THE polls may be encouraging, but I have an uneasy feeling about Scotland’s independence hopes right now. It’s a feeling that’s been growing for some time and is born out of experience over many decades as a foreign correspondent watching the fortunes of other people’s struggles for nationhood.

From Kurdistan to Kashmir, South Ossetia to South Sudan, I’ve been an eyewitness to such struggles and on occasion become intimately acquainted with the challenges and obstacles faced by those engaged in independence movements.

No matter where in the world I’ve encountered the roots of independence being laid down, one recurring factor has noticeably often plagued or dashed the hopes of many.

I’m talking here about division, internal division especially. Differences within the ranks of most independence movements far and away pose the biggest threat and danger to their chances of success compared to just about any other political factor.

Often such division is not visible to begin with; instead it creeps into and corrodes a movement as it gains ground and individual ambitions come to the fore. Or, alternatively, sometimes it rears its head when the movement loses traction and frustrations boil over. Either way, it is almost invariably the kiss of death.

Division is, of course, to politics what prayer is to the Vatican. It’s part of what make politics work and so it should be. But if I had the proverbial pound for every time I’ve seen division become the Achilles’ heel of an independence movement, then I’d have enough to bribe Boris Johnson into giving the green light for Scotland to have another referendum tomorrow. Some reading this will attest that my fears are unfounded. You can hardly compare our independence movement to that, say, of those in Africa, the Middle East or elsewhere, will go the argument of the “here’s tae us, wha’s like us” fraternity. Being canny Scots we’re way too smart to fall into that trap, others might respond. But is that really the case?

Let me be frank and say I see precious little canniness right now in tactical terms when it comes to pushing forward the campaign for Scottish independence.

In fact, I’ll go further and say the level of tactical naivety I see around the movement right now in letting itself be sucked into internal squabbling of the “my nationalism’s better than your nationalism” variety borders on the idiotic.

That it gives those who oppose independence the opportunity to rub their hands in advantageous glee is an obvious given.

Most political leaders of independence movements I’ve met around the world would give their eye teeth for the obvious advantages our independence movement has right now.

Here in Scotland we have momentum. We have in the UK a ruling Tory Government that seems with every move it makes to slap Scotland in the face, bringing yet more Yes voters to the movement’s ranks. There is a real sense of purpose right now, too, a sense that independence is inexorably on its way.

What’s more, here in Scotland, unlike many parts of the world where people are struggling for nationhood, no-one is going to bomb us out of our desire for independence. No tanks will scour the streets crushing separatist hopes.

No, instead we ourselves post the biggest threat and danger to Scotland’s independence ambitions.

I’m sure I’m not alone in recognising what amounts to a creeping silo mentality taking root that manifests itself in bickering camps within the SNP and between some in the party and the wider independence movement.

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ALLOWED to fester, this will confirm that negative characterisation some have of Scotland’s unerring ability grab to defeat from the jaws of victory through lack of political unity and common purpose.

Sure, I know many will not like me saying this, and sure again, some will accuse me of only further fuelling division by airing such views. I’m fine with that if it means helping wake up the indy movement to the risk it runs of allowing internal division to erode solidarity.

It goes without saying, too, that there are those who like “mixing” it or political mischief-making for its own sake. To them, I say get out of the way. There is far too much at stake here for Scotland, its people and their future for any kind of political narcissism or dilettantism.

To play fast and loose with the issue of independence, like it was some kind of political football worthy only of a kick around for its entertainment value, is at best irresponsible and at worst a gross betrayal of what many Scots hold dear.

If I’ve learned anything over the years in watching others struggles for nationhood, it’s that factors outside a movement’s own control often also come into play. External influences or players and unpredictable events all have a role.

Independence movements also, in my experience, rarely determine the moment independence is reached, but they can exert strong influence over the circumstances in which it occurs. In other words, allies can be won over, sceptics reassured, international support garnered.

Even with the best of planning, real success is not necessarily assured. Above all else, though, I’ve learned that if internal rifts are allowed to take hold then the chances of success for any independence movement are slim indeed. That, as they say, is the realpolitik.

Here in Scotland right now we would do well to bear that in mind. If independence is our common goal then it’s time for all of us in the movement to selflessly put our shoulders to the wheel to make it happen, not headbutt each other into political oblivion and the hopes of nationhood with it.