TWO things in particular give me cause for concern over Scotland’s hopes for independence. In a strategic and campaigning sense at least, both are inextricably connected. The first is the timing of any referendum and the second is taking as many Scots as possible with us on the independence journey.

Let’s take the issue of timing first, or to put this in a nutshell, just when can we expect that call for a second referendum to finally be made?

Timing, so the saying goes, is everything. If that age-old maxim has any ring of truth about it, then no doubt it weighs heavily on Nicola Sturgeon’s mind.

Certainly, it can’t be easy to pick the moment, not least given the obvious constraints from Westminster. This too before dealing with the pandemic and factoring in the shifting mood of a public one can’t help sense are showing signs of frustration with the restrictions on their lives and livelihoods.

Yes, these measures are for our own good and yes the FM’s briefings have been held in high regard, but no political leader can hope to carry public support over such measures for an indefinite time without cracks in that support eventually appearing.

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In response to those champing at the bit over a referendum date the FM has already made clear that before the end of this parliament we can expect a draft bill setting out the terms of a future referendum “clearly and unambiguously”.

That announcement while welcome still leaves me uneasy though given that in “Broken Britain” right now political time and tide appear to wait for no-one.

Once it was the rallying call used by Tories to highlight perceived social decay across the county, but these days the term “Broken Britain” has come to epitomise what the Tory Government itself has inflicted across the UK.

Not to put too fine a point on it, within this Tory-inflicted chaos and disgruntlement among the populace lies political opportunity for the independence movement. At every turn Boris Johnson’s government is making enemies from one end of the UK to the other. Here in Scotland those desirous of independence have obviously been ahead of the game in recognising this.

But recognising such blunders is one thing, capitalising on them politically is something else. And before anyone says this is not the time to play politics with the pandemic, let me say I get that moral argument. But the unpalatable if equally inescapable fact is that the pandemic from the start would always have political ramifications.

Long before the coronavirus struck, the Tory Government had revealed itself as elitist and self-serving. If the pandemic has done anything politically, it’s in laying this starkly before us all to see.

The fact is political niceties are out the window. The pandemic can no longer be used as an excuse for everyone pulling on the same rope of solidarity, for that is simply not true. The Scottish Government if it hasn’t already needs to wake up to this fast. It needs also to get the gloves off and seize the political opportunity Johnson’s mess has presented us with.

In short it’s time to go on the offensive. While the saving of lives must always be paramount, Scotland must not let itself become politically blindsided in coping with the pandemic at the expense of getting independence done.

God knows enough Tories see it for the mercenary political opportunity it is ensuring that they look after their own, whether through lucrative pandemic-related contracts to their pals or shunting through the train crash that is Brexit.

If nothing else Johnson’s cabal recognises the importance of timing and so should Scotland before the window of opportunity in consolidating independence closes. That moment is here, right now, the polls bear this out. Rarely if ever can there have been a more auspicious moment for Scotland to make its independence gambit, and it’s hard to see such an opportunity presenting itself so readily in the foreseeable future should we let this moment slip from our grasp.

Circumstances will change post-pandemic and they may well not be in Scotland’s political favour. I’m very much with my colleague Ruth Wishart on this, who wrote in these pages earlier this week that we must be “fleet of foot” at this moment in time.

And speaking of being swift and flexible in our independence campaigning strategy brings me to my second concern, that of taking as many Scots as possible with us on the independence journey.

Again I’ll be candid and say there is a real danger in the reluctance or outright failure of some within the SNP leadership to recognise that many of our nation’s citizens most desirous of independence are not card-carrying members of the SNP.

Indeed we all know that many of those same Yes supporters would take grave exception to being called “nationalist”. Personally I have no problem with those wary of such branding. What matters is that their passion and commitment to independence is there when it matters and remains foremost in their political thoughts and actions.

I’m sure many readers have had the same experience, but I’ve lost count of the times someone has told me how much of a stalwart independence supporter they are before in the next breath distancing themselves from the SNP.

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Only the most naive or foolish would deny that the SNP remains the kernel of any campaign that will bring about independence. But equally only the most politically blinkered would fail to realise that so many of those who will drop their Yes vote into any ballot box in the future do not necessarily align themselves with the party.

For those who see everything through SNP party-political goggles or have become more preoccupied with ensuring their own political careers remain on the right trajectory, rather than endorsing support and consolidating the ranks of independence supporters, it’s time for a rethink.

They must face the fact that right now and in any future Scotland many Yes supporters will have no truck with the SNP, or indeed nationalism, no matter how “civic” the designation or description.

Again I have no problem with this provided such fellow travellers are onside when it matters at that crucial and historic moment when they vote in favour of independence.

It’s time the Scottish Government reached out to such people both saluting and endorsing their commitment to our common cause of independence.

There will be time to sort out political differences later when that process will be under the auspices of the Scottish people, whatever their political stripe. Rarely will there be a better moment to make this happen. Rarely has there been time when we need to reach out to our fellow Scots and welcome them on the journey to independence.