Scottish independence movement cannot put all its faith in the SNP and needs to elect its own leaders – Kenny MacAskill MP

Protestations that an independence referendum will be held in 2023 are met with increasing contempt, let alone scepticism.

The pro-independence umbrella body All Under One Banner holds a rally outside the Scottish Parliament in September (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The pro-independence umbrella body All Under One Banner holds a rally outside the Scottish Parliament in September (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Whilst the SNP/Green government have put the independence cause on the backburner, there’s stirrings in the ranks of the wider Yes movement. Recent marches and meetings show that the lifeblood is returning to the cause.

Ironically, and it’s entirely unintentional on the government’s part, it’s not only necessary but a good thing. For separating the Scottish Government from the cause of independence is necessary, not only democratically but politically.

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The movement and the times have changed since 2014, even if many individuals and factors remain constants. But whilst in 2014 the Holyrood administration’s record was a positive, that’s no longer the case.

For sure, they’ve mitigated hardship and nothing can be as bad as the venal and self-serving regime in Westminster, but mistakes can’t simply be wished away. Independence is about taking responsibility, after all.

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That’s why the cause needs to be built on the country that Scotland can and should be, not the administration’s record. From handling Covid, through the economy and social justice, to addressing a refugee crisis, it’s been smaller but independent nations which have shown the way, whether Denmark, Norway or Ireland.

More importantly, the leadership needs to be forged from amongst the grassroots movement, not directed from ministerial office. Which is why, as marches and events recommence, there should be an independence campaign convention bringing the different groups and organisations together.

That’s a separate matter from a constitutional convention but just as necessary. It’s from this meeting that direction should be set and leadership elected. The breadth of the disparate groups was the strength of the Yes Movement in 2014, everything from artists to grassroots community organisations. They remain the bedrock of the movement, even if political parties continue to be important.

Informal discussions have taken place and an umbrella organisation exists. But a formal meeting is required. It’s therefore time for a convention to take charge and get the campaign up and running.

The SNP referendum isn’t happening but there’s other ways and, more importantly, there’s life in the independence cause.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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