Mr Gove, a master of the art of political illusion, had said in an interview he “didn’t think” there would be any circumstances in which Boris Johnson would allow a referendum until the election.
Hardly a rock solid commitment.
He continued, saying it would be “at best reckless, at worst folly” to attempt to move the focus of the UK Government on to the constitution at a time of continued national crisis with Covid-19.
It’s hardly reckless, as Mr Gove puts it, to move to talk about the constitution when the UK Government just three days earlier had briefed they plan to attempt to give all blood and soil Scots a vote in any future vote.
The First Minister responded in kind. "Sneering, arrogant condescension” was the description of the comments from Nicola Sturgeon.
Every time UK Government ministers say anything about the Union, support for independence continues to strengthen, she said.
But if the exchange of views carried such a sense of deja vu, Scots would be forgiven for thinking they exist in a purgatorial state of perpetual constitutional debate.
There is such a malaise perpetuating in the independence question that it is akin to a never-ending phoney war of words.
Rather than present a case for independence as the SNP should, or provide a reason for nationalists to back the union, as the Conservatives should, the two are happy to play to their bases and shore up support among the significant majority of Scots who are content with the side of the fence they sit.
All of this is done without risking the possibility of the debate moving forward, or for any real options to be laid out in front of Scots who may vote on such an issue as soon as 2023.
Until the SNP bring forward a genuine policy case for independence beyond its favoured version of grievance politics and until the UK Government make a meaningful effort to make a positive case for the union, this phoney war will continue without many switching sides.
What a depressing thought.