THE huge surge in membership of the SNP, and the smashing victory it obtained in the Westminster 2015 elections, and the pleasure it has given Yes voters, has meant that there has been little attempt to examine why we lost. The fact is we did, and there are reasons why we lost. This is not a blame game – everyone who took part in the Yes campaign did so out of conviction, and with an energy and commitment not seen in Scottish political life before.

Crucially however, a campaign that does not succeed must be critically examined, where the Unionist Project Fear was able to sow uncertainty, and where the Yes side showed its strengths must be equally assessed. Such an examination is essential to ensure that the next referendum is the last one we need to fight.

We have experienced everything that Unionists can throw against independence. Everything is the right word. Lies, deceit, coercion of employees, false promises, threats to pensioners, foreign intervention ... it was all put into play. Now we know. Next time we must make sure we are prepared.

The Yes Scotland’s central organisation in Glasgow was seen as too close the SNP in the formative stages of the campaign, perhaps not surprising as the party provided its start-up costs, and it never quite shook off the Better Together gibe about it being an SNP front.

It is not a criticism of the SNP to say they partly funded Yes Scotland, or stood behind it in those final days of the campaign when so much was at stake. Nor is it a criticism of Yes Scotland that it took the money.

If the SNP had not continued to contribute, and/or had Yes Scotland refused, the campaign would have been badly damaged. What we have to look at, as a lesson for next time, is the structural and organisational weaknesses that led to Yes Scotland having to rely so heavily on one political party.

The Yes campaign had strength in depth, yet it also had that salient weakness of an SNP connection. The latter will have to be addressed and removed for next time. That will not be easy. It will require wisdom, and willingness to cooperate on the part of all who will be engaged, especially the membership and parliamentary leadership of the SNP.

While we had many local campaigns based on local activists, the national case for independence was seen mainly as devolving on the SNP and its White Paper. Women for Independence, the National Collective, Business for Scotland, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Green Party, Labour for Yes, Academics for Yes, and others all were engaged and energised the campaign yet the Unionist media and Unionist parties sought, and succeeded, in focusing the public on the SNP and the White Paper.

Time after time on Yes platforms a speaker would start by saying, “This is not about Alex Salmond and the White Paper.” That betrayed a weakness. Indeed this was driven home in the STV debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, when Bernard Ponsonby asked Darling if he would admit to Alex having a mandate for his White Paper if there was a Yes vote.

Darling spotted the opportunity, and quickly said yes, thus pinning the referendum to the White Paper. He was not contradicted by Alex.

This weakness has to be examined free of rancour and blame.

But questions have to be asked, and answered. There is no evidence of an input to the White Paper from anyone outside the Scottish Government and its Fiscal Commission. This was a significant weakness. It is not sensible to wait until we approach the next referendum before acting. Action is necessary now, so that any central Yes Scotland is not reliant on any one political party for start-up funding or running costs.

It should be possible now to set up a Yes Referendum Trust Fund, with trustees drawn from the various organisations still in existence, and build it up through crowdfunding and other fundraising. There are 1,600,000 people who voted Yes.

We should be able to raise funds from that base, with a well organized, professional fundraising operation that would combine with meetings and discussion groups to keep the Yes activists engaged, and the movement alive and ready for the next time.

The SNP government’s contribution should be restricted to the production of a factual document: explaining the contribution each sector of the economy makes to GDP and GNP; the balance between manufacturing and services; the banks and financial institutions’ share of services; a description of the North Sea oil and gas, field by field; the number of rigs at work; the size of the offshore and onshore workforces; income and other taxes and what is drawn from each component of the economy; the number of small businesses and their workforce; numbers employed in the public sector; numbers employed in the private sector; the cost of government services; Scottish contribution to the likes of HS2 and major capital works on London transport; foreign office expenditure; defence expenditure; the share of UK real estate that would fall to an independent Scotland, and the rights of state pensioners and those in company pension funds.

The SNP as a party will be as free as any other Yes group to state and publish its view of the future, but it should not carry the imprimatur of “government,” and become the dominant voice against which all else is judged.

Finally, to give cohesion to the national Yes campaign, there should be published a document of agreed principles from all the campaigning groups: agreeing on the length of the transitional period to independence, how a negotiating team and its back-up should be formed, the date of the first independence elections, the method of election, how a convention will be formed to write a draft constitution, based on the European Convention on Human Rights, the promise of a referendum on the monarchy and agreement on currency must all be set out in this document.

However important the SNP is to the future of independence, we cannot again have a Government White Paper which, whether intended or not, subsumes the views of others without their consent.

In Place of Failure: Making it Yes Next Time ... Soon is published on September 8 by Vagabond Voices, priced £7.95

Jim Sillars calls for the Yes movement to say no to SNP in future vote