KEEPING independence relevant in the face of an expected Labour win at this year's UK General Election is an issue facing all corners of the Yes movement.

After the SNP’s campaign launch, senior MPs Stephen Flynn and Tommy Sheppard both argued that keeping independence on the table is intrinsically linked with the success of the party at the UK-wide ballot.

If Labour do win big, as a YouGov poll analysing every seat up for grabs in 2024 predicted, and the LibDems overtake the SNP as the third largest party in the House of Commons - will the issue of Scottish independence fall even further off the UK media agenda?

The National spoke to grassroots activists, leaders and other pro-independence parties to gauge whether they feel the only “surefire way” to keep independence relevant, as Flynn argued, is by voting SNP.

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'Other Yes parties will make the case'

The SNP aren’t the only pro-independence party set to contest General Election seats, with the Scottish Greens and Alba battling it out in several across Scotland.

Alex Salmond’s party, who argued for a Scotland United approach, will take on 12 seats, while the Greens have said they will stand more than the 22 candidates they put up in 2019.

Ross Greer, Scottish Greens MSP for West Scotland region, said the party will be intent on making the case that a vote for them is also a vote for Scottish independence.

Asked if he had concerns that if the SNP lost its status as the third largest party in the Commons it would lead to less media attention for the cause of independence, he argued that the issue “wasn’t on the agenda” in Westminster before the 2014 referendum was secured.

The National:

“I think we've proven our ability as a movement to make sure that the issue of independence gets on the agenda and stays on the agenda regardless of the arithmetic at Westminster,” he said.

“Independence is clearly one of the defining issues of Scottish politics, and we are able to force Westminster to respond to that.”

Chris McEleny, Alba’s general secretary, insisted that if “significant losses” are inflicted on the SNP at the General Election that does not equate to a “reflection on support for independence”.

“I’m sure SNP backbench members of the Scottish Parliament will reject the view of their UK Parliament colleagues that losses at Westminster suddenly mean they won’t want to talk about independence,” McEleny added.

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“The reality is that we know Westminster will continue to say ‘no’ to an independence referendum so we need to create the political weather to take the cause of Scottish independence forward.

“We know that Westminster won’t ever volunteer to offer Scotland independence or even a choice on it, we will gain it by using our own Parliament and the ballot box to exert our right to self-determination.”

'The civic movement has a role to play'

IT isn’t just politicians who have a vested interest in keeping independence relevant - in fact, many argue politicians shouldn't be the ones representing the movement at all. 

Despite that, the SNP’s strategy and electioneering will inevitably have an impact on grassroots campaigners.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, founder of campaigning organisation Believe in Scotland, told The National he had concerns the SNP had set their strategy “to try and be nice to Labour voters”.

“The SNP are hoping to minimise the damage of Labour's resurgence,” he said.

“Despite the promise that independence will be on line one, page one, [of the party’s manifesto] the independence part of the campaign seems lacklustre.

The National:

“If independence supporters stay home like they did in 2017 - and the recent by-election - to send a signal that the SNP is not radical enough on independence, then it could be a very bad night for the SNP.”

However, MacIntyre-Kemp said the SNP’s campaign could still get “creative” and “radical” to more forcibly make the case that Labour will be no better for Scotland than the Tories.

Journalist and Yes campaigner Lesley Riddoch said that it was “obvious” that voting for Labour doesn’t get independence closer to reality.

“But that's not to say simply voting SNP does,” she added.

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“Talking to the hundreds of activists turning up at each screening of the Denmark film, I'd say they want a strategy, some inspiration, bold policy initiatives and cultural moments that make their hearts sing.

“They aren't getting any of this from political parties - not from the SNP, or for that matter from Alba.

“I'd say we need bigger thinking, more vision and less sniping as if politics is a fight for control of the Scottish playground.”

Alan Petrie, co-convener of the Aberdeen Independence Movement, argued that the movement and political parties have to work together to keep independence relevant, and it isn’t just up to one or the other.

The National: Yes 2 indy ref rally from the Botanic Gardens to George Square, Glasgow...Photo by Stewart Attwood

Petrie, of the campaigning group in the north east on Flynn’s patch, said: “It's a two-way street; the SNP must play their part, but the people and civic independence movement also need to take responsibility.

“Any vote for Labour will be taken as a vote for the Union and will be used against the independence cause."

He added: “Independence will only be off the agenda once it's achieved and the onus is on both the political and civic wings of the movement to make the case for independence.”

What about the indy-fluencers?

Pro-independence think tank Common Weal argued that “none of the main three political parties in Scotland are offering the public much choice” with similar economic strategies that the group don’t believe provide vision.

Rory Hamilton, the group’s social media co-ordinator, said if SNP wants to ensure Scottish independence remains on the agenda then “they must offer real change to the material conditions of people struggling with the cost of living today”.

“That means creating new streams of income at the local level through the introduction of redistributive local taxes, not council tax freezes,” he said.

“And it means public investment in public infrastructure, not public-private partnerships.

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“Putting the independence movement’s sole hopes in the hands of an SNP wedded to Foreign Direct Investment is a surefire way to alienate ordinary working people who will see no direct gain from a vision for independence based on wealth extraction.”

Stephen Noon, the former chief strategist for the Yes campaign, argued that the movement is in its final stages of diverging from the SNP after they “co-opted” it following the referendum defeat.

“Maybe what is happening now is the movement has re-emerged from the party and that is not a bad thing”, Noon (below) said.

The National:

Noon painted a picture of a football team on the pitch, adding: “The SNP is doing their job, the Scottish Government is doing its job, all the different Yes organisations [are] playing their role.

“In 2014, we were comfortable enough with socialists on one side making the case for a socialist Scottish republic, and Business for Scotland on the other side making the case for an enterprise Scotland.

“We should be comfortable once again about having different voices deployed on the pitch, making the independence case in slightly different ways. That for me is the strength of the movement.”