SINCE the high water mark of the SNP’s roaring victory in 2015, the independence movement has existed in a state of great expectation and repeated hiatus. There is growing frustration among independence supporters, despite strong electoral support for Scotland’s supposed party of independence.

A feeling that grows each time we are marched up the referendum hill, only to be unceremoniously led back down – a trudge that leaves even the most patient person questioning if there is even a sketch of a plan – let alone a coherent one – on how to move our country forward towards independence. Well, the short answer is – there isn’t one.

So, where do we go now?

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Reverend Jesse Jackson once remarked that “debate is the way you stir the soul of democracy”. But what happens when even constructive, never mind radical, debate is stymied? When people who ask simple questions of party positions are labelled malcontents? And when slavish repetition of slogans replaces even basic policy discussion?

This is one of the greatest impediments to our cause.

I can’t help but think back wistfully to a Yes meeting in the week following the 2014 referendum and the massive explosion of hope as the membership of the SNP increased. That creativity and discussion that awoke the soul of a nation in 2014 has tragically been ground down by the folly of an insecure party of government.

Whether you believed that the 2015 election should have been fought on an independence alliance ticket or not is a moot point, but the need for active and wide-ranging debate persists. Scunnered by SNP diktats from on high I think we’re at risk of losing our ability to listen to opinions that differ, or to options, however well meaning, we would sooner reject.

Other than the obvious attraction that independence negotiations would start immediately after the election, another alluring quality of the Alba Party that drew me to join was the promise of robust, open and honest debate.

So, when I picked up pushback from friends following Kenny MacAskill’s considered reflections on further devolution, it probably should have been no surprise that at the heart of this was an assumption that home rule was now Alba Party policy.

It is frankly absurd to suggest that Kenny’s goal is anything other than independence for Scotland. Yet, for as long as we have a Prime Minister who is hostile to Scotland, and a First Minister who shelves mandate after mandate handed to her, our means of progress could be placed on pause indefinitely. In my view such timidity is completely unacceptable and progress on building our case must be made and everything must be on the table for that to happen.

And this is precisely the sort of thinking out loud, the exploration of different – perhaps challenging – ideas that stirs the soul of democracy. By all means disagree, even viscerally, but please don’t take Kenny’s attempt to raise the issue as an Alba Party diktat.

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That’s before I even point out that we’ve not yet held our inaugural conference or indeed had a debate about how we set out the party’s position across a range of ambitious policy areas. Surely discussing and considering options in advance of that event should be viewed in the context of a fully democratic party, with a one member, one vote constitution. One that is practising that age-old foundation of democracy – open discussion.

Those of us who’ve become disenchanted with central control of ideas and ambition, who yearn for healthy debate, must remind ourselves that good policy is created when space is given to explore.

Let me be clear Alba’s ambition and my ambition is unashamedly for an independent Scotland. There’s no need to start a conversation – that began in 2012. It’s high time for action, and through vigorous debate the Alba Party can emerge to become the true standard bearer of Scottish independence.