PRESSURE is growing on the Scottish Government and ruling parties to step up the campaign for independence after two years of delay due to Covid.

Now the virus appears to be in retreat and pro-Yes parties have secured encouraging results in Thursday’s local elections, former senior figures within the SNP and grassroots activists have told the Sunday National that concrete action must be taken to revitalise the independence movement.

Campaigners acknowledge the pandemic has stalled the independence movement but hope the coming summer will see activists regain momentum.

While former SNP minister Linda Fabiani is confident work is going on behind the scenes in the corridors of power, she told the Sunday National she understood the “frustration” of grassroots activists over a lack of transparency and the absence of concrete action on independence in the last two years.

She demanded the Scottish Government announce a date for a second referendum as soon as possible, saying this would “kickstart” the route to another vote.

Fabiani, the minister for Europe in Alex Salmond’s government, said: “The commitment has always been there, I’m not in any doubt about that.

“There has to be more transparency and openness about what the Scottish Government are doing around independence as far as they are able to.

“But I don’t believe it’s just down to the Scottish Government, I think the parties … have to start being much more vocal about the need for independence, which I believe is greater than it has ever been.”

Only when Nicola Sturgeon commits to naming a date for indyref2, said Fabiani, can the Yes movement hope to regain urgency in its campaigning.

She added: “I understand the frustration among some people who are saying they don’t think things are moving quickly enough.

“The Scottish Government, the SNP and the Greens could be much more open about what stages they’re at and what their intentions are and how we move forward.

“Once it is seen as being firmly on the agenda again and that we are going to have a referendum, I think that [enthusiasm] will build up again, when people really believe it’s going to happen.

“Once there’s a date set, I believe that will energise the movement. We need a date.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon on indyref2 progress, cost of living crisis and a coalition with Labour

Publishing a prospectus that would set out what an independent Scotland could look like should be the first priority for the SNP, according to former health secretary Alex Neil.

He told the Sunday National the 2014 white paper was now out of date but the SNP demonstrating its vision of a post-UK Scotland would galvanise campaigners.

And he warned the independence movement in its current state was demoralised by years of delay and a lack of certainty on the timing of another referendum.

Division within the independence movement is a major concern for Neil, who was known as a fundamentalist within the SNP before devolution.

He said: “One of the challenges for the SNP leadership is it has to reach out to the independence movement and reunite it because it’s become a bit fractured and a bit fragmented.

“People have to be big enough to reach out to everybody and to forget other differences and put independence first.

“I know a lot of people who have drifted away from the party. They’ve lost hope, they’ve lost optimism. We’ve got to mobilise these people again, got to motivate these people again.

“One of the best ways to unite the independence movement is to get it from neutral gear to fifth gear, where it needs to be to win.”

Drawing up a prospectus would be a major step in firing the starting gun on the campaign for independence, Neil said, and would place the issue back at the top of the national agenda.

“Once we’re independent we can argue to our hearts’ content on all the other issues that affect Scotland,” he said.

“But if we really are serious about trying to achieve independence in the next ten years, then unity of the independence movement is a pre-requisite to achieving that.

“We must develop our independence prospectus by the end of this year; we spell out our policy on the currency, on borders in the light of Brexit and a whole range of other issues that need to be updated

since 2014.”

An independence prospectus is being developed but it is not known when this will be released.

At the grassroots, the disaffection is clear, according to Neil Mackay, an organiser with the All Under One Banner group.

The National: 25/09/2021 Picture Duncan McGlynn +447771370263. Around 5,000 people from Independence group All Under One Banner marched though Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, Scotland towards the Scottish Parliament to protest for Scottish Independence.

Their main activities – holding mass rallies and marches – have been greatly disrupted by lockdown. But it is not just the delays inevitably caused by a major public health emergency that have held back the grassroots movement, according to Mackay.

He said: “I think there is a feeling with apathy and they’re feeling despondent with the political leadership.

“We need to see them stepping it up. Not just some number of civil servants working on it but concrete action. We need something tangible because a lot of people are giving up. I wouldn’t say they’re giving up their support for independence but they are giving up activism and campaigning.

“It’s difficult to separate what’s the biggest factor whether it’s the vacuum of parliamentary action from the SNP on independence or the pandemic.”

Winning back supporters and the trust of the independence movement’s activist base would require Sturgeon to present a referendum bill before parliament before the summer recess, beginning July 2.

Despite the difficulties facing the movement and the delays elected to parliament to deliver, those fighting for the cause remain committed to securing an independent Scotland.

Mackay said: “There obviously will come a time when – just like any other politician – if they’re not delivering what they’re there for, then there has to be a change, from within the SNP or outwith because [independence is] just too important to potentially stall on it.”

Of late, however, Sturgeon has continued to preach forbearance.

In a pre-election interview with The National last week, the First Minister said: “Scotland’s on its way to independence and we need to show resolve. Occasionally we need to show patience. If we do all of those things we’ll get there.”

But in an interview with the BBC on Friday discussing the strong SNP results in the local election, Ian Blackford said it was “full steam ahead” for independence and that the “boiler is being stoked”.