I have had a narrow escape. Subverting standard procedure (refuse all speaking engagements), I somehow ended up agreeing to do a talk at an event in Kirkcaldy later this month which I now learn is to be called the Adam Smith Festival of Ideas. Gordon Brown has something to do with it; not sure what.

I proposed to my old friend Alistair Moffat that I should deliver a speech on the failings of Scottish education. He seemed to like that, and informed me that I would be questioned on it by Rory Bremner, a person I have long admired but never met. But when the final programme arrived, what I'd fondly imagined would be a dedicated slot had been subsumed into a late morning panel of Four Blokes, the Bloke-in-Chief being none other than the incomparably wise Richard Holloway. Worse, there was no longer any mention of Rory Bremner. Feeling that the gig was no longer what I'd signed up for, I pulled out.

I shall thus miss the keynote speech of the weekend by Ed Balls entitled 'Strictly Smith' (I jest not), which is based on a recent ground-breaking discovery that the well-known Fife scholar was actually a ballroom dancer of some dexterity, widely celebrated in Methil.

The embarrassment of not taking part in the Adam Smith Festival of Ideas was compounded a few days later when I checked the line-up on the internet and discovered that I was still down as a speaker and being described as a veteran Scottish journalist. I don't really mind being called a journalist, although I have not practised as one full-time since the age of 20. It was the word 'veteran' that rankled, veteran being a tactful euphemism for old. I realised, perhaps for the first time, that people think I'm old. And I have news for them: they're right.

Being old has begun to worry me for a particular reason. It means that I may not live long enough to see a final resolution, one way or the other, of the Scottish constitutional pantomime that I have been observing, enjoying, loathing and ridiculing for most of my adult life.

On the face of it, the actuarial portents are sound. It seems more than likely, if not inevitable, that the leader will shortly attempt to call a second independence referendum for the autumn of next year. But according to Alex Massie, a young man upon whom we increasingly depend for an insight into Conservative thinking in these uncertain times, the leader will not have her wish granted. It is Mr Massie's belief, shared by influential others, that Mrs May will inform her that she can only have her referendum after the Brexit negotiations are complete.

That takes us two years down the road, if not longer. We then face general elections for both Westminster and Holyrood, which could be used as an expedient for further delay. There is, additionally, an extraneous factor not much remarked on: the prospect of Marine Le Pen as president of France, which would signal the dissolution of the EU and leave poor wee Scotland with nowhere obvious to go. It is conceivable that by the time the various obstacles to a second referendum are overcome to the complete satisfaction of Theresa May, I will be too far gone to care one way or the other.

Admittedly I wasn't greatly looking forward to indyref2, as it is vulgarly known. It seems no time at all since the first one, although a generation appears to have elapsed while I was otherwise engaged, mostly surveying with deep appreciation the many writings of Gerry Hassan.

Nevertheless, I would have been intrigued to discover whether Dr Hassan – Gerry on the good days – was correct in his recent assessment that, in order to convert a sufficient number of No voters to independence, the tone of the second debate would have to be more conciliatory. A promising start in that direction has been made with a reference to the secretary of state for Scotland and his son in a popular nationalist blog, quoted by Dr Hassan in this space two days ago: 'Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner'. This was so conciliatory in tone that not one senior figure in the Scottish National Party has challenged it. But I suspect it is just the start. Many more bags of conciliatory tone await delivery, all with long sell-by dates.

Although I don't relish the prospect of a second referendum, I'd best be honest: I have a strong investment in the outcome.

A year or so back, a newspaper called the National devoted a whole page to a deconstruction of the editor of the Scottish Review, claiming that he was a member of the Scottish establishment and that he would require to be 'held to account' by an independent Scotland. Gosh, I thought: could that be me they're talking about? Until that moment, I had never considered myself a member of the Scottish establishment: but, having been enrolled in it by the National, I started to resent missing out on an OBE for services to obsequiousness.

But never mind my unlooked-for inclusion in the ranks of the great and good. It's the holding to account that thrills me. I fancy the leader in one of her don’t-mess-with-me red jackets, flanked by some obliging representative of the Scottish commentariat (Macwhirter would do nicely) and the named person John Swinney, presiding over a show trial attended by all 8,500 readers of the National, a far bigger crowd than we get most Saturdays at Somerset Park, with Dr Hassan discreetly in the background penning his latest thoughts on conciliatory tone.

To be held to account by Nicola Sturgeon: I might even buy a suit for the occasion, the sort the accused wears. It is my last worldly ambition, and I shall be exceedingly cross with Theresa May if she succeeds in thwarting it.

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My last ambition

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