One of democracy's imperfections is its fragility combined with its appearance of robustness and resilience. Those whose direct personal experience is confined to a broadly democratic society do not easily imagine anything other. The corollary being a tendency to take democracy for granted. If only they realised how tenuous is our grip on the freedoms we assume to be ours by dint of nature, they would fear for those freedoms.
Mike Russell may be correct to say that the people of Scotland can vote for a referendum in the Holyrood election. He declines to add, however, that for them to do so the SNP must go into the election on a very explicit and quite unambiguous manifesto commitment to a process which will deliver a free and fair referendum at the earliest possible date. He might further have noted that, as things stand, the party of which he is President has given no such commitment.
The restoration of Scotland's independence is neither imminent nor inevitable. The complacency implied and fostered by such notions stands as one of the greatest threats to Scotland's cause.
If language is important - as it surely is - then the motives and attitudes and intentions of the person choosing and using the language must also be significant. Context is crucial. The psychology of the speaker is as much part of the context as the setting and has to be considered along with other factors, such as the occasion, the venue and the audience.
That's the whole story. The Scottish Government wants to address a situation in Scotland with measure tailored to the situation in Scotland. The British government doesn't want that. Not that they actively want more people to die. Just that they actively don't care if more people die. It is not a factor in their political calculations. Other than that it suits the British establishment's agenda if a situation worsens under an SNP administration. The situation worsening bit is a factor. The people dying bit isn't.
Only if Boris Johnson had developed a conscience since the last time he was denounced for having done something unforgivable might he now be wounded by a fresh denunciation for some new unforgivable act.
The closest thing to information Keith Brown might impart to these eager new arrivals on the Yes side is that it depends. Whether and when there is a referendum depends. What form the referendum takes depends.
To be scrupulously fair, it isn't easy trying to find new ways of saying the same thing over and over week after week. I could almost sympathise. I have to try and find new ways of responding to this vacuous drivel. I know what a grinding, joyless, soul-sucking chore it can be. But any fellow-feeling I might have quickly evaporates in the heat of my anger at being taken for a fool. Angry, too, on behalf of all the others who are being treated so shabbily by the SNP's chief enthuser.
Douglas Ross had been thoroughly briefed by his London bosses. He was to make himself 'one of them' among the Jocks. He was to put a bit of distance between BCUPS and Boris's regime - which they recognised wasn't as popular as it deserved to be in North Britain. A phenomenon they explained with the observation that the Scotch are a fractious tribe who really don't know what is in their best interests. They have to be guided - and from time to time slapped - by Britannia's gracious hand.
MacAskill is fast becoming the voice of a growing 'tendency' within the SNP that has turned to questioning the SNP leadership because all the questions that might be asked of the British state and its apparatus are now rhetorical.