THIS year’s annual Radical Independence Conference was, in my opinion, the best yet. It wasn’t the biggest, but compared to earlier years the ideas were sharper, and it really reinvigorated the increasingly tired debate about how to square “internationalism” with “nationalism”.

The whole audience was moved to tears at least three times during the middle session: by the stories of Irish women battling the system for abortion rights, and by the stories of people in France and Scotland confronted with appalling police racism. Ultimately, we’re united across borders by sharing common experiences and emotions, and that will continue with or without Westminster, with or without the European Union trading regime.

To me, though, there’s still an unanswered question about the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC). Since we formed the alliance in 2012, we’ve gone from rank outsiders on the fringes to a recognised part of Scottish politics. My fear is that we’ll become a little too domesticated by accepting our role in the official narrative.

People often praise RIC for leading the call for campaigning in working-class housing estates in 2014. Since that’s eventually where the bulk of people moved from “No” to “Yes”, we gained significant credit for helping shift the result. Some of that credit is undeserved. RIC led the radical left intellectual argument for this campaigning method, and RIC activists certainly took a lead. But, ultimately, Yes Scotland eventually came to see the sense in mobilising political “outsiders” to the cause, having failed miserably to win the voters they wanted, the professional middle class. Credit where credit is due, we couldn’t have campaigned on such a huge scale across all of Scotland without these official resources.

Equally, people often miss the politics behind our mode of campaigning. We didn’t choose to campaign in Labour-voting, urban working-class areas because we felt these voters would be easiest to manipulate or the most confused about the currency. Nor did we choose that mode of campaigning because we are eager youngsters who love to run up and down high rises with clipboards and piles of leaflets. We campaigned there because the democratic deficit in Scottish politics is fundamentally a class division. That’s why we modelled the campaign on voter registration among black voters in America.

Both SNP and Scottish Labour governments had framed the “real” political battle around winning businesspeople and middle-class support, taking working-class voters for granted or, frankly, patronising them (“monkey in a red rosette”). We campaigned in working-class areas because the battle for swing voters had drained the morality from Scottish politics. We didn’t want the referendum to become another boring election campaign where politicians mouthed wooden words about combining a “competitive economy” and a “fair society”, combining “sustainability” with “growth”, and so on. We wanted an insurgency against the tired politics of devolution.

That’s why we approached voters with a controversial and (in the true sense) politically incorrect message: “Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be ours”. Importantly, we said “can be”. Right now, it certainly isn’t.

By doing this, we also challenged left-wing No campaigners to put up or shut up. Would they go into working-class areas and explain what Britain would do for them? Of course they didn’t, not in any significant numbers. That’s one reason why Labour suffered so badly from the Better Together alliance.

The referendum, in my view, was an insurgency. The levels of voting in working-class areas clearly reflects that. However, if we assumed that the referendum had changed Scottish politics forever, we were wrong. By the election this year, voting levels in key urban constituencies had slumped again, almost to new lows. The influx of new members into the SNP hasn’t changed the party’s core policies. The official opposition in Scotland is now right-wing and has zero creative message beyond warning about the dangers of independence.

Meanwhile, the economic case for independence hasn’t advanced, leaving aside the contested matter of the European Union. In many areas, like oil and currency, the case has weakened. There are solutions, but they aren’t solutions of the political centre. The campaign must move right – embracing a smaller state, as Mike Russell and others have suggested – or move left by arguing for progressive taxes.

RIC, for me, isn’t just a convenient mobilising tool designed to do hard work that posher nationalists don’t want to touch. It’s about radical democracy, by which I mean democracy that threatens people with too much wealth and power. RIC isn’t about winning independence at all costs. It’s about making sure that independence improves the lives of the people who fought for democracy in the first place.

That’s why I partly regret RIC’s reputation for spirited hard work. Because it’s so easy to get the wrong message. We never intended to be tireless workers for Alex Salmond’s economic programme. We certainly didn’t want to be Animal Farm’s Boxer, the cart horse who is working at all hours while the pigs feast. We intended to put forward the principle that Scotland’s new democracy would allow us to vote for any economic programme we wanted, including ideas that fundamentally contradict the Scottish Government’s Laffer Curve economics.

Actually, I think we’ve been proved right on the main economic arguments. The currency union won’t work, that’s immediately obvious, and so Scotland faces a choice between the euro and a new currency. Lower taxes aren’t an option now, fiscally speaking, and the question is about where the burdens of tax should fall. Meanwhile, the success of Jeremy Corbyn in English Labour proves that the politics of liberation can gain a popular audience, even in a country traditionally more “right wing” than Scotland.

Last weekend’s conference proved that many of my fears were unfounded. RIC hasn’t become a cover for the parliamentary mainstream. The independence movement hasn’t simply become comfortable with being a “new Scottish establishment”. There’s still a spirited constituency for radical politics.

I’m not naive. I know we need mainstream parties like the SNP and the Greens to win. But let’s not take our own supporters for granted. According to John Curtice, 38 per cent of Yes supporters in 2014 voted to leave the European Union. In other words, our main supporters are just as “Eurosceptic” as the rest of Scotland, even though about 100 per cent of our elected politicians are near uncritically pro-EU. Simply running a pro-business, pro-EU independence campaign risks alienating our new constituency of voters. That’s why we need the critical, independent voices in the Yes campaign who made our referendum experience so different from the Unionist experience.