THE Yes movement is massive, certainly many multiples of times bigger than the social media Yes bubble. However, in that Yes bubble, the ability to reach the undecided has disappeared and internalised arguments dominate, particularly on Facebook.

Many in the Yes movement admit to feeling worn down by the political infighting, pointless negativity and division and it must stop. The movement is in danger of losing heart, just when we need to re-ignite our campaign and get ready for indyref2. Lockdown has meant social media has become the main way the Yes movement communicates, and that’s a problem as social media is designed to create arguments in empty rooms.

I understand the splits between the SNP, Alba and the Greens on many issues. I get that tempers are frayed and that egos have been challenged and long-held loyalties severely tested. I just don’t care. I am campaigning for Scottish independence, not for a political party nor for a political personality. I am not a member of any party, and I am almost certain that the political party I will vote for in an independent Scotland doesn’t exist yet.

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The political infighting in the Yes movement is limited to only a few hardliners and largely on social media but it’s pointless. Pointless because other than next year’s council elections there will not be another General or Holyrood election before indyref2 – any political party that wants to win in an independent Scotland should loudly and clearly ask its supporters and elected members to stop fighting with one another and focus on getting Scotland to Yes. Then they boast that they did more to deliver independence, in the elections after independence.

I am not saying wheesht for indy, or kiss and make up but rather park it till the next big political contest which will be in 2024 (after we have already voted Yes). Those who can’t muster the self-discipline to stop spreading negativity and division will end up on the wrong side of history.

The SNP have committed to holding a referendum in the first half of this parliament but after people feel we are past the health crisis. That means we are looking at autumn 2023 at the latest – probably sooner.

If we end the infighting, re-ignite the Yes campaign, get involved in non-political independence campaigning, make the positive case and get our key messages across we can move independence support back to the 55-58% of earlier this year.

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It works. At Believe in Scotland we don’t tolerate such negativity, our membership is growing rapidly, our plans for a mass day of action will be announced next week and 60 local Yes groups have signed up to be our campaigning partners.

Our Facebook group has grown by more than 1200 members in the last week and is about to hit 25,000 in just over a year of existence. I would liken our group moderators to the sheriffs in those old Western movies, insisting everyone hands over their guns before entering the saloon – we insist that you need to leave your political party grudges at the door.

That’s how it must be in the Yes movement from now on because we don’t have the luxury of time to sort this out. Indyref2 will be upon us faster than you think, and we need to start getting ready now.

The National:

The Scottish Government has committed to indyref2 within the first half of the five-year parliamentary term. The First Minister stated that the first 100 days of the parliament would be focused on the health crisis and setting up the recovery and then the preparations for indyref2 would begin. One hundred days was up last week and so expect announcements in the next couple of weeks.

The key advantage of the Yes side is the tens of thousands of people who are willing to work for independence, to deliver leaflets, to canvas, to attend rallies and marches.

The Unionist side has none of that and holding a referendum campaign when the Yes side may not be able to deploy its main tactical advantage would have been madness. So, the Referendum Bill that will fire the starting gun for indyref2 will go to Holyrood to vote on in February 2022.

The UK Government could attempt to stop the referendum through the courts but that would be political suicide for the Union and is therefore unlikely. So, we get through winter, the economy is recovering as best it can and we have a new economic approach based on the emerging wellbeing approach to economics, (if we want to win that is).

So now we can start looking at likely dates. May 4, 2022 is the date for the Scottish council elections and that doesn’t bode well for a united and focused Yes movement. This means we are looking at autumn 2022 as the earliest possible date and that’s just over one year away.

Autumn 2023 is the latest date in the first half of the Holyrood term and the next UK General Election is due on Thursday, May 2, 2024. If the SNP don’t hold a referendum by autumn 2023 then the party will disintegrate. Other Yes parties will put up constituency candidates in the General Election. With it being a first-past-the-post, constituency-only vote, the SNP would almost certainly lose almost half of their MPs. So, they need to go on indyref2 before the 2024 General Election, or the party will be over.

In the highly unlikely event of the UK Government managing to stop a referendum through the courts, the SNP will be in a position to run on a declaration of independence (not a referendum) ticket following a majority of one in the 2024 General Election. UDI is only the answer when all democratic routes are denied because only then will it carry majority support in Scotland and with the international community.

Let’s have a bit of fun –September 15, 2022; May 11, 2023; or September 14th, 2023? My money is on September 14, 2023, and a convincing Yes vote after a feel-good summer campaign – Believe in Scotland will be ready, will you?

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the CEO of Business for Scotland the Founder of Believe in Scotland