Since the recent general election there have been calls for the SNP Government to remove their request for permission to hold a new independence referendum. The Scottish Conservatives, Liberals and Labour Parties all argue that their relative success means there is no basis for such a new vote (of course it is also worth remembering that the SNP still have 35 out of 56 Westminster seats).
However, there are problems on both sides of this argument.
The Scottish Government sought a new referendum mainly out of frustration that the UK Conservative Government was not speaking to any of the devolved legislatures. At the same time they were interpreting a narrow vote to leave the EU as a vote to exit the Single Market - a decision guarenteed to undermine the UK economy. In that context the SNP wanted to run a new independence referendum when the terms of the UK's exit from the EU were clear but before Scotland was actually pulled out of the EU. That was, and remains, a reasonable position, especially given the enduring uncertainty about the UK Government's approach and lack of confidence in their competence in any negotiations.
But. The recent general election possibly has changed things. As far as anyone can work out, the UK Conservative Party remains committed to its UKIP-friendly model of Brexit with a near end to net migration and the UK out of the European Single Market. However, it no longer has the parliamentary votes to sustain this approach. The Labour Party's position remains an enigma wrapped in a black hole. Various senior politicians are pro or anti-single market and there is no real idea what they are seeking. However, I still think that in practice they will come to accept the Single Market and Free Movement (in other words EEA/EFTA terms).
Which brings us to the algebra of independence. It may still be the case - mainly due to the incompetence and incoherence of the UK negotiating position - that the UK crashes ouf of the EU onto WTO terms. It is almost definitely the case that the UK Government will fail to negotiate with the devolved legislations - after all what they want still remains a mystery. So Scotland could yet be dragged ouf of the EU against its expressed will - a situation that deserves to be tested by a vote?
On these grounds, the Scottish Government should not withdraw its request but should make it clear it will not progress this request as long as the UK can exit the EU onto EEA/EFTA terms. But equally, till the UK position is clear it is impractical to seek to progress this. At the moment, depressingly, it appears the Conservatives are sticking to their pre-General Election obsession with migration and fantasies as to the nature of the deal that can be agreed with the EU - but, fortunately, it is equally clear there is now no majority for this stance in the House of Commons.
Which, by a round about way brings us to the algebra of independence. In particular how likelihood to vote yes or no in such a case overlaps with support for a new referendum in the short term.
Broadly it is feasible to split the Scottish electorate into three groups. One (lets say around 25%) believe the only proper relationship to the rest of the UK is independence. Many of this group would support independence even if it was clear it would mean people would be worse off. On the other hand, around 35% believe that Scotland should never be independent. This group includes the Orange Order, those in the Edinburgh middle classes who do exceptionally well from the current devolution settlement and the more 'loyalist' element of Unionism (in effect the electoral coalition of the current Scottish Conservative party). This group mostly would not vote for independence even if it made Scotland better off.
Fairly obviously, the 'no-never' group are not only opposed to independence but any further electoral testing of that proposition. On the other hand, most of the 'yes-of course' group would be in support of a referendum whenever it was called - though some might object on tactical grounds.
The remaining 40% could be said to be persuadable either way (though most have made their minds up). Thus we tend to see support for independence shifting around the 45% achieved in 2014. But it is also this group that is more likely to be unsure about a referendum in the next few years than they might be about independence as an abstract idea.
Two groups stand out in understanding why 'no, not now' seems to triumph over 'yes-,maybe later'.
Put Corbyn, and renewed hope of exiting onto EEA/EFTA terms, together and many who might vote yes (and some who did so in 2014) in effect are saying 'not now'. But it is a caution based on possibilities, not least it is far from impossible that a weakened Conservative Government contrives a disastrous exit simply due to incompetence.
But the algebra seems clear:
'Yes-of course'<''Yes now' (even if not by many)
'No but it depends' = 'No now'
In effect the potential Unionist vote is against a referendum in the short term and the potential nationalist vote is divided due to the new possibilities at a UK level. So the Scottish Government would be right not to withdraw its request but well advised to make it clear that, it too, wishes to wait and see?
It also indicates that lukewarm support for an independence referendum at the moment is a poor guide to voting intentions if one is to be held.