Apologies for the question-to-which-the-answer-is-no title.

It’s been a tumultuous week in Scottish politics, just for a change. Starting with the NATO debate at the SNP conference, via a couple of resignations, we got to a fairly badly handled climb down on the ugly and futile secrecy which exacerbated a bad problem largely of the SNPs own making but which is likely to be problematic for Yes as a whole.

Those issues have been covered in depth elsewhere, what I want to look at is what it tells us about how things are working just now.

The NATO decision at SNP conference was interesting for a few reasons. As Jonathan Mackie pointed out internally this marked the SNP becoming a party where the leadership and the professional part of the party asserted it’s ability to carry motions over rank & file membership. Listening to the debate, the main thrust of the argument in favour of the policy change was one of political expediency regarding the referendum, with the fabled 75% Sandra White railed against featuring quite heavily. Given that, it seems unlikely that that was proposed without at least considering the likelihood of some MSPs deeming it a bridge too far and resigning the party whip as Jean Urquhart and John Finnie did.

The calculation, presumably, was that the inevitable narrowing of the SNP broad independence-above-all-else church in the lead up to the referendum was going to come at a price but that could be mitigated by doing it early and, in any case, MSPs would continue to vote with the party on key issues. If talk of a technical group comprising them, the Greens and Margo McDonald comes to pass then it may change FMQs but it seems unlikely there’d be an extra question, just a re-allocation of the current number away from the Yoonyonisht Conspiracy parties to committed Yes supporters.

Some people might even call that a win.

The legal advice regarding a newly independent Scotland’s status and obligations within the European Union , however, seems like an increasingly ill judged catastrophe.

We’ve discussed this a few times on BetterNation, possibly most pertinantly here with a countervailing view here but perhaps worth checking out the whole tag here. However, given the revelations in the independent today, it seems the view expressed by Neil Walker here and discussed by Lalland’s here is the correct one. Nobody knows.

That’s not surprising. The European Union is a highly political beast with little case law to set precedent. In what would essentially be a novel situation to deal with it’s not surprising the legal position is unclear. As Ian Smart argues Scotland’s status post-independence would need to be negotiated. The Scottish Government will now seek legal advice on this issue but will never reveal does not, surprisingly, fill one with confidence that we will have a clear basis on which to make a decision come 2014. of what

What is surprising is that was ever allowed to get this far. Catherine Stihler’s FoI was fought tooth and nail, impressions were created regarding the supposed certainty of Scotland’s status within the EU regardless of independence and the appearances of Nicola Sturgeon and Jamie Hepburn (who was presumably being punished for his No to NATO stance) in TV studios midweek to argue semantic differences in written transcripts versus the widely available video was not entirely sure footed.

Nobody would call that a win.

Oddly the defence of the Yes campaign, and not just the SNP here, has been to attack the other parties as having been insufficiently combative or competent enough in holding what has been suddenly redefined as the executive of the Scottish Government to account on the issue. We were treated, apparently more in sadness than anger (a form of argument which should be banned with immediate effect from Scottish politics on account of overuse) to criticisms of Johann Lamont for being insufficiently forensic, Ruth Davidson for out of date comedy references and Willie Rennie for being a Tory collaborator. All or none of which may be true but which deliberately and blatantly ignores the point in hand.

Some people might call that a tactical victory. The electorate, one might argue, will become bored of the argument over uncertainty about the terms of EU membership (nobody is suggesting Scotland will be summarily expelled and refused entry), the terms of the proposed currency union with the Bank of England or the terms of our proposed continued membership of NATO.

In short, we haven’t learned a lot but the shape of the next few years has clearly outlined. The major Yes parties – the SNP and the Greens – will contrast an independent Scotland with a Tory government and present contradictory views of what the Scotland would look like. The major No parties – Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems – will contrast and independent Scotland with the status quo, emphasising our loss of positive freedom over our gain of negative freedom

It will be very, very boring and apparently nobody will talk about either the pragmatic or theoretical distribution of power until the posturing is done.

I’m going for a Twix.

(I’m not really, Twixes are a product of the capitalist hegemony I’m trying to opt out of while maintaining a middle class standard of living)