THE independence movement is a very broad political coalition and while we all support the same general principles, namely, establishing Scotland as an independent nation, the finer details of what it will ultimately look like are in a constant and tantalising state of perpetual debate.

For that reason, I’ve always been wary of anyone who has tried to establish themselves as the definitive leader of the Yes movement, or for that matter, those who try to gatekeep on who can and cannot consider themselves to be independence supporters.

Writing for The National last week, SNP defector/Alba MP (delete as appropriate) Neale Hanvey stated that he believed the Alba Party should work to establish itself as the de facto “standard bearer of Scottish independence”. I can barely think of anything less credible, nor more damaging to the Yes movement as a whole.

Scotland is on the cusp of achieving independence from the UK. The SNP have stated outright that a referendum will take place during this parliamentary term, one way or another. Before any form of “official” campaign has even begun, polling already indicates that the intentions of Scots are on a knife-edge, teetering toward a conclusive break from the various ill-fitting institutions and delirium of post-Brexit Britain.

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But how could a party led by the most unpopular politician in Scotland – according to at east one poll – and which scraped through the last Holyrood election with less than 1.7% of the regional vote, seriously believe it has the public support to lead an already buoyant Yes movement to victory?

The indy movement doesn’t need a standard bearer– and even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be the Alba Party. That said, I’m not particularly concerned. I suspect Alba will remain an irrelevance until the entire enterprise eventually eats itself. However, an unintended consequence of Hanvey’s column is that it did make me think again about who gets to define exactly what an independent Scotland looks like.

The SNP had been campaigning and working towards independence for decades, yet the energised post-referendum Yes movement was an entirely different beast to what had come before. The question of independence was no longer a fringe issue, but irreversibly wrapped into the fabric of Scottish politics and the movement attached to it was burning with purpose and a drive to effect change – and that doesn’t belong to any one political party.

The SNP shouldn’t be the standard bearers for the independence movement any more than the Alba Party should, albeit for very different reasons. Where Alba would alienate, the SNP centralises.

To me, the core question around independence that needs to be answered is not “what will an independent Scotland look like?” but rather what could it look like with the powers that come with independence.

The SNP cannot promise what an independent Scotland will look like, because they cannot guarantee they will be in power after independence. At best, they can set out their prospectus of what they would like to see, based on the resources and powers that will become available to Scotland.

A single, unifying vision for independence is not only unrealistic, but anathema to the diverse and varied political stances of Scotland.

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I campaigned to keep Scotland in the EU during the Brexit referendum, but I do not endorse the view that an independent Scotland should automatically rejoin.

NOT only does that immediately lose us the votes of those who voted to leave for reasons other than British nationalism, it also denies us the opportunity to have a reasonable discussion about what our future relations with the bloc could look like – something that was impossible while drowning under waves of poisonous British exceptionalism during the last debate.

Likewise, how could anyone who recognises the imminent threat of climate catastrophe be expected to rally under the banner of those arguing that oil and gas will be a boon to a newly independent Scotland?

There is strength in disunity.

However, that isn’t to say that we should not have red lines in our fight for independence. When banners for the extreme blood and soil nationalist group Siol nan Gaidheal were spotted at an AUOB march, they should have been ripped down, not tolerated as an alternative position on independence.

What made the first referendum such an exhilarating time was in part the fact we had the opportunity to discuss as a nation the future of this country.

When Yes Scotland relinquished its grip on the narrative around independence in 2014, and recognised organised groups such as the Radical Independence Campaign and Women for Independence, the debate flourished in a way that it couldn’t have under the far more milquetoast offerings of the White Paper. It brought a conversation that played out once more in light of the SNP’s Growth Commission report.

Too often calls for unity are barely disguised attempts to get activists to file into place behind one particular banner or political goal, while the impetus to heal fractures within the Yes movement has often been put entirely on those who are most at risk of being excluded, or worse, if they fall into line.

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It was often women demanding that they had a place in debates around independence that were viewed as divisive, rather than the organisers who had failed to represent a plurality of voices and experiences.

Likewise, transgender people are currently being viewed as agitators in the Yes movement, rather than the various activists and politicians working to undermine their rights and demanding that the Parliament row back on the manifesto commitments it was elected on.

I’m not interested in so-called unity in the Yes movement, and I’m even less interested in anyone who tries to position themselves as the leader of it, for political gain or otherwise.

To hand such a divisive element as the Alba Party any shred of power over its direction would be folly. We may be united in purpose, but I and many others could never stand behind their toxic banner.