WHERE do we go after Saturday’s impressive aquatic indy march through Glasgow? Kenny MacAskill, the new (but veteran) SNP MP for East Lothian, has galloped straight out of the starting gate with a proposal for an all-party civic body to “seek to create unity either behind independence or just the Scottish people’s right to choose their own future”.

Kenny is open to such a rassemblement taking different forms. He mentions a revived constitutional convention representing civic Scotland, similar to the body that wrote the blueprint for the current Holyrood Parliament. Or a convocation of elected parliamentarians from Holyrood and Westminster. But no matter how it is composed, MacAskill insists that such a body must embody the whole Scottish people and not be dominated by the SNP, if it is to carry moral weight.

Kenny speculates that perhaps the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) could act as an honest broker in establishing the new representative body. It is significant in this respect that Grahame Smith, the STUC general secretary, has recently called for the entire Scottish Labour movement to support the right to a second independence referendum.

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MacAskill sums up his proposal (published in Scottish Left Review) thus: “So it’s time for unity. Structures need established and tactics discussed but the political sectarianism that has blighted Scottish politics must end.”

Whatever one thinks of Kenny’s initiative, it addresses a central problem with the line being taken by the SNP leadership: what do we do if Boris blocks a second independence referendum?

December’s election handed a newly English nationalist Tory Party the keys to power for the next five years – possibly far longer given the factious state of the Labour Party. King Boris sees himself as leading a constitutional, social and economic revolution. His mission is to reincorporate the dissident Celtic fringes into his new populist Britannia. Johnson and his cohort of shrill backbenchers are out to destroy the SNP and undermine the devolution settlement in doing so. Against this Tory political hurricane, polite conversation won’t get Scotland anywhere.

That is not to say the tiny SNP leadership team don’t have a definite plan. They are counting on middle-class Remain voters coming over to the independence camp to create a potential Yes majority. Nicola, Peter, Angus and co believe that with this solid majority behind them – expressed clearly in a fourth successive SNP electoral victory at next year’s Holyrood poll – they will have the moral and international momentum to force Boris to concede indyref2. Any other proposition – an unsanctioned referendum, civil disobedience, threats of UDI – they dismiss as bluster.

On the plus side of the balance sheet, there are definite signs that support for Scotland’s right to chose is on the increase: witness Grahame Smith’s intervention and supporting comments from a clutch of Labour MPs and MSPs, including Clive Lewis and Neil Findlay. And I don’t doubt that if an independence referendum was held in the next couple of years, the Yes side would win. Saturday’s amazing turnout in the rain shows the movement is all fired up and ready to go campaigning.

The National:

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Yet here’s my beef: Boris and the new populist Tories are playing for keeps and the SNP leadership does not seem to realise this. Outside of the EU, and with Trump as his mentor, Johnson has no compelling need to yield to moral pressure from the uppity Scots. Certainly, we must maximise the public display of Scottish support for a second independence referendum, if only to prove the strength of our demands to Boris and the English electorate. But given deliberate Tory disdain for the SNP’s electoral mandate, we have to find fresh ways to demonstrate the strength of the movement for self-determination. Which is all MacAskill is saying.

However – and crucially – the SNP leadership appear increasingly unwilling to promote a wider, non-electoral demonstration of support either for self-determination or independence, lest they lose control over the movement. Nicola remains unwilling to speak at the fabulous All Under One Banner marches lest she share a platform with anyone who says the “wrong thing” – despite assurances from the AUOB organisers that she can approve the speaker roster.

Again, despite non-stop injunctions from senior SNP leaders for the movement to “have patience” and “win over converts”, there is an absolute minimum of direction or resources emanating from the party hierarchy, aimed at serious, door-to-door canvassing for a Yes victory. If there is a genuine intent to hold a referendum this calendar year, where are the leaflets, the fundraising, the training sessions, the area full-time staff, or the preparations for a campaign body? Answer: there are none.

This is not to be taken as any criticism of Keith Brown, the SNP’s hard-working depute leader in charge of campaigning. But no-one can say, hand on heart, that the party is on a war footing – which is why complaints against MacAskill or others for doubting the leadership’s commitment to a referendum in 2020 are disingenuous. And if we know it, so does Number 10 and the Scotland Office.

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill calls for constitutional convention for indyref2

Which brings us back to the pressing necessity to create some formal, organised structure – outside of the SNP hierarchy – to orchestrate the mass movement. In the first instance, the need is to win the right for a second referendum to be decided by the Scottish people alone. The Good Friday Agreement gives the Irish people the sovereign right to decide on a border poll – it should be the same in Scotland. It seems to me that task tilts towards a new liaison mechanism between parties and civic institutions. The STUC could well be the body that calls it into existence.

But history is accelerating. There is already a mass movement in favour of independence proper – one that desperately requires effective leadership and management separate from party apron strings. Something akin to the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). A similar Scottish National Assembly organised through local branches and interest sections (eg pensioners, students, etc) could unleash the vim and vigour of the movement and do it immediately. Of course, we need to win over the uncommitted to independence. But somebody has to do it on a formal basis and have the resources to do it properly.

That necessitates a mass movement – not then same thing as a political party.

Recently, my good comrade Roisin McLaren, co-spokesperson for the Scottish Socialist Party, took issue with a column I wrote for The National in which I advocated making preparations for civil disobedience. Roisin worries I am “posturing” because civil disobedience in itself is not a rounded strategy for achieving independence, nor will the SNP leadership ever adopt it. But we already have the political arguments (in spades) for independence as a response to Tory rule.

Rather, as MacAskill argues, the priority is to create a united front mechanism to marshal serious campaigning for a referendum. A united front that embraces every pro-independence activist while not being subordinated to the electoral cycle. Within that orbit, civil disobedience is a legitimate tool to put pressure on the Johnson government, as it shows Scotland cannot be ruled from London against its wishes.

Otherwise we condemn ourselves to decades of sterile propaganda while the Tories rampage over our civil rights.