terms of divorce they can proceed to do just that. And then, and only then, when the deal is there to be seen and understood, warts and all, do we the people vote.
It’s just a thought…..
I love Spring. Not in some romantic Wordsworth way about wandering lonely as a cloud. Or in a pageant of paganism dancing in some ancient fertility right.
But as a sports fan.
Spring, when we have a wonderful mash up of winter and summer.
The end of the rugby season and the start of the cricket fixtures. The world snooker championships and the London Marathon. All enriched this year by the spectacular Commonwealth Games. The Friendly Games on the Gold Coast.
At the weekend, I enjoyed the Edinburgh Northern 7s in glorious sunshine on Saturday. Shirts and shades in abundance. And the first cricket match the next day in sporadic rain showers and double jumper temperatures.
And on both days I witnessed a joyful combination of competition and fun. Of sportsmanship and camaraderie. Of a will to win, but a greater joy of just taking part.
And it is these dual qualities which make the London Marathon so compelling.
With 40,000 people running, pushing and sometimes walking for great causes raising nearly a billion pounds for others. And the elite runners chasing world records.
Thousands lining the streets of London to cheer each and everyone along.
A glorious celebration of humankind. And humankindness.