AS the full details of the charges facing Alex Salmond emerged last week, no supporter of Scottish independence should have been surprised to see a theme emerging from the nation’s so-called opinion makers and shapers.

Everywhere you looked, there seemed to be another commentator suggesting that the charges would either delay or scupper for years any hopes of holding another independence referendum.

We need to challenge that groundless assumption.

First of all, we must say that the charges lodged against the former First Minister are serious. They will be tested in court and the laws of the land preclude any further discussion of the impending court case.

But the case for independence rests not on the shoulders of one man, regardless of the hugely important role he played in the 2014 referendum Nor is the pursuance of Scottish independence the prerogative of just the SNP – even if it is true that the goal will not be reached without the party’s political muscle and power.

Those who support independence do so not because of the personal charisma or the persuasive oratory of individual leaders, although those attributes help.

Independence is our goal because it represents the only way of building the type of country we want to live in.

That remains as true today as it was in 2014 and before. It will be as true tomorrow and on the day that the verdict is delivered on Alex Salmond. Indeed, the Brexit shambles has made the problems of the Union and the benefits of independence clearer than ever.

The United Kingdom has not been, is not now and will never be a partnership of equals. Force of numbers means that Scotland’s wishes will only ever have an effect when they are shared by enough voters south of the Border.

The argument that Scotland’s vote in the EU referendum should be respected will always be dismissed as long as the decisions of the constituent parts of the UK are denied equal weight.

Brexit has shown in stark terms how the union prevents Scotland from reaching its full potential.

It shows how powerless we are over our own economy which is now threatened because of an internal Tory ideological battle.

It shows how powerless we are over immigration, which Scotland both needs and welcomes and yet cannot encourage because of entirely different circumstances and attitudes in some parts of England.

It shows how the benefits of oil – which, of course, we must now always underline is NOT, NOT, NOT the key plank of an independent Scotland’s economy – were squandered by Margaret Thatcher, and will be squandered again because of skill shortages.

And it shows that Westminster is a dysfunctional place which the SNP has tried and almost certainly failed to save from itself.

The case for independence is strong and growing stronger. It depends not on the story of one man, but on the answer to a question which will be the same in a month, a year or a decade as it is today: Do we have the courage to leave a relationship which does not and can never work in our best interests, and instead take on the challenge of forging the country Scotland can become?